Top 14 books & events of the 2010s (views from the USA)

Read time: 3-4 minutes

As we enter a brand new decade, the American spatial planning community has been generous in providing retrospectives of the past decade. Here are some highlights.

Planetizen, the iconic US-based portal for professional planners, researchers and young planners-in-the-making, shares a mainly US-focused list of the top urban planning books of the decade. Planetizen applies the same selection criteria as for its yearly selection of top planning books. The 14 selected entries for 2010-2019 are:

  1. The BLDGBLOG Book (2009) (i.e.: the eponymous blog-inspired ‘Building Blog’) by Geoff Manaug.
  2. Cities for People (2010) by architect Jan Gehl.
  3. Triumph of the City: How our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier (2011) by economics Harvard professor Edward Glaeser.
  4. Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time (2012) by Jeff Speck.
  5. Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design (2013) by Charles Montgomery.
  6. The Invention of Nature: Alexander Von Humbolt (2015) by Andrea Wulf.
  7. Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-term Change (2015) by Mike Lydon and Anthony Garcia, both Principals at the firm Street Plans.
  8. Zoned in the USA:The Origins and Implications of American Land-Use Regulation (2014) by Sonja Hirt, Professor of Landscape architecture and planning at the University of Georgia.
  9. Zoning Rules! The Economics of Land Use Regulation (2015) by William A. Fischel. Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at Dartmouth University.
  10. Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City (2016) by Matthew Desmond, Professor of Sociology at Princeton University.
  11. Streetfight: Handbook for an Urban Revolution (2016) byJanette Sadik-Khan (former New York City transportation director under Mayor Michael Bloomberg) and Seth Solomonow (transportation and media expert at Bloomberg Associates).
  12. The Color of Law: The Forgotten History of How Our Government Segregated America (2017) by Richard Rothstein, Distinguished Fellow of the Economic Policy Institute.
  13. The New Urban Crisis: How Our Cities Are Increasing Inequality, Deepening Segregation, and Failing the Middle Class – And What We Can Do About It (2017) by Richard Florida, award-winning advocate of the creative class and Professor at the Univeristy of Toronto (editor’s note: see the Guardian book review by Danny Dorling, Professor of Human Geography at Oxford University).
  14. The Divided City: Poverty and Prosperity in Urban America (2018) by Allan Mallach, Senior Fellow at the Center for Community Progress and the National Housing Institute.
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Cities for People by influential architect Jan Gehl, published in 2010. One of the fourteen books by Planetizen as most influential in the previous decade.

Planetizen also provides an assessment of key events and movements that have shaped the decade in urban planning in the USA. Planetizen contributor James Brasuell identifies the following events:

  • economic recovery from the 2008 economic meltdown
  • the rise of the Millennial generation
  • enduring racism and segregation
  • the combined rise of Uber, high traffic-related accidents and insufficient adoption of public transport across the US
  • climate change and resilience

To conclude, the article by James Brasuell identifies a lack of political understanding and commitment about the role of urban planning in tackling affordable housing, sustainable land use, transportation and climate change.

Besides the above, State of Place identifies additional events in its review of the top 12 citymaking movements of the 2010s. These include:

  • the increasing popularity of walkability
  • the increasing importance of tech and data in the urban planning world
  • a growth in localised tactical urbanist initiatives
  • a global uptake of placemaking endeavours
  • official recognition of the climate emergency crisis
  • increasing acknowledgement of the links between public health and the quality of the built environment
  • paying lip service to equity in contexts of gentrification

In all, the above insight highlight that much remains to be in the 2020s to further build on previous efforts to tackle inequalities and environmental risks. Climate change in 2050 will likely shift local weather patterns ‘two states south’ . Several US cities are already making bold efforts to address climate change and must continue to do more.  The non-profit charity CDP lists cities and companies based on their environmental performance – key in ‘North America’ to see how cities in the region are faring.

Beyond the US, cities worldwide must embrace the then-in vogue Agenda 21 motto of the 1990s: think globally, act locally. UN-Habitat recognises the role of cities as a ’cause of and solution to’ climate change. For example, Erica Sanchez and Stephanie Hodson at Global Citizen list five key ways in which cities can act:

  1. sustainable urban planning
  2. tackling plastic pollution and pursuing zero waste
  3. making transportation sustainable
  4. making carbon dioxide expensive
  5. green buildings

Ryan Plummer and colleagues, in turn, add resilience thinking, green infrastructure, collaboration between cities as three important avenues for action.

The following decade will therefore require cities within the US and around the world to learn from each other and collaborate extensively to address the impending social, economic, and environmental challenges ahead, and to capitalise on the synergies thereof.

The High Live over 10th ave

Every planning intervention adds up! The Highline over 10th avenue, New York City. Picture by Andreas Komodromos (taken May 2013), on Flickr. CC Attribution Non-Commercial. The High Line is a 1.45 mile long linear park and the product of retrofitting a disused central railroad track.

 


Feel free to share links to, or your very own, retrospectives concerning your region/country and send them to: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net.

