Networked Urbanism

design thinking initiatives for a better urban life

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

Think Big (and some questions I have): 

Is there a way to connect people in a community, location specific, to expand social networks in one’s public and/or private layers?

I am still really intrigued the idea that individuals have multiple identities which we turn on and off depending on our physical location. I may portray myself one way in a coffee shop versus another way at the GSD. Can these layers of interests, location specific, begin to create connections that would have otherwise been unnoticed?

How much are people willing to share? Are we more willing to share our public layers (ie. skills, job, etc.) to gain business contacts versus private layers (ie. hobbies) to gain friendships? Can this service serve both functions?


Start Small:

After visiting New Urban Mechanics, it seems that this office is acting as the ‘middle man’ to create the same connections I am interested in between people in Boston who can help each other accomplish ideas. I proposed working with the office in developing a digital system for submitting proposals so these connections can also occur through a digital layer rather than just contacting the office directly. (Waiting to hear back)

I would like to focus on both the digital submission process and submission of individual skills.  How can this system connect people who can benefit each other?


Act Now:

I am in contact with New Urban Mechanics, MIT Media Lab students, and researchers at the Berkman Center for Internet and Society.

I have also met with a sociology professor at Harvard to discuss the basics of interaction, social identity theory, social networks, behavioral economics, and multi-plex networks.

I am also beginning to envision how a system of location based identity, or a physical social network, can exist. Perhaps coffee shops, community centers, workout facilities are tagged throughout the city which you scan into, turn on the layers you want to share in that location, and connect with others who have also called out that same layer in that location. Or perhaps the system allows you to look for a person with a specific skill set to grow a project. Then how can the connection be made between those two?

Think Big:

How can the physical environment read our digital layers to connect strangers of similar interests?


Start Small:


Act Now:




“We all come to know each other by asking for accounts, by giving accounts, and by believing or disbelieving stories about each other’s pasts and identities”
Paul Connerton, How Societies Remember

This project began with a question about how people connect to places. As our lives become ever more transient, the stable relationships with place that have defined communities for generations are evaporating. Many of us now inhabit places whose history we have no understanding of, no personal connection to. What happens to the identity of a place when its residents have no memory of it?

Exploded axonometric view of the board

Boston has a strong tradition of collecting oral histories of place. Organizations like the Cambridge Historical Commission, South End Historical Society, and other community groups have archived personal stories about places in their neighborhoods, maintaining a link between the physical fabric and the lives it contained. But how many people know about these archives? How many of the current residents can point to a family members story contained therein? Do these archives invite their viewers to contribute their own stories? Do they encourage us to explore our environment, to connect the physical artifacts with the stories they hold?


1 2 is a platform for sharing knowledge and design thinking experiences with the world around us, breaking through the walls of academia in an attempt to improve the society in which we live.