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Digital hangers can now indicate the “like” rating of items.
Restroom breaks can be multi-tasked with twitter feeds dispensed on toilet paper.
And you can now be fully apprised of the carbon footprint of your food selections; a restaurant in Sweden displays the CO2 emissions associated with menu options.
All of this innovation begs the question: How is technology revamping the way we interact with and shape our local places?More
The things you learn when you go out with new friends – about local places and discovered history - open your eyes. After heading out, dizzy, from an intense day of Heart & Soul Community Planning training, a group of us found ourselves at Buddy Guy’s Legends Blues bar in Chicago. The local crowd was mixed, with some people in suits and others in denim jackets and long beards.
Our group was geographically diverse and included friends from Montana, Vermont, Colorado, and Maine. Some of us danced, but not me. I felt like I could blend in more with the locals if I just sat there among them, watching my out-of-town group single-handedly dominate the dance floor. As I considered the interactions between visitors and locals, I was reminded of the words of a professor I had in college: “Man is man’s favorite subject to watch.” Indeed, I even took a quick video on my phone for posterity.
We stayed for an hour or so, and then, as if the energy of Buddy Guy and devoted Blue’s fans wasn’t enough, a few of us ventured into the rainy night to find the Billy Goat Tavern of Saturday Night Live fame, and so much more as we later realized.More
Photo: Michael Dorausch
I recently tuned in to our local KBCO (World Class Rock) radio station and heard Death Cab for Cutie’s new song “You Are a Tourist”. These lyrics grabbed my ear:
And if you feel just like a tourist
In the city you were born
Then it’s time to go
And define your destination
There’s so many different places to call home
Music has the power to touch people, wherever they are in their lives. Given the right moment with the right mix of experiences, lyrics can be powerful “shifts in the context of community.”
In Community – The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block writes about shifting the context of community and creating an alternative future through transformation. He claims that all “transformation is linguistic, meaning we can think of community as a conversation” (p 31).More
As a local government Planner, I never had the time to research and find new ways of communicating with the public, much less creating a two-way communication channel.
Even though I knew there had to be a better way to let people know about citywide policy updates, I often resorted to using the same old public notice with the same formal message broadcasted to everyone in the city. Then I’d prepare for the disappointment when the same five people showed up to the meeting.
I always knew there was a better way of understanding who makes up a community and that a public notice could be designed to actually speak to citizens. With a specific but meaningful message delivered in the right way, more people would recognize that the issues in question really mattered to them, and as a result, show interest and participate in a much more democratic way.More
If you’ve read the project page about Golden Vision 2030, you’d know that Golden, Colorado is well poised to change the way they do business as a city government. Their radical public engagement tools (okay...so not really radical...at the core, they’re based on good ol’ fashioned getting-to-know-one-another efforts) have Planning Commissioners and Advisory Committee members shedding their “public official” image and mingling with citizens like us.More
On the bus to work today I saw, from an almost bird’s eye view, a slew of haphazardly placed signs along the roadside advertising singles dating websites. How did this online trend find its way to the street? My Urban Planner brain wondered if it could be a direct or indirect result of land use and zoning. Technology aside, why weren’t people advertising dating services at every street intersection 20 years ago?
For the moment, here’s my theory: Euclidean zoning (1926 Euclid vs. Ambler) not only lays the groundwork, but also serves as the foundation for isolationist land use planning. Zoning doesn’t just isolate development and land use types; it secludes people, ideas, experiences, and ultimately reduces opportunities for happenstance meetings. In 1980 (the era that rang in the not-so-glorious strip mall development patterns), William H. Whyte wrote about chance meetings in The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. Watch this short, telling (albeit dated) video clip for a great illustration of Whyte’s emphasis on places, such as street corners, and their role in human interaction.More
During my undergraduate studies, I learned that successful gathering places have five key components: protection from the elements (shade from the sun and rain); proximity to water (fountains, ponds, waterfalls); seating, background sounds (could be water, music or even the hum of traffic); and pleasant smells (food or flowers). Each of these key ingredients fosters relationships between people, but they also connect people to place.More
A couple weeks ago, I had the opportunity to tour more than a dozen progressive small towns and cities in western Washington state; I met many local officials and personally experienced some of their greatest achievements, primarily in the realm of the built environment. Many projects included mixed-use centers, walkable neighborhood designs that connected people to their downtowns and mixed-income housing developments. Some projects were brand new and others were designed to enhance historic charm and character. During the tour, however, I was struck with the realization that something was lacking: only a few of these places or project sites truly fostered intergenerational needs, and in particular the needs of children.More