What Does it Mean to Be Smart? CityWiki Wants Your Input


We wrote about Smarter Cities before, here and here, explaining how the new Web site ranks U.S. cities across categories like transportation and water quality, and also offering suggestions for how NRDC, the creators of the site, should “rebalance its ranking system.”

Now, everyone can chime in with their own comments on the newly launched CityWiki, a “forum for the discussion of the criteria and methodology that will be used in evaluating U.S. cities in future versions of [SmarterCities’] research.”

Just like Wikipedia, anyone can sign up for a user account and start editing or adding articles. You can start a discussion about the “Transportation” category, for example, commenting on whether or not you agree with the description, data sources or survey questions. The wiki will be open through the end of September, when the work will be handed over to a 6-8 member advisory board who will prepare the final criteria and study methodology for the next round of Smarter Cities rankings.

This type of “collaborative learning process” is cropping up all over the sustainable cities community. Here on TheCityFix network, we’ve teamed up with SeeClickFix, encouraging locals to report issues and promote causes in their neighborhoods, like integrating a proposed transitway with the metro system.

Also, check out CoolTown Beta Communities, a consulting firm that facilitates “crowdsourced placemaking,” essentially asking a large group of people to help transform a certain place in their city into a creative cultural hub. (Read more about their work in this colorful PDF: “Crowdsourcing Cool Places for Creatives.”)

You might also be interested in DIYcity, a site where people hold discussions, or design and launch new products, based on open data and technology to make their cities better places to live.

Similarly, Apps for Democracy invites people to develop cell phone and Web applications based on open public data to solve urban problems in Washington, D.C.

Read my post about Riversimple, a UK-based car company that is licensing its energy-efficient automobile designs to a not-for-profit organization that will invite the general public to comment on the plans.

There’s also MetroQuest, a computer software that relies on public input to inform the urban planning process by simulating (and visualizing) the consequences of different policy choices.

Underlying all of these initiatives is the idea that cities behave like the Web — interconnected, innovative, participatory, open — so ask more people to participate online to create a better city! For a better explanation of this idea, see this Powerpoint presentation created by Mark Surman, executive director of the Mozilla Foundation, supporter of open source software (h/t commonspace.)

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