Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Jack Dangermond on GeoDesign

In my previous post on GeoDesign (and Shakespeare), I was curious about why (it seemed to me) ESRI was positioning design in GIS as something new. Their position was clarified by no less an authority than Jack Dangermond in the comments - I thought that Jack's thoughts deserved a new post of their own rather than being hidden away, so here they are ...
Thanks for noticing our efforts in GeoDesign and yes, you are certainly correct; the consideration of geographic factors as part of design is not new. Your personal efforts to develop engineering design tools while you were at Smallworld was not only good work but built on a long history of human thought and innovation in this area.

I suppose everyone sees design and design methodology differently as it relates to their background and experience.

In my case, I was first introduced to the efforts of Phillip Lewis and Ian McHarg in the 1960s. They both developed manual techniques for landscape planning involving plastic overlay maps. They used these overlays to describe constraints and opportunities presented by geography. These maps were typically used as the basis for "designing" open space and other land use plans.

Later, Carl Steinitz, a professor at Harvard, laid out a computer-based methodology using early GIS tools. His methods pioneered both computer suitability analysis and environmental impact modeling.

Today my colleagues and I are advancing these techniques by integrating a series of new tools and methods into our GIS software. We are also promoting the ideas that we need to more directly integrate geographic information into many forms of spatial design and decision making. While these techniques are certainly relevant for land use and natural resource planning, they also have enormous value for any type of geographic site selection, corridor planning, or area-wide planning efforts. In fact, they can be a benefit in most human activities which change geography.

The fundamental technology we have developed is not profound. It involves sketching on top of smart analytic maps and getting fast feedback. This technology, however, has to be complemented with a methodology involving the integration of geographic science and other layers with an interactive design process which allows users to sketch and get rapid feedback on the consequences of their alternative designs.

Our technology is being deployed in both desktop and server platforms. We believe that the Web Server technology is particularly interesting because when deployed on the Web, it promises to lead to a whole new way of collaborative and community based planning. Ultimately this platform promises to also provide very broad based access to users of all types. Who knows, a whole new world of "geodesigners" may emerge like neogeographers – people who participate in volunteer efforts to design a more sustainable world.

These ideas are not new. We are hoping our technical efforts and promotion of these ideas will lead to more integration of geographic thinking into all that we do; specifically that people who are responsible for changing our geography are fully aware of the consequences and implications of the changes as they are made.

This January we are having our first GeoDesign symposium in California. It is being co-sponsored by the University of California, the University of Redlands, and ESRI. There will be many academic and design firms participating. Presentations will be made on theory, technology and methodology associated with GeoDesign. We welcome participation by those interested in these ideas (see


Ross said...

This seems like ESRI's rebuttal to Autodesk's BIM design paradigm but Autodesk's design mehtodology has gone to the next level - design a road and the heavy equipment can read the BIM model and make it come true and the driver just becomes a "pilot" to the process

by James said...

Sounds like PRA (participatory rural appraisal) for the 21st century - RRA/PRA type activities were the geoweb guerilla type 'interventions' of the day (late 80s/early 90s, "in the bundu" before becoming more deskbound), looked down on by old time development types - "what, you mean, actually find and listen to the stakeholders? Show them aerial photos, work out the boundaries with them?". The divides were often stark - ring any bells?

As better comms come to the developing world 'geodesign' concepts on the geoweb will surely come to play a significant role in communities documenting their environs (including the sensitive subject of land ownership) and to determining resource use. Whether major vendors will be able to occupy this space is more moot despite their aspirations.