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PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: March 14, 2012

Participatory mapping in action (the from TheCityFix blog, is by Lee Shiver.).

The City Fix describes some examples and some of the value of participatory mapping in urban planning.

Engaging Cities blogs on a similar theme, writing about the use of maps in community decision-making.

The New York Times has a lengthy piece on IBM’s Smarter Cities implementation in Rio de Janeiro and IBM’s vision of a data-driven city.

We keep coming across more info about the new crop of massive, multi-touch, multi-user tables, including a promotional video from Ideum on their MT55 Pro 55″ (with a “vandal-proof case”), starting at $22,000. Yes, we are drooling.

NCDD reports on a Chris Quigley presentation about using gamification to support digital engagement.

Augmented reality technology continues moving forward. Although the tools they use here – a promotional app for a hotel – are pretty advanced, they give a sense of where AR technology is headed and the types of applications that might be useful in a decision-making context.

Open Source Planning offers some thoughts on open data and on the hype around City 2.0. It’s helpful to us in thinking about our upcoming “Community Engagement in Intelligent Cities” panel at the American Planning Association conference in April.

Ascentum makes an argument about validating the economic case for public involvement in policy decisions.

InCommon mentions a new e-commenting system adopted by the City of Arcata, CA. The Granicus system allows community members to submit comments online in response to the agenda items listed for the next public meeting of the City Council or other public bodies. We’ve been using the system in Golden, Colorado for a couple of years now, and while its functionality is pretty basic and use by Golden residents is pretty minimal, it does offer another channel for providing comments. It’s really just a web-based commenting system, though, and doesn’t break any decision-making ground.

And this time-lapse video from the International Space Station made the Roundup just because it’s cool.

What else did we miss?

Just One Word: Glass

It’s in the top 100 list of repeated lines from movies more than a couple decades old. In The Graduate (1967), Mr. McGuire pulls Dustin Hoffman (as Ben) aside: “I’m going to say one word to you, just one word… Are you listening?… Plastics… There is a great future in plastics.”

On the one year anniversary of the BP oil spill and with studies and books on plastics like Susan Freinkel’s Plastic: A Toxic Love Story getting heightened attention, the future of plastics (and their polymer granddaddy) is not looking so great.

Enter glass, while the process of making scratch and impact resistant glass is an energy intensive process, the chemicals used to make glass tend to be more environmentally benign (in contrast, Freinkel adds IV bags to the list of concerns about vinyl plastics with reports of DEHP getting into our blood stream and interfering with testosterone).

Now we’re seeing thin layered glass showing up on many of our technology devices (smart phones, iPads, screens, etc.) in parallel with amazing touch technologies. Here are excerpts from a Corning video showing what’s in the not-so-distant future (or you can view the full video here. )

It’s cool to see some of the touch technologies we’re dabbling with becoming polished and perfected. The object-aware technology many of us first started seeing with the Microsoft surface provides some neat opportunities with data seamlessly transferred from one device to the other. The woman at the bus stop was a good example.

We would love to work with Corning and others on a “sustainable future” version for The Future We Want exhibit we have been incubating with others, utilizing some of these new technologies for tackling some of our tougher energy, water, and waste problems.

It is amazing to think most of this technology is either available or right around the corner.

PlaceMatters Blog Roundup: April 19, 2011

A high-end, high-def, multiuser, multi-touch table. Photo by flickr user ideum.


FutureGov has a really nice overview of Planning 2.0 concepts and tools (thanks to Engaging Cities for the link).

Engaging Cities posted the slide deck from their “What’s Next for Planning Technology” panel at the APA conference, and it’s worth a look if you didn’t make the session. Their ten: text messaging, social media, mobile interaction, 311 reporting, virtual worlds and gaming, community mapping, crowdsourcing planning, interactive data, augmented reality, and touch tables. Most of these are subjects and technologies close to our heart at PlaceMatters: powerful tools that can, if integrated thoughtfully, add a great deal of power to a community engagement process.

countably infinite reflects on the APA conference and gives our Beers in Beantown event a nice shout-out.

Open Source Planning also offers a nice word about our Beers in Beantown event and mentions IMMBYs (“I Mapped My Backyard”) and their implications for planning.

Cairns Blog posts a thoughtful reflection on the open government movement.

Planetizen reports on the upcoming Urban Design Marathon (quoting from a Good Magazine article): “A hundred designers, 10 urban challenges, very little money, and no sleep. That’s the recipe for 72 Hour Urban Action, a three-day marathon for designers to improve their city.” This approach doesn’t include any public engagement elements, but it fits the charrette model of quickly and intensively powering through what is often a very long, drawn-out process. The really interesting twist would be figuring out how to fold in real community participation.

You know QR codes are starting to hit the mainstream when the Denver Post writes about them. Although their use is still early-stage (but growing in buzz and popularity), they can clearly have value in public processes. Mashable offers some tips for making your QR codes a little more interesting.

A guest post on Museum 2.0 covers civility and conviviality in museum design, the idea of which seems to translate well to designing public engagement. A good design will enable people to “share their common humanity and to offer opportunities not only for learning and social engagement, but also for reflection and solitude in the presence of others,” and, in the case of community engagement, help lead to genuinely participatory decision-making.

