DCRP Lecture: Jan Whittington

Lecture | March 13 | 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. | 112 Wurster Hall

 College of Environmental Design

Infrastructure, global challenges, and market forces in a digital era: research and action through collaboration and community engagement

As cities around the globe shift policies and practices to address climate change and deploy ‘smart city’ technology, planners have a responsibility to engage in research and action directed towards the long-term consequences of investments in urban infrastructure, technological systems, and the structures we use to govern these assets and their related streams of data. How can cities provide the economic opportunity promised through infrastructure investments without sacrificing sustainability? How can cities reap the benefits of digital technology while upholding the public interest in personal privacy, cybersecurity, and social justice? Neoliberal market forces, framing the promises of urban infrastructure investments in neoclassical terms, leave a trail of problems in their wake. If unchecked, the accumulated external effects of market forces—from climate change to the surveillance state—threaten to unravel the political, economic, and social fabric associated with quality of life as well as the environmental functions on which life depends. This presentation explores methodologies emerging from the empirical study of urban infrastructure, in collaboration with municipalities, global infrastructure organizations, and communities, as they face these pressing questions.

Dr. Jan Whittington is Associate Professor of the Department of Urban Design and Planning, at the University of Washington, Seattle. Her research applies transaction cost economic theory to networked infrastructures, such as transportation, water, and communications systems, to internalize factors historically treated as external to transactions. Her publications include methodologies for greenhouse gas mitigation and resilience through capital investment planning, examination of the efficiency of public-private contractual arrangements for infrastructure, and the evaluation of online transactions for efficiency, security, and privacy.

At the University of Washington, she is the Director of the Urban Infrastructure Lab, Associate Director of the Center for Information Assurance and Cybersecurity, and Affiliate Faculty at the Tech Policy Lab. She teaches infrastructure planning and finance, public finance, infrastructure mega-projects, science for environmental policy, planning for water, and land use planning. Her PhD (2008) is in City and Regional Planning from the University of California, Berkeley, where she was advised by economic Nobel laureate Oliver Williamson. Prior to her academic career, she spent 10 years with infrastructure giant Bechtel Corporation, as a strategic planner and environmental scientist. She holds bachelor degrees in Biology and Environmental Studies from the University of California, Santa Cruz (1987). Her master’s degree is in City and Regional Planning, from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo (1993).