Introduction

Hi, it’s Andrew. Welcome to my virtual home. I’m currently in the process of defining where this blog and webspace will go, but I know it will explore some of my greatest passions: urban planning, community development, design for the public realm, theme parks, LGBT equality, and marketing and branding. If you know me, you probably know that my writing and my thoughts can be random and very tangential (at best), so this will first and foremost serve as a space for exploring the things that jump into my head. If that sounds like something you can stomach, then please come along for the ride!

While you’re reading this, I encourage you to leave a comment or to meet up with me on any of the other channels where I sometimes lurk (see the Links to your left). Tell me what you would like me to write about, or that you think I’m totally wrong, or that my work is a stroke of genius (I don’t buy it, but thanks anyway!). I’ve also got a few other tabs up there at the top, where you can see some of my planning and design work (Portfolio) and check out my CV. As always, ask any questions, and feel free to contact me by e-mail at any time. Cheers!

Andrew

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“Play in the City”—How Cities are Becoming More Playful and Awe-Inspiring

I’ve been writing for NeighborMedia, a citizen-driven, volunteer news and activities outlet here in Cambridge, MA. My latest post explores an emerging and important policy idea for cities around the world: how to integrate “play” into the otherwise orderly and mundane city? Play, in its many forms, has important educational, developmental, physical and policy implications for urban planners, government officials, business leaders, schools, and all citizens. Here’s a little snippet of the post:

Everybody plays. From the newborn just discovering “peek-a-boo” to the college student rediscovering hacky sack on the quad and to grandparents playing with their grandchildren, play is an almost universal human experience. For policy makers, urban planners, and designers, play is, on the one hand, an established part of the urban landscape—cities have set aside park space and playgrounds since the start of the Industrial Revolution in part to escape the harsh realities of the city.

Read the full post by clicking through here.

Charrette participants at "Play in the City" develop new play concepts for the City of Cambridge.

Is planning really just a game?

I had two favorite PC games growing up (and yes, I am a PC, sorry Steve Jobs and Apple): SimCity and RollerCoaster Tycoon. My heroes had names like Sid Meier, Will Wright, and Chris Sawyer—they were the ultimate creators, developing worlds that were so customizable that they engulfed millions of players, young and old, worldwide for endless hours. Gamers have created true-to-life replicas of famous cities or popular theme parks, fantastical worlds where innovative transit systems and gravity-defying rides dot the landscape, and innovative plans and designs that introduce new concepts into the real world of planning or theme park design.

It is this latter possibility that is leading many people to consider games more seriously, as potential tools for the professional world to explore possibilities, to test ideas, and to innovate outside the bounds of life as we know it. About a month ago, Foldit players solved a decade-long mystery in protein structure and introduced an innovation that could have a major impact in the research to find a cure for AIDS. This is no small achievement—while the game is designed simply to allow creativity in protein folding, the creative process and the game’s ease of testing results allows for greater achievement. And in other sectors of the news, some have suggested Herman Cain’s misguided 999 Plan might have originated with the flat-tax default in Sim City 4. Although clearly in the case the game falls short of the complexity of real-world tax codes—but is a game once-again inspiring real world policy proposals? Continue reading

Brands, Identity, and Place

Earlier this week, Interbrand released their annual ranking of the Top 100 Corporate Brands. Some of the usual international exports (Coca Cola, McDonalds, Disney) and a huge number of tech giants (IBM, Microsoft, Google, GE, Apple, Intel) dominate the top 10. It’s pretty interesting, and, if you’re like me and interested in understanding how people perceive brands, how a brand becomes so incredibly valuable ($71 billion, really?) then the methodology section is the first place you stop.

Now, I don’t have an MBA, but I do have a planning degree which pretty much means I’ve studied similar concepts but in real estate, and, their method makes sense. Basically, you take the profit the organization earns (economic profit), multiply by some estimate of how many consumers bought the brand’s product when they otherwise would not have, then discount it with the brand strength. Ok, great. Essentially, now, you have a monetary estimate of how much value that brand adds to its company, a quantitative measure of the impact of the brand. Which is useful for comparing brands; but does it really capture which brands are most memorable, which ones have the most aficionados, what brands people are talking about daily? Not exactly.

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Cities as Game Spaces

Lowell National Historic Park

Lowell National Historic Park | How might games enhance our experience of the build environment? (Photo by author, all rights reserved)

Gaming is creeping out of the dens, basements, and LED-lit offices of the past few years and into the streets themselves. For years now, App developers have been pushing for a trend toward gaming in our cities, using the physical environment as a setting for a physically real MMORPG.

[And no, I’m not talking about casinos, although  that’s all over the news today in Massachusetts (see here and here, oh and here). Of course, that has its own set of problems and challenges.]

What I’m referring to is augmented reality technology, specifically AR used in developing interactive, locally-based games. For a little while now, a couple of developers have been on my radar for their use of AR in the physical environment, and their games and platforms suggest that some changes might be imminent in how we think about our built environment.

(Read the rest after the jump…)

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