Category Archives: geodesign

shadows and mirrors in Norwegian town

One small Norwegian town is geographically plagued by its position in a valley, leading to topographically-induced shading during its otherwise already dim winter days.  An attempt at a targeted solution?  Mirrors strategically placed.

Good luck to them!  I love that it combines the best of geographical AND spatial thinking, or spatial thinking in situ. That’s also called geodesign.


this is what a living bridge looks like

A video describing the design, creation, and maintenance of “living” bridges in India.   True geodesign in action.  Marvelous.

h/t to Geography Education.

Connections between hazard mapping and outcomes

Time Magazine reports on a study (pdf) that considers the connections between hazard maps and recent natural disasters.  Are “bad maps” to blame for greater-than-expected damage, death, and destruction?  Among other issues, the study authors suggest that mapmakers may lack adequate “humility and caution.”  Of course that may be true, but it’s so much more complicated than that.  Map makers rely on the data they have, not the data they want. They are required to generate maps that rank risk based on models that necessarily have fragmented, incomplete, sampled, and uncertain data.  The cartographic symbology necessary to communicate this uncertainty is often lacking.

Which for me gets to the interesting set of questions. Understanding the connections between a map maker, the representation itself, and the decision makers on the other end.  Few map makers set out to create a map that leads to poor decisions. What happens along the way?  How can we do better to reduce confusion and re-align intentions? How can we improve feedback mechanisms so that the next generation of maps is “better”?  Really, no map is inherently “bad” – so we need a better set of terms, and expectations, and practices, so that effective maps help support the best decisions.

Steinitz’s book on Geodesign makes its appearance

Carl Steinitz has been working on his geodesign framework ideas for many years. They’ve come together in his new publication, A Framework for Geodesign: Changing Geography by Design.

Check out this book if you’re interested in how geospatial technologies can inform the design process, and vice versa. Lots of good nuggets of knowledge here. And it’s so well-edited too!

diving right into participatory mapping

A recent blog entry by my friend Meg Stewart reminded me of the work that Aly DeGraff is doing in the Grenadines.  I remember hearing about Aly a few years ago. We both went to Middlebury College (go Panthers!), where colleagues of mine in the geography department talked about her skills and motivation as she went through her years there.

Aly is now finishing up her year-long program of participatory mapping in the Grenadines.  After catching up on her blog entries, I just have to say that I’m really impressed with the focus, professionalism, and confidence with which she’s pursuing this work. I haven’t done much mapping of this type myself, but my little forays as part of projects and workshops over the years have clearly shown me that one must accept the process even more than the product as a metric of success.  I also know that I *never* could have done this type of work on my own at that age, even with the help of a mentor.  Kudos to the Compton Foundation for funding these projects.  Go, Aly, go!

Projects like these also remind me of geodesign processes, which I’ve thought a lot more about in the last year since I helped to edit Carl Steinitz’s forthcoming Esri Press book on A Framework for Geodesign.  Participation from “the people of the place” are a defining characteristic of geodesign, and how that’s implemented looks different in every situation. The case studies in Carl’s book range along a spectrum of size and scale, but all involved larger support teams than Aly’s work.  Another reason which I find her progress so enjoyable and remarkable.

VGI and the Jane Goodall Institute

I was given a gift this morning: to be part of a small meeting at which Jane Goodall and others from her Institute met with Esri folks to discuss current and future collaborations.  Some great ideas being discussed for using VGI and citizen science for their Roots and Shoots program and beyond, and imagining new ways to use geodesign processes in their work.  I’m excited for these developments.  Maybe I’ll make it to Tanzania one day?

geoDesign workshop in Redlands

Our local newspaper ran a story on the geodesign workshop that the University held in January. Not clear from the story is that the reporter, Kaethe Selkirk, is also an undergrad student at Redlands and participated in the 5-day event as well. The overall goals, as Kaethe explains, were to create GIS-based plans that reached target values for both open space and transit-oriented development. But the event served multiple purposes: it was largely a research experiment, led by Carl Steinitz, to evaluate multiple process models for reaching the goal. Nine teams, each following a different protocol, worked in parallel to reach the goals.

Meanwhile, our Redlands Institute was testing new digital tools, designed specifically for this event in concert with our close allies at Esri. Six undergraduate students participated as equal members on six of the teams. The experience was exhausting, stimulating, and inspirational. The University is thinking about how to have more learning experiences like these. Let’s see where these geodesign ideas can go next.

GeoDesign redaction

I’ve just finished up two weeks of work with “GeoDesign.” Or should we call it geodesign, or geoDesign, to capture the “big” D that may be missing…

First, it was the Summit. Hosted at Esri for the 2nd year. Co-hosted by myself and Eric Wittner for the 2nd year. Which means that we coordinated submissions of lightning talks and idea labs and longer presentations, and arranged the schedule, and got to be mic’ed up for speaking on stage. Lots of work for little glory, but that’s what life’s about. It’s all for a good cause – finding effective ways to bring design practices more aligned with geographical reality and expectations, supported by the “enabling” technologies emerging today.
Then a power-house five-day workshop, directed by the inimitable Carl Steinitz. Carl was Jack Dangermond’s mentor (advisor?) as a Harvard grad student in the late 1960s and his presence still looms large on New York Street today. Carl and his posse ran a large-scale research project to explore which approaches to geodesign work well. Over 30 of us were divided into 9 different teams to pursue a common outcome through differing approaches. Specifically we worked out plans for both open space and a transit-oriented development within the city of Redlands. Fascinating experience overall, but already the results for the city seem more ephemeral than the video recorded for Carl’s research agenda.