Posts tagged "Trend"

A short film about #opendata from the Open Knowledge Foundation. For more information, see:

The Future of Mobile

Image by Getty Images via @daylife

While technology trends continue to predict increased mobility, one must ponder the question: Is it really necessary to be tethered to our hand-held devices?  Granted, it would already seem that we are.  But Lewis Shepherd of Sector: Public dares to imagine an alternate, yet entirely realistic future where being ‘wired-in’ may not require physical wires.  As Shepherd puts it, why ‘must “mobile” refer to a physical device rather than a state of being’?  He prefers instead, to imagine a future reality full of immersive environments that are fully integrated into our daily world.  These environments would allow us to not only interact with them, but inside of them.    
Shepherd’s favorite example of such immersive environments are through the Kinect gaming system.  Kinect, a controller-free gaming system developed for Xbox 360 is a favorite of  technology hackers that have been repurposing the platform since it came out.  The Kinect allows individuals to create immersive environments akin to those once seen in Second Life, but instead of controlling an avatar, you are the avatar.  And using the technology in such a way has unexpected benefits.  For starters, a Kinect gaming system is relatively inexpensive so there are lower barriers to attaining the system.  It has incredible motion tracking abilities, a speech recognition component and facial recognition.  Most importantly, it operates in a natural, user-friendly way which reduces the complexity inherent in most gaming systems and lowers the barriers for engagement, thereby opening the technology up to a larger demographic of individuals.  

Immersive environments such as the ones bolstered by Kinect have the sensory experience of being in a simulated space, but can be used in various facets of life from education to training to designing and prototyping. The military is considering using the technology to help in dealing with some of the very real problems soldiers are encountering in war-zones.  And the Smithsonian is already using a similar technology for interactive educational programs that engage children.  We’re seeing a continued trend to integrate immersive “gaming” into the public sphere and also into the workplace.  Where is the planning world  adopting a technology that universally entices participation from people both young and old?

Read more here:

Creativity and Engagement in Cities

Guest post by Jacob Urup Nielsen. Jacob is a project manager with British Council and has worked with the Creative Cities project and Future City Game during the past 3 years. You can follow him on Twitter: and learn more about the Creative Cities project at

For me creativity and engagement go hand in hand; the engaging city is a creative city. And by creative city I don’t only think of the creative industries but a wider definition of creativity as an ability to make; making art, making things happen and making a difference.

As Phil Wood has said in an interview ( “Creativity is an asset, it is a resource, it’s a tool. It is a way of looking again at your city”. I like the notion of ”looking again” or revisiting our cities. When we talk about creativity many people think of creativity and cities as spectacular art works but maybe need to work with a more inclusive understanding of creativity and to celebrate the genius of everyday life. To cite Phil Wood again: “Maybe the things that we think are weaknesses have hidden strengths in them”.

If we start to look at oue cities as the means to engaging with our issues rather than the ends that needs to be solved, I think we have come a long way - or as Charles Leadbeater has written: “Cities are experiments in how to live together creatively.”

Further reading:
Charles Landry, Franco Bianchini, The Creative City, Demos: London, 1995

Charles Leadbeater: What makes Cities Creative?

Video interview with Phil Wood talking about the Creative City:


Join the Twitter discussion around Micro-Participation in Planning, hosted by Jennifer Evans-Cowley. Today, Feb 18, 3:30 EDT, use hashtag #phdmex.

Downtown Dilemmas

Main Street in Old Town, Maine, USA. Image via Wikipedia

In their technical assistance visits to communities across the state of Colorado, Downtown Colorado Inc. has seen the same five issues surfacing time and again. The problems facing today’s urban revitalization projects of course vary from city to city, but we can’t help observing common themes across the board.  First on the list: money.  As the economy continues to be volatile, financing remains a top priority and primary concern for cities across the country.  Retention, expansion and attraction, namely to businesses is a continued concern.  Developing programs to link commercial enterprises to the appropriate training and information that will help them obtain assistance is a comprehensive and time-consuming endeavor.  Citizen mobility and accessibility has challenged downtown districts since the highway system and suburban sprawl took root.  Development planning that links resources to population dense areas and coordinates communities with clear signage and way-finding is a far-reaching goal that often takes years to be fully-realized.  And, managing downtown development districts often leads to massive coordination confusion, with difficultly synchronizing efforts of assorted initiatives.

With issues of financing; business retention, expansion and attraction; mobility and accessibility; and downtown management beleaguering our urban cores, it’s easy to gloss over one of the most fundamental problems: communication.  Miscommunication, or a lack of communication, amongst citizens, businesses, and governments contributes to each of these problems.  A break-down in communication often means resources aren’t being maximized across organizations.  Face to face communication builds trust between local businesses, residents and governments.  Understanding the needs of those in a community and providing a formal outlet where concerns can be voiced can help governments provide the type of assistance that is truly needed.  Providing a single point of contact for disseminating information can alleviate cross-communication issues.  A primary liaison also helps facilitate collaboration between similar entities.  Lastly, outreach to the general public should be a goal of any communication plan.  Engaging voices and opinions that may otherwise go unheard is the foundation of developing a diverse and well-rounded downtown community.  

