Just Metropolis — Opening Celebration

I’m in San Francisco from June 15 to 21 for a joint conference of the Planners Network, the ADPSR (Architects, Designers and Planners for Social Responsibility). Last night was the opening celebration of the conference. So far, I am blown away by the obvious love and care the organizers have poured into making it a great experience — it really shows, from the food served at the reception (supporting local small businesses), to the speeches in the opening. Everyone I’ve heard speak so far has been dedicated and passionate.

I’m looking forward to learning more about URBZ, who shared some of their approach, interests and projects with us over Skype during a monsoon in Mumbai (!). That was an excellent Skype experience: the wifi was fast, the sound was hooked into the auditorium sound system, and the microphone was good from their end. Skype-in conference presentations need to take a note from the way International House and the JM crew set it up. Despite the tumultuous detail juggling, it pretty much went off without a hitch. They even did very effective screensharing!

The organizer’s brief speech about the teaching of the urban and the injection of community into the teaching model was interesting. I see a lot of this happening in our program but, sadly, not in the way I am actually interested in. That’s been unfortunate. But I also know that part of the reason I feel that way is that I am highly embedded into the community I’m interested in — those interested in open data advocacy. I’m always going to be disappointed that I can’t hang out with them for credit.

I’ve handed over my poster on Twitter in Public Transit to the conference organizers, and I’ll be presenting tomorrow at lunch. It looks like the posters will be hung in a hallway, so I’m not certain how much space there will be to converse, but I’m excited to be talking about how I’ve seen Twitter used with people who haven’t had a chance to dabble with it yet. Live iPod touch demos for the win (wifi willing!)

The conversations I’ve had so far have been interesting. I think about politics and political participation a lot, but perhaps not to in the same kind of way as those either those who are reading and writing theory on an ongoing basis, or those working in direct action organizations like Causa Husta. I feel like part of my desire is to help suss out a new politics of the centre, that can speak to opinions across the spectrum without excluding or alienating — that idea of the low-barrier participation wedge (that gets increasingly participatory) writ political. In some situations (but not all), working and being together is more important than being right or winning. So, leaves the question, where do we need to be together?

Today I’ll be at a workshop in Oakland on regional transportation. I’m going to veer off my blogging tack of late, which has been to attempt to inject a bit of craft into my blog posts, and for the next couple days, I’m going to write things down and let them be posted, rambling and unvarnished.

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