18 July 2019

Trendy ideas

"Apart from technology, fashion is one of the means by which young people reserve the right to torment the old."   - Chris Fleming

A new post at The Chronicle, "The Tyranny of Trendy Ideas," describes/decries a longstanding issue for academia. And, while some of the specifics are hard to translate into GIS, landscape architecture or environmental planning, the essay captures some feelings that will be familiar to many of us.

As we are confronted with new terms and ideas and theories, we have to keep evaluating them to figure out which will linger and which are little more than vapor. But, as Fleming points out, some of them turn out to be useful. If you initially ignored urban agriculture or green infrastructure when the ideas first emerged, the penalty probably wasn't that high. But even if those ideas get renamed/rebranded/redirected over the next few years, you can see that they have been very useful. And for now, they have become important threads of conversation and practice.

Maybe it is because our fields place such heavy emphasis on application, but even conversations about ephemeral issues still often seem to be useful. I remember a couple academic papers that made way too much of a popular Malcolm Gladwell book. And, while their effort capitalize on the author's popular ideas may not have been terribly meaningful, the result was a reframing of some ideas in our field that sparked real conversations about our need to re-examine the assumptions and driving forces of GIS, landscape architecture or environmental planning.

For us, I think that the warning about chasing trends is real, but the dangers might be less than other fields where dead ends seem to collect far more people.

16 July 2019

Replacing the sandbox with the virtual table?

We have had a digital sandbox for a few years. But now when someone asks what is next, I wonder if it is the virtual table. This example shows how it could be a group interactive planning scenario tool. As is common with new tools, it is hard to tell initially how much is "gee whiz" novelty and how much is genuinely engaging for exploration. But this video from Garsdale Design  is certainly intriguing.

08 July 2019

Art map

The UCGIS summer symposium in DC featured a variety of talks on the spatial humanities. So it was fascinating to see the NY Times post an interactive map of the source of the Whitney's American art, by years, that shows both how influential NYC was initially, but also how they eventually grew to be more broadly inclusive.

18 June 2019

Single family cities?

The NY Times has a new richly-illustrated piece from Emily Badger and Quoctrung Bui that asks how our cities can live without density. The heart of the analysis is a series of 10 maps showing how major American cities are divided between single family homes and all other forms of housing. Of the cities they mapped, only DC and NYC have less than 50% single family units. The article is expansive and includes intriguing quotes from multiple faculty who raise fundamental questions about zoning as a tool.

And, they get through the entire piece without ever using the phrase, "Not in my backyard".