Tuesday, May 10, 2011


I attended the lecture on Crowdsourced Cities conducted by SFU.  Lukas Biewald of Crowdflower explained the background and trends in crowdsourcing, Darin Dinsmore of Crowdbrite showed how an international competition led to innovation in design., and Colleen Hardwick of PlaceSpeak demonstrated the use of pioneering software for location-based community consultation.

Each speaker spoke of their innovative use of the computer to reach people to collect many human judgements on planning issue. The large numbers of opinions, and the speedy gathering of them, were seen as advantages over traditional methods of public design dialogue.

I felt that a great advantage their processes offered was in reaching the younger half of the population, who are the people most interested in the future and least seen in traditional planning meetings.  I like the trend of their work and believe it is important, but all the presentations caused me concern in that they sought solutions and judgements prematurely, and that they lacked communal dialogue, and lacked communal validation.

In our Co-design process we gather neighbours together, and ask what people would be doing in this future place if it were suitably designed. In groups each person speaks individually to define his or her wishes for the round of daily life special events, and the community rates their consensus on these ideas. We deliberately avoid solutions until all possibilities have been defined and drawn and each possibility has been rated by the community. Then solutions and judgements can occur.

I fear that the processes described tonight will encourage comment on issues such as parking, traffic, and real-estate values, and that solutions to these will steer society. I fear that the prime question of how we wish to live our daily round of life will go unasked, and that society’s prime community values will go undefined.

-- Stanley King