Robert Goodspeed

Assistant Professor of Urban Planning

Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan

I am an assistant professor of urban planning at the University of Michigan. My research focuses on the ways information and communications technologies can be used to improve planning processes and outcomes. It integrates social and technical perspectives, a focus on new technology, and a foundation in the pragmatic philosophical tradition. I received the Donald Schön Award for Excellence in Learning from Practice in 2013, and was named a Top 25 Leading Thinker in Urban Planning & Technology by the website Planetizen in 2011. Previously, I worked at the Boston Metropolitan Area Planning Council and founded three place-based blogs: Rethink College Park (2006-2008), (2004-2006), ArborUpdate (2004). I have a PhD in Urban and Regional Planning from MIT, a Master of Community Planning from the University of Maryland, and BA in History from the University of Michigan.

Recent updates are available on my blog. For a complete listing of my publications, see my Google Scholar profile.

Graduate Certificate in Urban Informatics

I serve as the faculty director for this graduate certificate, open to any current UM graduate student. Visit the program website to learn more or apply.

New Book Now Available

My book, Scenario Planning for Cities and Regions: Managing and Envisioning Uncertain Futures, published by the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, is now available. Order it from or directly from the press. Learn more on the scenario planning page.

Current Sponsored Research

Benton Harbor Smart Mobility

California Groundwater Game

Overview - Sponsor: EDF

Michigan Eviction Mapping

Overview - Sponsor: UM Poverty Solutions

Research Areas and Key Publications

Planning Support Systems for Collaborative Planning

My research on this topic has used a mixed-methods research design to explore how geographic information system (GIS) models are used to facilitate social learning in spatial planning. The research investigates the role of workshop design, as well as the personalities and background of the participants, on participant learning. In order to compare learning across seven workshops, I developed a novel scale to measure double-loop learning. I found the highest levels of reported learning in workshops using mediated interaction designs which featured what Dourish (2001) calls embodied interaction.- Article: "Sketching and Learning: A PSS Field Study." 2015. Environment and Planning B 43:3 444-463.- Book: Geertman, S.C.M., Joseph Ferreira, Robert Goodspeed, and John Stillwell. Planning Support Systems and Smart Cities. Switzerland: Springer.- Book Chapter: Pelzer, Peter, Robert Goodspeed, Marco te Brömmelstroet. 2015. “Facilitating PSS Workshops: A Conceptual Framework and Findings from Interviews with Facilitators.” In Planning Support Systems and Smart Cities, edited by S.C.M. Geertman, Joseph Ferreira, Robert Goodspeed, and John Stillwell. Berlin: Springer.- Dissertation: Planning Support Systems for Spatial Planning Through Social Learning- Survey Instrument: Planning Workshop Evaluation Survey Technical Memorandum

New Urban Sociotechnical Practices

What sociotechnical infrastructures are needed for urban planning? How can new paradigms like "crowdsourcing" be used to collect data, solicit solutions to problems, and re-structure existing processes? Can new digital tools support new forms of community engagement? This strand of my research critically examines new methods to use technology to improve urban life. Current works in progress include a paper analyzing the "smart cities" discourse, work demonstrating the analytical usefulness of a crowdsourced visual preference survey, and a study investigating the emerging practice of civic crowdfunding by urban community groups.
- Article: Goodspeed, Robert and Cassie Hackel. 2017. "Lessons for developing a planning support system infrastructure: The case of Southern California's Scenario Planning Model." Environment and Planning B. doi: 10.1177/2399808317727004.- Article: Goodspeed, Robert. 2015. "Smart cities: moving beyond urban cybernetics to tackle wicked problems." Cambridge Journal of Regions, Economy and Society. doi: 10.1093/cjres/rsu013.- Goodspeed, R., L. Sigmon, D. Plowman, S. Lee. Innovative Planning in the U.S.: Engaging Communities to Buiild Better Places. Tekes/FinPro Future Watch Report. Report PDF, SlideShare Presentation.

