Sessions at SXSW Interactive 2012 about Cities

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Friday 9th March 2012

  • The Concrete Jungle: Nature in an Urban Ecosystem

    by Marielle Anzelone and Yasser Ansari

    For the first time in history, the majority of people worldwide are living in cities. What does this mean for ecosystems across the planet and how does this change the way we experience the natural world? According to E.O. Wilson's biophilia hypothesis, humans have an instinctive bond with other living things, but as rapid urbanization continues, the nature near us disappears. How can we develop new ways to reconnect with nature and what roles do technology and digital media play in this effort? With backgrounds in the hard sciences, technology development and environmental activism, the panelists will share their experiences tackling these issues on the front lines of New York City. From the building of a popular city-wide festival for celebrating biodiversity to the launching of an award-winning mobile platform for citizen science, this panel will be of interest to urbanophiles, technologists, strategists, policy makers, and anyone else concerned about nature deficit disorder.

    At 2:00pm to 3:00pm, Friday 9th March

    In Sabine, Hilton Garden Inn Austin Downtown

    Coverage audio clip

Sunday 11th March 2012

  • What Civil Society Can Learn from Social Web

    by Daniel Hengeveld, Ben Berkowitz, Lenny Rachitsky, Doug Matthews and Kathryn Fink

    From Meet(ing)Up to borrowing Neighbor('s)Goods, civil society has come a long way since the days of Locke and Hobbes. In this era of 'Civil Society 2.0,' social web tools continue to transform local landscapes across the globe, connecting the digital with the physical with a few clicks of the mouse. But does the social web enable more informed and engaged communities? More important, does it enact significant offline change? With these questions in mind, this panel will explore how the social web connects individuals over shared interests in real time, from fixing pesky potholes to discovering drink specials at the local pub. Considering this convergence of technology and public space, it will also discuss how the social web facilitates co-presence and works to create more efficient and sustainable neighborhoods. Through online interaction, crowdsourcing tools allow us to see through the eyes and hear through the ears of people we haven’t physically met yet--emphasis on the "yet."

    At 3:30pm to 4:30pm, Sunday 11th March

    In Capital Ballroom, Omni Downtown

    Coverage audio clip

  • Austin 2032: Shaping Future Cities with Mobile Data

    by Alexander Howard, Chris Osgood, Eric Paulos and Chris Volinsky

    The ubiquity of mobile devices gives us an unprecedented view into human mobility. Smartphones of today provide precise information on location, orientation, and trajectories of their users. Study of anonymized, aggregate collections of data allow insight into human behavior that can greatly benefit our understanding of society while preserving individual privacy rights.

    In this panel we discuss the promise and implications of analyzing mobile device data on a massive scale, specifically towards improving the cities of the future. The goal of almost any urban planner and policy maker is to make cities more user-friendly and more sustainable. Traditionally, improvement initiatives have slow feedback loops. Aggregate mobile data allows for fast understanding of the impact of any policy changes (such as installing bike lanes or congestion pricing), encouraging more of a test-and-learn environment, and ramping up city efficiency.

    Our panel will contain a diverse set of people who can address different aspects of this issue: researchers and data analysts to discuss what we can learn from the data, network carriers to discuss the technologies and infrastructure needed, and policy makers who can address the potential impact of this data.

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Sunday 11th March

    In Salon H, Hilton Austin Downtown

    Coverage audio clip

Monday 12th March 2012

  • Sexy Data Solutions for Public Transit Systems

    by Ravi Pina, Laura Oppenheimer, Eugenia Chien, Brian Ferris and Amy Snyder

    Gas prices are up, suburban areas are adopting near-transit, mixed-use philosophies of development, and everyone wants to get to work on time. It's no surprise that use of public transportation is rising. With the ubiquity of the internet and smartphones, up-to-date information shouldn't be hard to find. And yet, some major cities and transit systems aren't using digital tools to update riders. Others have developed hyper-current feeds and channels to make sure citizens are in the know. In short, the amount of transit-related information that needs to be disseminated is tremendous. This panel will discuss: 1) How riders have created their own sources and channels for breaking news and providing current information. 2) The newest platforms chosen by official transit agencies for getting information out, and why some work better than others. 3) How crowd-sourced information can help create "smart cities"? 4) Ways the public can apply similar tactics to other areas in their cities.

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Monday 12th March

    In Salon D, AT&T Conference Center

    Coverage audio clip

  • Future of Cities: Technology in Public Service

    by Nigel Jacob, Rachel Sterne, John Tolva, Chris Vein and Abhi Nemani

    This panel and interactive discussion will look at how cities around the world are approaching innovation that serves the public. From hackathons to apps competitions, open data to social media, practitioners will discuss their plans and lessons learned, with examples from Boston (Jacob), Chicago (Tolva), New York City (Sterne) and across the US and world (Vein and Nemani). Moderated by Abhi Nemani of Code for America.

    At 12:30pm to 1:30pm, Monday 12th March

    In Salon C, AT&T Conference Center

    Coverage audio clip

  • Detroit Future: A Media Based Economy

    by Janel Yamashiro, Nina Bianchi, Diana J Nucera, Mike Medow and Rhonda Anderson

    When they built the interstate highways through Detroit, they divided neighborhoods and paved a path to the suburbs. When we look at the digital divide, we see the information superhighway is doing the same thing: setting communities apart and giving the more affluent a path to abandon the city. For all of the Internet’s power to unite those of us who use it, how can we ensure that it does not divide us from those who don’t?

    Since 2009 the Detroit Digital Justice Coalition has been using media and technology for community organizing and development. We won a federal grant of $2 million to support this effort. We have learned from our experience with the auto industry that getting trained to wait for corporate investment will not put everyone to work. Encouraging poor people to give their money to Comcast and AT&T does not create wealth. And there is no use in telling people to go online if their local businesses and organizations aren’t there, and instead all they find are news articles about how hopeless Detroit is.

    Instead of trying to fit our communities to existing technology, we are trying to reshape technology to fit to our communities. We are building our offline communities, then going online together with new sites for their most important institutions and conversations. We are teaching people to teach, as well as learn; to be entrepreneurs, and not just consumers; to build their own communications networks that match to the social networks in their neighborhoods.

    At 5:00pm to 6:00pm, Monday 12th March

    In Room 6AB, Austin Convention Center

Tuesday 13th March 2012

  • Hackathons: Kickstart a Movement from a Weekend

    by Peter Hirshberg and Christine Outram

    It all happened so quickly: you arrived at the hack-a-thon, got excited, met interesting people, came up with a great idea, built a prototype (in less than 12 hours) and presented to an adoring crowd.Then everyone went home. Slept. Ate. And lost momentum...Hackathons are evolving: from a room filled only with developers, to rooms full of social innovators -- developers, designers, planners, journalists, civic leaders and more -- coming together to address pressing urban issues (transportation, community development, energy use etc). This is exciting, and produces potentially groundbreaking ideas. But too often, the hackathon finishes and projects never see the light of day. The good news, is that it is relatively easy to turn these 48-hour geek-chic fests into events with lasting impact. This conversation will allow hacker organizations, government, businesses and citizens to discuss the value of hackathons and how to leverage them to kick-start change-making movements in cities.

    At 11:00am to 12:00pm, Tuesday 13th March

    In Room 8A, Austin Convention Center