Public Participation


Burning Man and the Metropolis

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January 10, 2011
It's not exactly the ideal place to build a city. No water, little vegetation, limited animal life. August temperatures climb to over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and drop close to freezing at night. High winds kick up powder-fine dust into blinding storms. The place is, in a word, inhospitable.

But year after year in late summer, a small city rises on this ancient lakebed in the Black Rock Desert, in Pershing County in northwestern Nevada. It's the annual event — or festival, or party — known as Burning Man, an eight-day experiment in self-expression and self-reliance that is now one of the most notorious cultural events in North America. What began as a bonfire attended by 20 friends on a San Francisco beach in 1986 has exploded into a global mega-event with 50,000 participants.

Tech and the City

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August 1, 2011
Chief Digital Officer Rachel Sterne aims to make New York the “world’s top-ranked digital city” but she and her counterparts across the U.S. are still trying to figure out what that means.

No matter where you live, from Los Angeles to Boston, you can walk into a public meeting, sign your name on a piece of paper, and be given the opportunity to stand at a podium in front of your elected officials or civil servants and speak your mind for two or three minutes. This is called a public comment, and it’s allowed at pretty much any public meeting in any city in America. It’s the kind of open government that the founding fathers had in mind when they wrote the Declaration of Independence. It’s also totally old school.

RoboCop: The Monument

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June 22, 2011
Can open source play a role in urban planning? Launched on Kickstarter, the proposal to erect a monument to RoboCop has received support from thousands of people worldwide.

The Internet's very local demand for RoboCop

Strange things can happen when the nerdy niches of the Internet mobilise. In less than a week, the wacky-yet-kindaclever idea of building a statue in Detroit of the title character from the Detroit-based 1987 film RoboCop surpassed its $50,000 goal through donations on the fundraising website Kickstarter.

Open Data and Government 2.0

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March 25, 2010
Code for America. Sounds kind of dorky, doesn’t it? It kind of is. It’s a technology-focused version of Teach for America, the national program that recruits recent college grads to commit to a couple of years of service teaching in public schools. But while Teach for America aims at improving the nation’s public school system, Code for America is taking on a thornier, even more dysfunctional beast: government.

The project is intended to “help the brightest minds of the Web 2.0 generation transform city governments” – transformations brought about by using the Internet and other web-enabled technologies to help make governments more efficient, transparent, and participatory

Developing the Open City

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October 15, 2009
New communication and interaction technologies are dramatically changing the way the public understands and participates in government. The emerging openness of data and information at the city level is broadening the urban policy conversation, but challenges and questions lie ahead as the open city develops.

For many people, it's information overload. Email every day, billions of websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook status updates, RSS, a hundred blogs a minute -- there's a seemingly endless stream of information and seemingly no way to keep up. Sure, it's hard for people, but imagine what it must be like for a city.

Failures of the Public Participation Process

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February 14, 2008
Public participation turned ugly last week in suburban Missouri, where a man burst into a city council meeting and shot and killed two police officers and three city councilors.

At least two others were injured by the gunman before he was fatally shot by police, according to an article in the Los Angeles Times.

The armed man was a frequent attendee at city council meetings in Kirkwood, Missouri, and he was known for being a very vocal critic of the council and the city’s mayor...