Web-based Spatial Decision Support Systems for Environmental Management and Planning

The Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework (GLAHF) encompasses a set of new aquatic habitat classifications, a new unique binational spatial data framework, and a collection of georeferenced datasets. With funding from the UM Water Center, I collaborating with an interdisciplinary team which is conducting a systematic survey of web-based Great Lakes mapping tools, conducting key informant interviews, and organizing participatory design workshops to develop a spatial decision support system (DSS) to make available to stakeholders high-quality data at meaningful scales and with relevant detail. The goal is to develop a DSS useful for managers, as well as support marine spatial planning efforts in the Great Lakes. The results of this project are summarized in a 2016 publication.
- Article: Goodspeed, Robert et al. 2016. Applying design thinking methods to ecosystem management tools: Creating the Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Explorer." Marine Policy 69, 134-145.- Report: Goodspeed, Robert, Arthur Prokosch, Catherine Riseng, Lacey Mason, Kevin Werhly. 2014. A Review of Great Lakes Web-Based Geospatial Information Tools. Great Lakes Aquatic Habitat Framework project

Urban Informatics

My research on urban informatics and open government connects the political rhetoric of transparency, participation, and collaboration with substantive theories and a focus on practical issues faced by governments. As a Rappaport Public Policy Fellow for the City of Boston in summer 2010, I collaborated with city staff to develop an Open Government Strategy. A related research project explored how electronic records and the Internet make possible a new paradigm of transparency for municipal geographic data. Recent activities in this area include organizing annual events at the University of Michigan, as well as a book chapter describing this new field.
- Book Chapter: Goodspeed, Robert. "Urban Informatics: Defining an emerging field." In Big Data for Regional Science, edited by L. Schintler and Z. Chen. Routledge.- Events: #micities and the Urban Informatics Unconference: Technology Innovation in Michigan Municipalities and Beyond- Paper: "From Public Records to Open Government: Access to Massachusetts Municipal Geographic Data” Journal of the Urban and Regional Information Systems Association 23:1, 21-32.- Report: "Open Government Strategy for the City of Boston" (pdf) (6 August 2010)

Social Equity Scenario Tools

With the recent political attention towards growing socioeconomic inequality in the United States and worldwide, planners in many communities have a renewed interest in social equity. With funding from the Lincoln Instite of Land Policy, this project created two new tools to help professional urban planners better consider equity issues: (1) a social vulnerability tool will allow planners to map populations within a study area that might be harmed by planned change; and (2) a neighborhood effects social equity indicators ET+ app tool which will allow planners to consider for multiple scenarios the potential future residents and their future well-being. The goal of both tools is to follow the tradition of other indicators within tools like ET+, and create tools which allow for existing social science research findings to be translated into planning contexts.- Social Vulnerability Tool Package (zip)- Social Equity Scenario Tool Package (zip)


I first became interested in urban issues as an undergraduate at the University of Michigan, where I wrote a thesis about an early Detroit urban renewal project.- Undergraduate Thesis: "Urban Renewal in Postwar Detroit: The Gratiot Area Redevelopment Project" (pdf) (2004)


Intro. to Geographic Information Systems (URP 520)

Winter - Syllabus

Collaborative Planning (URP 522)

Fall - Syllabus

Planning Methods (URP 506)

Winter - Syllabus

Scenario Planning (URP 526)

Fall (even years) - syllabus

Urban Informatics (URP 535/SI 536)

Fall (odd years) - syllabus

How to Change the World: Sustainability and Social Change (URP 532)

Occasionally offered - syllabus


On Campus

Science, Technology & Public Policy ProgramAffiliated Faculty
Michigan Interactive and Social ComputingA research group that connects researchers studying human-computer interaction, social computing, and computer-supported cooperative work across the University of Michigan.
Graham Sustainability InstituteI participate in funded research, meetings, and other activities sponsored by UM's campus-wide sustainability institute.

Research Collaborators

UM Urban Collaboratory
Civic Crowdfunding ProjectPatronicityioby
Scenario Planning ResearchLincoln Institute of Land Policy (funder)