Pratt Institute


Importance of GIS
GIS has caused a revolution in the collection, organization, analysis and presentation of data. GIS systems allow information to be collected in data form, visualized in spatial form, analyzed and layered in map and ‘infographic’ forms.  GIS has the power to inform diverse networks of stakeholders: decision makers, municipal agencies, researchers, artists, community and civic organizations – to understand and visualize complex spatial relationships.  The issue is no longer how great GIS technology is, but who has access to it at what cost in money and effort.

SAVI Overview
Under the maxim of “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime”, Pratt Institute is launching the Spatial Analysis and Visualization Initiative (SAVI).  SAVI is a Geographic Information Systems (GIS)-centered initiative that aims to create a “commons” for practice-based learning accessible to Pratt students, faculty in multiple departments (planning, sustainability, communications, architecture, etc.) and community-based organizations with access to GIS and visualization resources:  space, equipment, databases, technical assistance, workshops, training sessions and researchers.

The first purpose of SAVI is to promote a collaborative learning and research community at Pratt where faculty and students can share projects, ideas, resources and tools. The Initiative will propel Pratt to the forefront of current data analysis and display technology, not only by creating a functional Service Center in which to instruct students with a cohesive and cutting edge curriculum, but also by creating an innovative Research Lab for faculty and students to pursue research and analysis, often for publication.

The Initiative also intends to provide New York City-based nonprofit, civic and community-based planning organizations (including Community Boards) with the latest mapping, data, and spatial information technology; access to GIS technical assistance, analysis, and data display interns; and the training and access to resources that allow independent GIS work. These groups will be able to efficiently document existing conditions of urban areas, more meaningfully contribute to policy discussions, and create their own visions for improving quality-of-life and sustainability.

In order to determine the GIS needs of Pratt Institute and its civic and community partners, a research team conducted a detailed study in 2012 that resulted in a Needs Assessment and Business Plan. The GIS Needs Assessment studied existing labs across the country, surveyed potential users, and completed three demonstration projects to understand how the SAVI can best serve Pratt Institute and community partners. From this, the study recommended a learning environment inclusive of formal courses and training sessions; technical assistance for small scale research inclusive of assistance with methodology, communications, analyses, and graphic design; an online data library and a dedicated physical space.  The Business Plan identified that these needs could be met with a Research Lab and Service Center, two linked components. 

Students and faculty across campus will find SAVI beneficial for studios, research projects, theses and art projects. The Needs Assessment identified many specific departments at Pratt Institute that will benefit from the initiative.  For example:

  • Institutional Advancement – Can use GIS to track alumni, donors and identify patterns that lead to more efficient fundraising strategies.
  • School of Architecture: Architecture & Planning Departments – Understanding spatial relationships is critical to architecture and planning and GIS is a core area of study in these disciplines.
  • School of Information and Library Science: Digital Humanities – Can use GIS to create interactive cultural atlases for ancient civilizations that include maps, graphics and citations.
  • School of Art and Design: Arts and Design Education – Can use GIS to assess the reach of after-school and weekend arts programs on Pratt’s campus which helps make the case for additional funding.
  • School of Liberal Arts and Sciences: Social Science and Cultural Studies – GIS is critical to understanding trends and environments across social science disciplines. For example, an anthropologist can use GIS to visualize settlement patterns.
  • Center for Continuing and Professional Studies – SAVI intends to develop a GIS certificate program to provide a focused-study alternative to graduate school and/or additional training for working professionals.

SAVI will create an exciting synergy that capitalizes on the community planning strengths of the Pratt Center and PSPD, as well as the visualization strengths of the ComD and other design programs at Pratt. This will empower Pratt to expand upon its contribution to the well-being of the City of New York and its neighborhoods.

SAVI is a joint endeavor of the Programs for Sustainable Planning & Development (PSPD), the Pratt Center for Community Development (Pratt Center), and the graduate Communications + Package Design Department (ComD) and will be overseen by the Office of the Provost. The initiative will be housed in the ISC building on Pratt’s campus beginning in January of 2014.

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