Media-rich urban landscapes: Edmonton 2011 Conference

Peter Hirshberg and Marshall McLuhan

CC Flickr photo from maryhodder

“Space, Place, and the McLuhan Legacy” is the theme for a July 2011 conference at the University of Alberta, hosted by the Media Ecology Association. The Edmonton based conference aims to provoke academic dialogue and raise public awareness of media ecology and the relevance of Marshall McLuhan’s body of work to today’s media-rich urban landscapes.

McLuhan gave much attention to the changing environment of the city in the wake of technological change. As he stated in an article published in Canadian Architect in June 1961,”[t]oday the entire human community is being translated into ‘auditory space,’ or into that ‘field of simultaneous relations,’ by electric broadcasting. It behooves the architect and town planner, … Continue Reading

Upcoming Event: Planning Engagement through New Media (Vancouver)

While amazing possibilities exist for the use of digital media in planning engagement, a host of challenges often face intrepid planners who make the leap to actually using these innovative engagement methods.

Vancouver-based readers should check out next Wednesday’s event called “New Expressions of Planning Engagement.” Targeted to planning practitioners and students, it will feature three stories from Lower Mainland planners who have led new media engagement in their communities, and offer lessons based on their experiences.

The essential details are as follows:

Wednesday, November 17, 2010 7-9pm
Roundhouse Community Arts & Rec Centre, Room B
181 Roundhouse Mews (Davie & Pacific), Vancouver
Canada Line SkyTrain Station: Yaletown-Roundhouse

Please RSVP to vanessak at by November 15.
PIBC members can earn 2 LUs of organized CPD for attending this event.

For more information, check out the poster, … Continue Reading

Betaville: Multiplayer Engagement Planning in Beta

We’ve blogged on PlanningPool in the past about the lure and the foibles of city-building games like Sim City, and about the promise of interactive 3D urban models for communication and engagement.

Battery Park Street, New York, as seen in Betaville

But what if 3D urban models like Virtual Berlin could be plugged into a city-building game engine like Sim City’s? And what if everybody could play?

That’s the idea behind Betaville, a new collaborative planning technology developed by the Polytechnic Institute of New York University.

Betaville is based on an open-source, multi-player gaming engine that runs 3D models of real-life communities. Changes can then be proposed to these “base models” by all participants and modeled in alternative versions of the world.

The intent is nothing less than … Continue Reading

20-Minute Community on Portland’s inner fringe

Portland is trying to be North America’s most walkable city by employing a vision for 20-minute communities in much of its current planning. There’s a lot of power in this idea, and if done right, it can be influential beyond the Rose City. The key though, as I see it, is not to embellish Portland’s thriving boutique districts, but instead to strengthen the places that are lacking structural riches. If the city can do this, it will have accomplished something that can inform planning everywhere. read more

Online Storytelling Part 1 – EdmontonStories

Canadian author and storyteller Roch Carrier, as a 10-year-old boy wearing his despised Toronto Maple Leafs hockey sweater. Public Domain photo.

Roch Carrier’s short story The Hockey Sweater, based on an experience from his own childhood, tells one of the defining narratives of Quebecois, and Canadian identity. It reflects inequities and tension between Francophones and Anglophones and captures a shared national obsession with hockey. An excerpt from the story graces the back of Canada’s $5 bill, and never fails to make me smile.

Shared stories strengthen and even define social groups, from families to communities to nations. Personal stories communicate the lived realities of every planning issue. However, the reach of these stories is traditionally limited to the storyteller’s immediate community.

Innovative initiatives in two western … Continue Reading

Agricultural Urbanism

Where you eat = what you eat. Thank to Janne Moren on Flickr for the captivating Creative Commons photo from Osaka, Japan

Urban agriculture is a beloved topic in Vancouver, but Mark Holland’s lecture today at the Gaining Ground Summit considered food through physical, social and spiritual lenses. In this light, the case  for agricultural urbanism is an issue of not just individual health but city health.

A brief list of the topics covered in Mark Holland’s lecture are as follows:


  • Sufficient food: having access to food
  • Landscape of unreal food: so enticing but there are diminishing returns with each bite
  • Health:  obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure
  • Where you eat = what you eat: When you can’t sit down, you eat on-the-go food
  • Public benches: So few … Continue Reading

Healing Cities

Cities should help people to reach the highest stage of development. Thanks to Lenbo for this wonderful Creative Commons photo from Beverly, MA.

The final day of the 2010 Gaining Ground Summit was dedicated to Healing Cities, referring both to the act of healing cities and cities that heal. The speakers included urbanists and health professionals that presented a holistic framework that can be applied to individuals and cities.

Nicole Moen, part of the Healing Cities Working Group, encouraged us to think of the city as an entity like the human body; something that is able to heal itself. Rather than being the opposite of sickness, healing is a fluid state of wholeness. She left … Continue Reading

Triple Bottom Line

John Knott’s development model combines a non-profit support structure with green building and social responsibility. Photo by author.

John Knott, unofficially referred to throughout this year’s Gaining Ground Summit as God, was the source of hope and inspiration on multiple fronts. In his lecture entitled “Capital Master Planning for Sustainable Communities: the Idea of the EcoBank,” he spoke about his Noisette Project and elaborated on the EcoBank concept.

A third generation developer, Knott understands that creating healthy and sustainable communities involves first healing social dysfunction and then dealing with economic dysfunction. Establishing a socially durable community uses a process similar to corporate strategic planning and has the same benefits of accessing great ideas and creating buy-in and ownership for the plan.

Redevelopment of Noisette, a … Continue Reading

“Put your money where your heart is”

James Schwinn spoke on the benefits of decentralizing and localizing the economy. This was one of his slides. Photo by author.

Day Two of the Gaining Ground Summit has been focused on economics. Mark Holland, the esteemed moderator and source of this post’s title, introduced the day by pointing out that a major concern for the Brundtland Commission was economy, and that the term “sustainability” was coined by economists.

The first speaker, James Schwinn, founder of Aixecar Inc., focused his “Financing Sustainability” talk on the benefits of decentralizing and localizing the economy. He spoke of the need to shift our approach to financial capital to the same approach that is applied to ecosystems: a bioregional model that is resilient, … Continue Reading

Logic of EcoLogical

Thanks to Gary Oppenheim on Flickr for this evocative Creative Commons photo

Jennie Moore, Director of Sustainable Development and Environmental Stewardship at the British Columbia Institute of Technology’s School of Construction and the Environment, gave a thought-provoking talk. Key points that stuck with me were three paradoxes of sustainability.

Paradoxes of Sustainability

1. Efficiency – doing more with less

BUT Where do the savings go? There is always a rebound effect, with an ultimate increase in demand

2. Growth – “the rising tide lifts all boats”

BUT the bottom billion are still there. The law of competitive advantage applies, with those at the top benefiting the most from growth.

3. Information – more and better information will help solve problems more effectively

BUT we are losing the information we need to live sustainably … Continue Reading

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