Providing consultancy services to downtown and commercial districts throughout Colorado, Downtown Colorado, Inc (DCI) has seen their fair share of problems facing today’s urban revitalization movements, and they have witnessed these same reoccurring themes time and time again.  Partnering with the Department of Local Affairs (DOLA), DCI is examining each of the five issues we’ve touched on in depth.  Additionally, DCI is conducting technical assistance visits comprised of day-long focus groups to better understand the perception as well as the reality of specific areas before making informed recommendations.  
Learn more here:


In the two plus years that I have worked down the hall from the folks at Computer Terrain Mapping, I have seen a lot of amazing maps, animations and videos come out of their shop.

This animation, a collaboration between Spike Productions and Computer Terrain Mapping, is among one of my favorites. They call it, “Terrain Morph”. I call it, “really, really cool”. Terrain Morph is a way to transition from a plan view to a 3D view (and, back again).

Developed for areas with, “substantial topographic relief”, Terrain Morph can be applied to projects in the built environment. As it turns out, Spike Productions and CTM are currently working on a project that will do just that.

For some more geo eye candy, check out Computer Terrain Mapping’s Image Gallery.


I know, it’s a bit late for 2011 predictions, but this one really captured my attention, I highly recommend it.

Trends in online activity

Laptop stickers, Image by Roo Reynolds via Flickr

In what has now become an annual occurrence, we’d like to take a closer look at the latest trends in online activity, based on the Pew Research Center's Generations 2010 report.  Last year we reported a clear rise in wireless internet usage and cell phone ownership.  Young adults led the pack in laptop purchases and social media profiles.  A rise in mobile internet usage led to an increase in micro-blogging while older generations remained ensconced in the traditional blogosphere, even seeing a rise in bloggers in this demographic.  
Continuing in the trend, Millennials (18-33 year olds) persist in having in the greatest percentage of communication and entertainment-based online activities.  However, their slightly older Generation X counterparts (those aged 34-45) are surpassing Millennials in information seeking online activities, such as perusing government websites.  While motivations continue to be divergent, 2010 did see an increased uniformity in some online activities.  Primarily these include service-based activities such as online banking and shopping, downloading podcasts, rating products, and getting news.  
Contrasting the general growth in internet usage, was a universal decline in blogging.  Blogging across teenagers has seen a dramatic reduction while Millennials have been slowly weening themselves away from the medium.  If the PEW report is any indication, it’s possible we’ve already experienced the peak of blogging and are now as a society shifting towards other outlets for posting our updates and general musings.  
A few other general trends:
The fastest growth in social networking site usage has come from those over the age of 74.  (Usage quadrupled from 4% to 16%.)
Online video streaming has risen in popularity among adults, as has listening to music online.  (Respectively, usage increased from 52% to 66% and from 34% to 51%.)
Adults are increasingly using online classified ad websites as well.  (Usage increased from 32% to 53%.)
Find the full report here:

What to Watch for in 2011

Factura Electrónica 2011, Image via Wikipedia

Our friends at O’Reilly Radar have a few predictions for 2011, and we couldn’t help but agree with them.  We both see bright futures in two arenas: citizen engagement platforms and the continuing evolution of smarter cities.  
As the technology giants continue to grow and evolve; we’ve enjoyed watching the growth of civic-minded developers leveraging open source software to benefit the greater good while grassroots organizations coalescing into influential start-ups.  We’re excited to see what takes root in 2011; a year that will undoubtedly revel in the best of both worlds from this new hybrid of tech giant and grassroots go-getter.  With that in mind, we’d like to highlight some initiatives to keep an eye on in 2011.  This brand of civic entrepreneurship most embodies the trends we see continuing well into the new year.

Code for America is ensconced in empowering our nation’s best and brightest to apply their coding skills for the betterment of the country.  In and of itself a public service, the nonprofit hopes to help deliver better services to citizens by developing better codes for government websites and applications.  

Civic Commons, similar in nature to Code for America, is a code-sharing effort that connects municipalities with similar goals to each other.  By working together to tackle technological developments, local governments can eliminate the duplication of work that would have occurred if they had continued to work solo.  Ultimately, Civic Commons, intends to not only bring cities together, but to reduce government operating costs through more efficient IT work. is a new kind of public resource.  As indicated by their name, hopes to bring increased transparency to state and local governments.  The open source web application is modeled after and will of course be free and accessible to all constituents. 

Read the rest of Radar’s predictions and learn more about all highlighted organizations here:


The architecture of the contemporary city is no longer simply about the physical space of buildings and landscape, more and more it is about the synthetic spaces created by the digital information that we collect, consume and organise; an immersive interface may become as much part of the world we inhabit as the buildings around us.
Augmented Reality (AR) is an emerging technology defined by its ability to overlay physical space with information. It is part of a paradigm shift that succeeds Virtual Reality; instead of disembodied occupation of virtual worlds, the physical and virtual are seen together as a contiguous, layered and dynamic whole. It may lead to a world where media is indistinguishable from ‘reality’. The spatial organisation of data has important implications for architecture, as we re-evaluate the city as an immersive human-computer interface.

by Keiichi Matsuda

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