NYC Digital City Road Map

Beyond the press about NYC partnerships with consumer internet companies like Foursquare and Tumblr, there is a lot of great information in here about increasing citizen access to technology, opening up government data, and supporting a thriving tech ecosystem.

311 for new ideas

What if there were a way to transform complaints into something positive and productive? What if we reframed the exchange to be less about adversity and more about cooperation and action? What if citizens were encouraged to offer their thoughts on how things from transit systems to city parks might be improved — as opposed to simply airing their grievances about all that was wrong with them?

Courtesy of Local Projects

That’s the beauty of Give a Minute, created as part of CEOs for Cities’ US Initiative by the media design firm Local Projects. Says Coletta, “We need more citizens who feel agency — that they can actually influence the future of their communities. Otherwise, there is complacency and resignation. Give a Minute encourages agency. Go ahead. Share your ideas. Change your city.”

In embracing a technology that nearly everyone now possesses — text messaging — Give a Minute provides a fast, cheap and easy way to share ideas, connect them together and make them happen. As Local Project’s Jake Barton, whose firm has excelled in previous participatory projects like StoryCorps, explains, “It’s like 311 for new ideas.”

Also see Vancouver’s use of Uservoice for similar purposes,“Talk Green to Us”

Streetfilms: how-to videos for livable streets

This is a great concept – Streetfilms makes short, simple videos about what works and what isn’t working in urban transport. Their three-minute video on “bike corral” parking spaces in Portland turned a concept that might otherwise be buried in a dry urban planning white paper into an illuminating, compelling clip. I find there is something about seeing — not just reading about — real people talking about What Works Now that makes you want to take action. They have these in Portland — why not Vancouver?

It’s not just the content that’s compelling, but the company looks pretty interesting as well. Streetfilms is one arm of the Livable Streets Network, along with a platform for “streetbloggers” across the US, a wiki for best practices in transport planning, and what looks like a meetup-style groups tool. It’s like a more focused Worldchanging with a broader set of collaboration and story-telling tools. Worldchanging just announced that they are partnering with Livable Streets Network to syndicate WC-like content:

We’re excited to announce that we’re now partnering with the U.S.-based Streetsblog to help bring more attention to transportation and urban design issues issues. This open source site is dedicated to collecting opinions, stories and videos about new ideas and innovative designs that help us to use our thoroughfares more effectively. Though Streetsblog’s focus is largely on New York and other major U.S. cities, their work is informed by transportation developments around the globe.

Congrats — looks like a good match.

Envisioning the future of Bombay’s slums


Urban Typhoon is a participatory urban planning workshop on the future of the Koliwada region of Dharavi, Mumbai’s staggeringly large and impossibly dense million-resident slum.

The objective is to produce creative alternatives for the future of a neighborhood threatened by a redevelopment plan of the government as well as a multimedia testimony to the unique spirit of Koliwada. The workshop itself is a joyous and participatory takeover of the neighbourhood. It combines the city’s historic spirit of activism with the celebratory, independent and culturally dynamic traditions that the Kolis of Mumbai have always demonstrated. The plan builds on these impulses in the best traditions of a festive exchange with visitors, guests, strangers and locals of all shades and hues.

While I have some issues with the ideology of the conference organizers, who I feel are overly quick to characterize an incredibly complex issue as a struggle between an oppressed indigenous minority and a cold and corporate-friendly bureaucracy, I salute the effort. The workshop looks like it will bring a vibrant mix of international urban planning perspectives, technological savvy, and an eye for design to one of Mumbai’s thorniest challenges – the future of its nearly ten million slum dwellers. I hope there is some useful output for the residents of Koliwada and the rest of Dharavi.

Interested parties had better act quickly – it appears the week-long workshop (March 16-23) is only accepting 50 entrants (Why so small??). Interested partiers, however, now have an excellent option for the night of Holi, Saturday the 22nd. Mad Decent’s Paul Devro is flying out to spin a wicked set at Blue Frog to cap off the Urban Typhoon workshop, with 100 free tickets going to kids from Dharavi. While I probably can’t afford a week off to attend the workshop, I am definitely going to hit up that show!