Category Archives: built environment

“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.

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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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