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PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: August 17, 2012

Project Fitzgerald integrates Google Street View with a public input system.

We’ve been on a Blog Roundup hiatus for a few months as we jam full speed ahead on projects in Mississippi, Chattanooga, Erie, Albany, Seattle, Hawaii, Virginia, Arkansas, Denver, and Tennessee, with a healthy dose of conference presentations and training workshops for good measure. But we’re back in the Blog Roundup Saddle …

OpenPlans describes their newest tool for using Google Street View for planning, Project Fitzgerald. Project Fitzgerald, a follow-up to Beautiful Streets (another very cool project) is designed to gather public input on a block-by-block basis.

BMW Guggenheim Lab reflects on their Berlin Lab project, describing some of their participatory engagement strategies.

Engaging Cities has a pile of great stories: web-based games promoting civic literacy created by iCivics, some unusual participatory city planning activities, a research paper on the role of digital media in deliberative decision-making, and the use of augmented reality in neighborhood engagement on development projects.

CoolTown Studios explores the idea of “crowdsourced placemaking.”

The always-insightful Ethan Zuckerman explores some of the complicated equity implications of crowdfunding public infrastructure.

Next American City reports on the public participation element of Chicago’s new cultural plan.

Gov 2.0 Watch cites the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials on the use of crowdsourcing to improve transportation planning. I’m not entirely persuaded by the comparison of transportation public engagement to product development, but the notion of integrating crowdsourcing (which doesn’t have much to do with product development, per se) can actually be pretty useful.

Gov 2.0 Watch also summarizes a new Civic Tripod report by the International Journal of Learning and Media on the impact of mobile games on civic engagement.

Nina Simon published a fascinating piece, drawing on a new paper by Colby College professor Lynne Conner, exploring the idea that the experience of art in Western culture was historically deeply participatory. The understanding of the audience as passive and non-participatory, her argument goes, is a relatively recent development. Becoming more participatory, for art and cultural organizations, might actually be returning to its roots rather than creating a new paradigm.

What did we miss?

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: April 24, 2012

Next American City reports on New York’s use of wikis to solicit feedback on an overhaul of its data publishing rules and on Oakland’s move toward an open data environment.

A new “collective online urban planning platform” is hitting the streets. Grist describes Neighborland, the latest in a growing ecosystem of promising tools for enabling community members to collect and organize ideas (with a hat tip to the Guggenheim/BMW LAB blog). The project grew out of Candy Chang’s amazing (but simple) participatory art installations in New Orleans (and now elsewhere), and Candy Chang posts about Neighborland on her blog as well. If you don’t know Candy Chang, well, you probably should.

Museum of the Future draws a useful distinction between outreach (communicating with people unknown to you and connecting them to your institution) and engagement (converting people from passersby to enthusiasts). Outreach can lead to engagement, but it’s a mistake to conflate them. Gov 2.0 Watch cites a TechPresident story exploring at a similar distinction between feedback and engagement.

EngagingCities argues, through two case studies, for a “blend of moderate technology venturing (in terms of scale), the readiness to look abroad for inspiration and solutions, and … deep engagement with their citizens throughout the process.”

EngagingCities also writes about Denver’s new participatory budgeting process and tool (Delivering Denver’s Future). It looks promising, and the team behind it is a capable group (we are fans of Urban Interactive Studio), but we’re also looking forward to the next generation of participatory budget tools that help constituents better understand the on-the-ground implications of the various budget options. It’s one thing to give constituents budget allocation options, which is what most participatory budget tools do, but it would be quite another if the users understood how levels of service or the quality of life in their community would actually be impacted by those various options.

Participatory budgeting is getting plenty of attention these days, including a New York Times article several weeks ago providing a detailed account of a participatory budgeting project covering four City Council districts in New York and and an Intellitics post mapping participatory budgeting projects around the world.

The concept, specs, and implications of Google Glasses are slowly working their way through the pundit/observer/technologist-o-sphere. We share Digital Urban’s sentiment: “With technology it always seems like one is waiting for the next big thing, but this takes it to another level….”

The Denver Post covered the Box City event here in Denver, sponsored by the American Institute of Architects Colorado, enabling 200 kids to design and build a mock city (another h/t to BMW Guggenheim LAB).

Finally, Planetizen writes, now that everyone is back home from the American Planning Association conference in Los Angeles, about the “winds of change” blowing through the APA.

What did we miss?

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: November 22, 2011

We love online technology here at PlaceMatters, but it doesn't replace offline, in-person engagement.

EngagingCities does a nice job making the case for the importance of merging online and offline engagement strategies.

inCommon links to an op-ed arguing that transparency and information, while essential, do not alone constitute public engagement. We’d argue, for similar reasons, that there’s more to accountability than just transparency.

James Fee, on his Spatially Adjusted, blog gushes on SketchUp and its new “Making Things Real” project. We share his enthusiasm . . . we find SketchUp to be a a powerful tool for visualizing land use and design options (that happens to be free, with thanks to Google).

All Points Blog reports that Flickr added “geofencing,” which creates a privacy option based on the location of a photo. Photos geotagged as being taken with geographic areas designated by users are only shared with specific, pre-selected people. Although this particular tool may not be very useful from a civic participation perspective, it is suggestive of functionality that Flickr might eventually add that could be.

Digital Urban reviewed Instant City Generator for Cinema 4D.

Digital Urban also posted a visualization of “urban complexity” data in London. We always enjoy the videos Digital Urban digs up, including this one. What we found most interesting about this one: the way the visualization highlights the corridors and satellite urban hubs around the central city.

Our friends at the National Charrette Institute posted a list of charrette-oriented resources on their blog.