SocialFish posts a great slide deck on the seven core concepts of effective gamification. Whether gamification per se makes sense in a community engagement process will depend a lot on the process and the circumstances, but elements of good gamification are probably useful in process design regardless. Their seven core concepts: 1) know who’s playing; 2) Build fun, pleasure, and satisfaction into your core activity loop; 3) Change the user experience over time; 4) Build a system that’s easy to learn but hard to master; 5) Use game mechanics to light the way towards mastery; 6) As players progress, increase the challenge and complexity; 7) Embrace intrinsic motivators.

The Augmented Reality Blog writes about the future of the technology. It seems pretty likely that augmented reality tools, as they mature, will become an important component of community engagement efforts.

On the PlaceMatters blog, Ken reviewed a pile of new online idea creation tools (and the winners are: Spigit and UserVoice), Jocelyn talked about avoiding public participation pitfalls, and I ruminated on the magic of good decision-making.

ReadWriteWeb reports on Microsoft’s new software development kit for the Kinect, scheduled for release this spring. While you can do a lot with clever hacks of the existing device, the SDK opens things up a lot, enabling third party developers to create a wide range of applications that take advantage of the Kinect’s cutting-edge motion sensing technology. We should expect to see plenty of innovations with direct application to community decision-making.

What did we miss?

The Future of Community Participation

Photo by Flickr user stevegarfield.

Chris Brogan this morning posted his seven ideas on the future of media: media will be multi-touch (by which he means multi-media), mobile, serial, two-way, rich data mined, subscription-based, and faster but with longer burn (we’ll get hit when a story breaks but they’ll have more time to explain the story as it unfolds).

A lot of those trends carry over to our work in civic participation and community decision-making. My stab at seven six characteristics of community participation in the future:

  1. Community participation will be multi-touch, both in the narrow sense that touch-based interfaces will grow in utility and sophistication (and that multiple people will increasingly be able to simultaneously use the same devices) and in the broader, multi-media sense that Brogan means.
  2. Community participation will be increasingly mobile, and in fact we already make great use of mobile devices for Walkshops and other interactive, real-time community decision-making tools.
  3. Community participation will be two-way.  This is the essence of the “Planning 2.0” upheaval . . . community decision-making is already becoming much more interactive, and community members are increasingly able to shape outcomes rather than simply providing feedback. In fact, most of the tools we develop and use are designed for just that purpose: help community members better understand the complex choices they face and then provide meaningful input to the decision-makers.  The result can be a higher level of engagement, more meaningful input, and better decisions.
  4. For community planning, I think Brogan’s ideas about media becoming two-way, subscription-based, and long-burn are all tied to an important community participation and decision-making trend: iterativity (iterativeness?).   I don’t think that the idea of “planning” will ever be completely replaced by a free form make-it-up-as-you-along model (an idea we explored last year at our “The End of Planning?” Salon at the Saloon at the APA in New Orleans), but clearly these types of tools and techniques enable more iterative and ongoing planning processes, and I expect we’ll see a slide in that direction.
  5. Community participation will rely more heavily on complex data. This isn’t quite the same as Brogan’s “rich data mined” idea, but I think it’s similar. Data visualization tools like CommunityViz are helping community members understand more clearly the visual, character, and other impacts of various development options, for example, essentially making really complex data more understandable and usable. Hazard mitigation planning tools like the Coastal Resilience Mapping Tool in Long Island are helping community members understand the complex effects of rising sea levels and potential responses.
  6. Community participation and decision-making will incorporate geolocation tools.  Geolocation – which is enabled by the growing market penetration of smart phones – has permeated the commercial app universe for good reason: the devices already incorporate the hardware, and your app knowing where you are opens up a universe of uncharted utility and entertainment.  Community participation and civic engagement folks are already finding ways to adapt these technologies (something my colleague Jason Lally discussed after his return for the GeoDesign Summit last month).  And the combo of smart phone penetration, geolocation capabilities, and increasingly sophisticated data visualization tools will play out in other ways, such as a growing use of augmented reality tools to help inform about current conditions and to help foster imagination about and understanding of future options.

What do you agree and disagree with?  What are we missing?

This is Cool: The 3D Multi-Touch Table

It really doesn’t get much cooler than this: New Scientist has covered the release of a 3D multi-touch table that lets users see a 3D scene, such as a cityscape, from their own perspective.  The 3D glasses measure where you are and where you are looking AND you can “touch” the 3D environment.   The table was demonstrated at the SIGGRAPH computer graphics and animation conference and you can watch a demo video at the New Scientist page.

If these are ever inexpensive enough to be readily accessible (like PlaceMatters DIY TouchTable and TouchScreen), the applications of this table for sustainability and comprehensive planning are clear.  Users, whether they be planners or the public, could easily explore different choices and scenarios with 3D representations that would be a significant step forward in understanding scale, design and impact.

Demonstration of Multi-TouchTable at APA


Demonstration of multi-touch table by Circle 12 from PlaceMatters on Vimeo.

While at the American Planning Association conference in New Orleans this week, Jason and I swung by the booth of Circle Twelve.  Adam Bogue, Cirle Twelve’s founder, sat with a group of us and gave us a quick demo.  I took the opportunity to demonstrate how tools like AnyWare Planning combined with mobile phone polling would work on such a device.

Really neat! I can imagine endless applications, particularly, if you had the resources to set up a 30-80 person event with tables for every 4-8 people in the room.

Unlike our DIY touchtables and touch screens, which track a single infra-red pen, Circle Twelve’s set-up (including the tablet from Diamond Touch), is able to keep track of input from multiple users simultaneously.