Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Urban Planning By Blog

Robert Goodspeed:

[Robert Fishman] argues the tradition has not been a story of centralized, rational planning, coordinated through governmental agencies. In his view,the great planning accomplishments of American history were instead the product of a great “urban conversation” where elites and common citizens alike engaged in an “intense and impassioned” discussion of urban and regional strategies. Fueled by the selfish interests of both the actors and the cities themselves, this urban conversation is the true source of the power in directing the development of our cities. Indeed, history shows Americans have invested heavily in common infrastructure in the past, building freeways and transit, urban parks, train stations, ballparks, and convention centers.

We are living through remarkable times, when the very medium of our urban conversation is being transformed. No longer are our major urban newspapers the exclusive forum for the civic minded. Newspaper circulation and readership has declined, niche publications catering to various interests and languages have sprung up. The most potent tool of this revolution - the internet - has exploded in influence and scope over the past decade. At a fundamental level, it has empowered every organization and every individual to communicate directly with any other person on the planet.

As we might expect, this has changed the nature of the urban conversation fundamentally. No longer does it take place through several well-known forums, today it happens on websites, over neighborhood email lists, in blog comments, on message boards, or through email threads among co-workers or friends. While there is much disorienting about this brave new world, it has empowered citizens to seek direct information from the government
There's a lot of that happening right here in Greensboro -- some of it right here on this blog.


Shaw Rez said...

I'm a former Greensboro resident, now living in D.C. fifty feet from Rob Goodspeed (who's blog, which often reveals lessons learned in his pursuit of a masters in urban planning, is fascinating). Seeing his name prompted me to leave a comment. The internet really is a strong tool in the urban discussion. I write a blog about the renewal of my Washington neighborhood of Shaw and have experienced the power of the internet on a variety of topics.

I still keep an eye on the happenings in Greensboro (through your blog and others). Greensboro really is a special place, and I'm amazed by the progress and potential of downtown.

David Wharton said...

Thanks for the heads-up -- I've added your blog to my blogroll. It's good when neighborhoods can learn from each others' experience this way.

Shaw Rez said...


Actually my main blog is renewshaw.com (aka http://www.remakingleslumhistorique.blogspot.com/). My Shiloh blog, which you linked, isn't updated regularly and is focused solely on a church that owns a lot of valuable/desirable vacant property in the neighborhood. The Shiloh blog seeks to document the problems caused by that property and to prompt change.

You are right that we can learn from each other. Though facts, names and geography differ, a lot of the problems are quite analogous.

take care.

David Wharton said...

Thanks -- fixed the link!