Anthony Townsend's blog

Anthony Townsend is a research director at the Institute for the Future (IFTF) in Palo Alto, California.

In Memoriam: William Mitchell

I learned with great sadness about the loss of William Mitchell, 65, this past friday after a long battle with cancer. Bill was the chair of my Ph.D. committee, a mentor and a friend.

 

Municipal Vaporware: Why NYC's Data Mine is A Data Dump

This morning, Mayor Mike Bloomberg unveiled New York City's long-awaited Big Apps contest. Big Apps seeks to promote the Internet industry in the Big Apple (it's sponsored by the New York City Economic Development Corporation) and make local government more transparent.

I've been following the evolution of open data initiatives at the municipal level for about a year now, and was really hoping that New York was going to set the bar for future efforts across the country. It doesn't. In fact it's hard to understand why some notable local tech superstars like investors Fred Wilson and John Borthwick would sign on to such a lame effort.

Rethinking Lower Manhattan: What If?

Since its founding in the mid 1990s, Alliance for Downtown New York has long been one of the world's leading business improvement districts. This non-profit organization has presided over the reinvention of New York's historic Financial District as a thriving 24-hour live/work district, while retaining a respectable share of the city's financial services sector. The Alliance built a network of Wi-Fi hotspots that lit up nearly every major public space in the district - not just outdoor locations like Bowling Green and City Hall Park, but also indoor atria like the Winter Garden and 60 Wall Street.

The Future of Research Parks and Technology-led Economic Development

The American economy has long relied upon technological innovation to drive its economy. Today,basic investment in science and technology is once again taking center stage,as a cure for both our economic and environmental ills.

DIYcity.org - Leveraging Web 2.0 for Smarter Cities

Here in New York City, there is an incredibly popular burger stand in Madison Square Park called The Shake Shack. It's one of the touchpoints for Silicon Alley, and a great meet-up spot. The problem is that its usually insanely crowded, with an hour-long line stretching well across the park.

Not to be defeated, Silicon Alley geeks created the Shake Shack Twitter Bot, which serves as a sort of chat room for people to report wait times at the Shake Shack. It's a few dozen lines of code that leverages Web 2.0 technology to make the city smarter, more efficient, and more fun.

McKinsey's Pitch for a More Compact Urban China

The McKinsey Global Institute has just published a major report outlining four potential scenarios for urbanization in China.

The main thrust of the report is that China needs to focus less on growing its cities and more on making them efficient and productive. Given the massive levels of capital investment Chinese cities have seen over the last 20 years, it makes sense that the country's urban planners need to find ways to squeeze more capacity out of these systems. After all, as McKinsey projects, another 350 million people will need to be accommodated, some 250 million of them as rootless rural migrants.

Suburbia During the Crash

Maybe it's the rain in New York today, but I'm gloomy. So while China collapses, it looks like the mobility-land use solution embodied in many of America's newer suburbs seems to be unravelling due to high oil prices.

The IHT reports:

Is Baghdad Going Feral?

One of the most influential pieces of contemporary urban theory I've ever read was a short monograph by Richard Norton entitled "Feral Cities", which appeared in the Naval War College Review in 2003. Norton described feral cities thusly:

"Imagine a great metropolis covering hundreds of square miles. Once a vital component in a national economy, this sprawling urban environment is now a vast collection of blighted buildings, an immense petri dish of both ancient and new diseases, a territory where the rule of law has long been replaced by near anarchy in which the only security available is that which is attained through brute power."

Pearl River Downturn

China's economic boom has often been compared to the West's industrialization, only running in fast-foward. IT looks as if the decline of Western industrial regions may be playing out in the China on the same accelerated time frame. BusinessWeek Asia is reporting on "China's Factory Blues" this week on how a perfect storm of recent developments - from the decline in the US housing market to soaring commodity prices and new labor regulations - is shuttering factories in the Peal River Delta at an alarming rate.

FCC Rules for Telcos Against Landlords

It's tough to say what the impact of a decision like this is for the US market, where there are already so many obstacles to making money on the last mile.

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