Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

Design critics: Belinda Tato and Jose Luis Vallejo, principals of Ecosistema Urbano

Sometimes it is easy to imagine we have all the world’s knowledge at our fingertips, and that this access makes our lives, and our cities, fundamentally better. In reality, this has proven both maddeningly true and frustratingly false, not just because of the overwhelming volume available, but because the inequities of the network can connect us without the ability to empower us. Information is supposed to break down barriers, to create new urban worlds, and yet it can just as easily reinforce the flawed and the unjust cities of the past.

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Nowhere is this more clear than in the public participation process of local governments. As a public agency, all the information within City Hall is, by extension, public knowledge, yet without the tools, expertise, and – it can be argued – the will to make this information available, understandable, and usable, the participation process will remain deeply flawed. This information asymmetry fuels a system that is mutually distrustful where it should be mutually beneficial: residents, lacking data to organize, cannot be expected to comment thoughtfully on a given topic, thus leading city officials to discount public input. Residents’ frustration at being inadequately heard soon leads to apathy, and the entire system collapses.

Downtown Comment attempts to open the process of participation by redesigning the information architecture of local governments, both virtually and through physical interventions in urban space. More than anything, Downtown Comment – and any other work in public participation – should be answering the simple question, “As a resident, where do you go with a good idea?” (more…)


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