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August 19, 2008

[berkman] Hub 2 – Community-involved development via SecondLife

Gene Koo and Eric Gordon are giving a Tuesday lunch talk on “Hub2: Creating Deliberative Publics through Virtual Worlds.” [I’m taking quick notes and will undoubtedly get some stuff wrong.]

Hub2 is a partnership with Boston (Harvard is sponsoring the project) to enhance the community participation process. It’d be good to have a platform for deliberative process. But land use discussions typically ahve their own technical jargon. And it can be hard to imagine what a place will be like when all you have is a 2D map. It’d be better to be working in 3D space, so you can see what t’d be like to move these trees over there, or widen the path, etc. Instead of having the community react — yes or no — to a design, why not have the community participate in the design?

Hub2 aims are providing a design process that is experiential, embodied, constructive. Hub2 heads towards “augmented deliberation”: Imagine, design, engage, activate (= IDEA). They’re using SecondLife for this. They hope citizens will use it as a design tool and come up with an affirmative vision of what they want. And because you can walk through the virtual space, you develop an informed opinion. Gene and Eric ask people to try out the space in various roles, e.g., a 33 yr old who walks her dog twice a day or as someone in a wheelchair.

The project has set up Boston Island in SecondLife and have the last name “bostonian.” They are using it for augmented deliberation about Harvard’s Honan Library Park development in north Allston, MA. Local residents get together, try out layouts, leave comments (in visual flags). Residents can access the site either at home or using the public access systems in the library; the libraries have Hub2 staff people there to help people with the system. (They have thought about the fact that they’re putting public records into a proprietary data format, but SL is the best choice.)

Over 60 teenagers have spent time on the system, along with about 30 other residents. That’s more than have participated in the traditional process.

Q: I’m glad you’re dealing with the digital divide issues. But this is a 1.2 acre park out of 350 that Harvard owns in Allston…
A: There will be more open spaces.

Q: Should we open this process up to the world?
A: It’s a local issue
A: Keeping it local builds consensus
A: Maybe. You’d want to make clear who is local and who isn’t. It might even help to defuse the situation in which the locals want a design that is impractical or reflects the needs of those who happened to have engaged in the process.

Q: Maybe you should be talking with SL about how to make the archives more open.
A: Yes. But our main goal is to improve the design process. [Someone on the irc chat points to a BBC piece on archiving virtual worlds.] [Tags: ]

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May 18, 2008

In memoriam of those we can’t remember

Note to designers of memorials: Naming your road “Memorial Drive” won’t memorialize the people you’re trying to remember because who it memorializes won’t outlive the memories of those who are currently living, thus defeating the very purpose of memorializing them.

Let me put this differently: When I asked a roomful of Bostonians who “Memorial Drive” is dedicated to, no one knew. Several guessed correctly — Google tells us that it’s those who died in WW I — but isn’t the point of a memorial to obviate guesses and trips to Google? You might as well name it “Think of Something Parkway” or “Guess Who We’re Honoring Turnpike.”

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April 28, 2008

Vilna Shul isn’t miscellaneous

I’m giving a talk on “Everything Is Miscellaneous” at the Vilna Shul (which is habitually prefaced with “historic”) in Boston tomorrow, Tues., starting at 6pm. If you want to go — and as of now I’m thinking I’ll give my plain ol’ “Misc” talk — please RSVP to dougat signvilnashul.com.

UPDATE: I think I’m instead going to talk about knowledge in the age of the miscellaneous, and in particular as if the Internet is Jewish.

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