Some food for thought on Gigaom: the continued evolution of QR codes and the emergence of NFC (near field communication) technology. This post focuses on the offerings of one specific startup called Social Passport, but it offers a sense of the potential for these technologies (especially NFC) in community decision-making, especially projects that involve community members actually out in the community through asset mapping, walkshops, or other participatory activities.

We stumbled across this dated but enjoyable video of Bobby McFerrin leading an “audience participation jam.” It’s an impressive call-and-response participation model that results in some very cool music. We aren’t sure you’d want to structure an entire community participation process on this model, but we can imagine some ways that this could work for pieces of a process.

Snurblog provides a useful overview of crowdsourcing in public participation processes.

PlaceMatters‘ Ken Snyder offers his take on the emerging field of geodesign on Planetizen (and reposted on the PlaceMatters blog).

What did we miss?

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: June 30, 2011

The National Consumer Council and Involve published a short report on the nine principles of deliberative public engagement.

The Brookings Institute has a new report on using social media to reinvigorate engagement. It’s campaign-focused, but it’s insightful assessment of how the intersection between social media and public participation is likely to evolve (and the implications are largely about citizen engagement more generally).

countably infinite has a nice wrap-up of Open Gov West 2011. One observation: it would be easy to see new public engagement tools like Crowdbrite and PlaceSpeak as substitutes for face-to-face engagement (and, in fact, Crowdbrite’s pitch sounds like it was positioned against conventional public hearings). We are no fans of conventional public hearings, and we are pretty jazzed about the ways tools like Crowdbrite can expand public engagement, but in our view it’s important to make sure they only supplement rather than displace real human-to-human interaction.

The Knight Foundation blogs about their new report, Civic Engagement and Community Information: Five Strategies to Revive Civic Communication. Some of the report’s recommendations are more national in scope, but some make sense at the local level: invest in face-to-face public deliberation, generate public “relational” knowledge, and building public networks focused on sharing and debate public information.

inCommon blogs about a civic participation project in Michigan targeting 6th graders. The students will play a role in designing a new town park.

EngagingCities argues for the use of participation metrics in online communities. These very same types of metrics have a lot of relevance in offline communities, as well.

EngagingCities also offers some tips on using Facebook fan pages for community participation efforts and some thoughts on gamification and community engagement.

Deliberations offers a favorable word about, a tool for facilitating deliberation by allowing people to post questions and participants to comment and vote on those questions.

The National Charrette Institute invites a discussion about the next generation of charrettes.

James Fee’s GIS Blog reviews and reflects on Google Earth Builder in two posts, “Google Earth Builder – a Serious Geospatial Play from Google” and “All Hail Google Earth Builder, Wait … What?

Next American City explores a new book about the increasingly technological city: Sentient City: Ubiquitous Computing, Architecture, and the Future of Urban Spaces.

On the PlaceMatters blog, Jocelyn writes about two of our projects, with collaborator Civil Resources, winning APA Colorado Merit Awards (comprehensive plans for Lyons and Woodland Park), and Ken ruminates on the relationship between livable streets and driving and uses SketchUp to gain some perspective on M.C. Escher’s famous “Waterfall.”

What did we miss?

Transit Information for Better Urban Living

Real time information for Chapel Hill transit system

Image originally featured on NextBus news showing real time transit information.

Recently New Urban News featured an article on how transit information and car sharing are making it easier for urban dwellers to get around, save money and shed some CO2 (Smart phones + shared cars = better urban living).  It’s been over a year since Google added transit information to the iPhone.  I blogged about this way back when.  I am glad to see that cities have finally picked up on the importance of shared transit data and open APIs.  For example, Massachusetts released their data and an API last November for five of the busiest bus lines in the system.  Christopher Dempsey of the Massachusetts Dept of Transportation had this to say about the release:

Within an hour, an application (“app”) using the information was placed on Google Earth, giving real-time location of buses on those lines.

• In two days, a programmer created a web page that tracks the buses’ movements.

• In five weeks, the data was on apps for iPhones and Android phones.

• In seven weeks, the data was available for delivery to any phone.

• In March, a shop in the Jamaica Plain section of Boston, installed an LED sign counting down to the arrival of the next bus. The sign cost the shop — JP Licks, a café and ice cream store — $300. It reportedly has brought in additional business from individuals who now know how much time they have for a coffee or a snack before the bus arrives. Many more shops may follow suit. Continue reading

The Art and Science of Group Googling

Instant access to information.  Yeah, yeah, what a different world we live in.  I’m sure you agree that, when in a public meeting, it’s far better when everyone is present and offline.  iPhones and Blackberries suck the energy out of the room as people get pulled into multiple worlds, giving partial attention to several things at once. We should all avoid the temptation of using personal communication devices during community meetings.  Okay, I confess it’s like the Onion headliner “98% of US Commuters Support Transit for Others” — the truth is I want everyone offline and attentive to the meeting except for me.  But the universe does not revolve around me and social pressures (and facilitator announcements asking everyone to refrain from using their phones) can help keep me and others in line.

On the other hand, I see great potential (and danger) in something I would like to call “gaggle Googling” — using the internet in a group setting to help make more informed decisions.   Continue reading

Google Transit arrives on the iPhone

I knew it would eventually come, but I didn’t realize how excited I would be to hold transit directions in the palm of my hand!  Much of the inconvenience of riding transit is the lack of information.  Google and Apple have just broken through the first barrier of inconvenience by bringing pervasive information to transit riders (which is my only means of getting around Denver).  In case you haven’t heard, Apple just released version 2.2 of its iPhone operating system including updates to the Maps application, enabling transit and walking directions (as well as street view).  Continue reading