Ken Snyder's blog

Ken Snyder is Executive Director of PlaceMatters

What is GeoDesign

Shannon McElvaney at ESRI is working on a book on GeoDesign -- a growing movement of academics, community planning and development practitioners, ecosystem managers, and geospatial tool developers interested in the nexus between geography, design, planning, ecosystem management and community decision making.  Shannon asked PlaceMatters to contribute to the book, asking us a series of questions.  In the process of answering the first question "What does GeoDesign mean to you?" i fell in love with the combination of the two words and how they truely captured the range of interests engaging in the GeoDesign conversation.

Here were a couple of my thoughts:

Using Balloons for Bird's Eye View of Community

At the GeoDesign conference in San Diego we heard mention of folks at MIT using helium balloons with cameras attached to take aerial pictures. Thinking this was a fabulous idea I decided to find out more and see if this was a technique we could easily incorporate into our projects. The MIT connection turned out to be the MIT Center for Future Civic Media and their partnership with others to create Grassroots Mapping, a project and resource site to encourage citizens to use these balloons to generate maps of communities and their surrounding environment.

Homeland Security Frequency Jam?!? What to do When Public Participation Goes Terribly Wrong

In 2009 we worked with Ron Thomas, Mary Means, and Goody Clancy to help plan and run a large 500+ person visioning event in the town of Shreveport.  We set up the event the night before with computers at every table for brainstorming and a keypad polling system providing each participant with a handheld device for voting and prioritizing strategies in the region.  We had a tech table set up next to the audio/filming crew, a group that was very helpful in getting us what we need to set up.   We tested everything, including making sure the keypads registered in the far corners of the convention space. 

Enjoyable voice recognition, is it FINALLY here?

Given today it the release date of the new iPhone, I want to talk about something else at Apple the really caught my attention -- their automated customer care.   Last week I had to call Apple to find out how to get the sales tax removed from a purchase given our 501(c)3 status.  It was a complicated set of questions I needed to ask -- and yet the conversation was as smooth as talking to a live person.  It struck me I was getting a sneak preview of something that is going to radically transform how we use technology on a daily basis -- FINALLY.

The Power of the Kindergarten Art Supplies in Planning

PlaceMatters has partnered with the National Charrette Institute on a number of occasions, providing trainings and giving panel presentations at conferences. One of our common themes is "High Touch, High Tech Charrettes." During the sessions we talk about the advantages of low tech and when it makes sense to bring in high tech. Below I have embedded a video that is a montage of clips filmed during a downtown revitalization Charrette in Wichita Kansas. In this project, PlaceMatters partnered with Goody Clancy to help residents go through a series of exercises including keypad polling and mapping exercises to brainstorm about the future of downtown Wichita.

Connecting to Internet in Remote Areas to Bring High Tech Tools to Town Meetings

Even when the circuitry is beyond us mere mortals, DIY comes to the rescue 

In town meetings we use the Internet for a wide variety of uses, from photo walls to display images collected during our WalkShop tours, to brainstorming and voting with our AnyWare suite of tools, to collecting ideas using Google Docs or Google MyMaps at round tables.  The latest WiFi cards are making connecting to the Internet possible in places where the Internet normally is not available.

No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded

Yogi Berra said that.  I also recall someone saying at some conference on smart growth or new urbanism: the more cars sharing the road, the more people get frustrated (hence all the car ads of people driving with no other cars in sight), while the more people on a well designed sidewalk, the more we tend to like it. 

TinyURL points to Harlem ghost-lady

Once again, US Air (a.k.a. US-SCARE) has made my life difficult. I was hoping to fly back from Myrtle Beach, SC to Denver yesterday and they cancelled my flight (Myrtle Beach is where the GeoTools conference was and a meeting of the Ecosystem Based Management Tools Network).  

The Art and Science of Planning

As technology becomes more an integral part of planning and public outreach around planning, the need for a “creative touch” becomes increasingly important. While technology can increase the quality and quantity of public input, it can also diminish the quality of human interaction and creativeness. As we look for technologies that engage citizens, we also need to find ways to utilize art materials, maps and other visuals, and encourage storytelling.

Smart Growth and Sustainability Should Focus on Climate Change More Than Immigration

This evening my wife, Beth Conover, will appear on a televised panel discussion on "Immigration and Sustainability" aired on Rocky Mountain PBS's Colorado State of Mind, hosted by Greg Dobbs. The panel includes former Gov. Dick Lamm, former Post columnist Diane Carman, and State Rep. Michael Garcia (D-Aurora). An mp3 of the program is already available at the following link.

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