The Branded City: How Technology is Shaping New Roles for Cultural Institutions

Today, I’ll be talking about the role of technology in place making at the International Downtown Association’s annual meeting. Joining me are panelists Anijo Matthew from IIT’s Institute of Design and Rich Bradley, from the DowntownDC BID to lead a rousing discussion of new technologies that are changing the way citizens engage in creating or recreating communities.

From lights and sounds, to solar trash compactors, to security and safety, technology is becoming an increasingly important way to activate and manage place.

Having scouted some emerging technologies at SXSW last month, I am increasing impressed with how technology is facilitating a renaissance for many urban downtowns around the world.

My favorite technologies for building livable communities include Ushahidi, SeeClickFix, and OpenGovernment. Beyond the hi-tech tools, I’ll be talking about the human interface – exactly how city leaders can foster a culture of innovation. Hint: by harnessing educational institutions, museums, and libraries in new ways, it’s possible to stoke the imaginations of citizens and rev up the local idea economy.

Economist Paul Romer and his ambitious Charter Cities project is proving that idea economies are the future–leading to new products, markets, and businesses.

Ideas flower first in our imaginations. Many of the ways we inspired innovation in the 20th century are now obsolete. The old social paradigm delivered public education and community acculturation via public institutions such as museums, universities and libraries. New technologies and information resources are eroding the traditional value of this cultural infrastructure.

It’s time to talk candidly about how cultural institutions can occupy a new and valuable role in cities. And, equally important, how they’ll effectively communicate this role to citizens to drive prosperity in the idea economy.