Posted in Beyond planning, climate change, Conflict, Ecology, Nature, Planning, city, and society, public transport, resilience, Sustainability and resilience, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Highlights from 2017

2017 was a year of continued growth for the blog, building on 2016. It saw 8,400 views and 5,700 visitors, for 19 published posts. The map of viewers grew compared to the previous year.

Stats for 2017

A growing global readership: a positive sign of the international interest generated by the blog. Website analytics leveraged by WordPress.com

As it  happened, a common theme for all the original content in 2017 was resilience. Taken altogether, the different posts provide methodological, theoretical and philosophical resources for resilience. These include design approaches, policy evaluations, engineering-based methodologies, and reviews of key concepts in theory and practice, and reviews of certification standards.

In 2017, the three posts with the most views were:

John Friedmann was a landmark figure in the field of spatial planning. He was also a friend of the AESOP YA community. His work influenced generations of researchers and practitioners. In complement to the post on the YA blog, here is also an account from UCLA where he helped to found the Luskin Department of Urban Planning.

Planning in the Public Domain - John Friedmann

One of the many influential publications by a landmark figure in spatial planning. Published in 1987 by Princeton University Press. 

John Shaw reviewed opportunities and challenges for localised resilience strategies, in particular effective responses to and mitigation of disturbances caused by disasters and climate change. The insight he provided is based on his expertise as emergency management practitioner in Florida. Beyond political and corporate investment, it is whole communities that need to work together to tackle risks of natural and human-induced disasters. 

Tiziana Susca shared a comprehensive account of Urban Heat Island (UHI) issues and research methodologies for beginners in four parts. Part 1 provided a brief introduction and history. Part 2 presented the two main dimensions of urban heat islands, the first being extension.  Part 3 was more technical and focuses on the vertical profile of urban heat islands. Part 4 provided key equations that tackle the physics of UHI. Following from a post in 2016, Tiziana Susca continued her review of key Environmental Assessment methods, covering leading international certification standards such as Green Building, BREEAM and LEED, among others.

Chandrima Mukhopadhyay reviewed different mainstream (overlapping and competing) approaches to urban greening to make help sense of the value of green infrastructure in the city, and sort the wheat from the chaff. She also evaluated the Swachh bharat measures to help reform open defecation in cities in India to help improve both human well-being and waste management in a participatory manner.

Irina Paraschivoiu and colleagues engaged at the design end of business district areas in Budapest, based on a joint experimental workshop. First, a general introduction and ‘inside view’ by locally-based Urban INC focused on the design process and related opportunities. It was accompanied by an ‘outside’ view by Norwegian-Finnish architecture firm Kaleidoscope that focused on ‘place’, and design proposals for transformation.

Ian Babelon provided posts about: the potential of Urban Information Systems as decision support systems in planning; the case for smarter cities that draw on vernacular know-how and design; and a UX (i.e. user experience) approach to the city inspired from Human Computer Interaction. Another post considered the philosophical, aesthetic and methodological value of minimalism for spatial planning.

2017 also kick-started a crowdsourced list of planning-related blogs which have ‘space’ as their common denominator.

Altogether, the blog posts for 2017 provide invaluable resources for a careful design and implementation of various resilience-related policies and interventions in spatial planning.

ResilienceMural_1of5_byGretchenHasse&JasonSchroeder_PicbyTerenceFaircloth_Flickr

“R” and “E”: the first two letters of Resilience. You either get on with it (one-way going forward) or jettison it altogether (one-way going backward). Mural entitled “Resilience” by Gretchen Hasse and Jason Schroeder on the “Mile of Murals” in the Rogers Park are of Chicago (IL), USA. Picture credit by Terence Faircloth on Flickr, CC Attribution-NonCommercial

 

Posted in Beyond planning, climate change, development, Dissemination, outreach, communication, Methodology and ethics, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Territory, landscape, land, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Architectural and urban recycling: challenges and perspectives

Guest author: Amine Mseddi (Szent Istvan University of Budapest)

Architectural and urban recycling is seen as an economic and pragmatic approach. In an urban fabric that is already congested, rehabilitating a building, or reusing a surface or entire areas (e.g. retrofitting sprawling suburbs) can prevent enlarging the field of urban density, playing an important role in avoiding mobility and transportation problems. Besides, conversion suggests intrinsically extending the life cycle of buildings and urban spaces. Thus, a state of urban temporal continuity would take place, so that the city does not transform, after sixty years or more, into a giant “demolition and reconstruction” worksite.

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Le Corbusier’s Villa Savoye, used as a stable before its restoration in 1985. Picture credit: Rodrigo Sena.

Among the various styles of architectural projects, those that have kept the authenticity of the original building, while showing a vivid touch of contemporaneity, have presented a high aesthetic level and a rich source of inspiration. Between the charm of the antique and the attraction of the contemporary, a harmonious marriage of contrasts, once successful, can only add a new asset to any project.

Certainly, reusing a building or an urban space proposes a huge amount of possibilities. However, the issues and challenges that such a transformation can generate are numerous. These include:

  • Selecting the new use:

Generally, the study of the surroundings is essential. The purpose of implementing a new function is basically to regain occupancy. So, unless we are considering a temporary use, it is not advantageous to replace the old function into a program which will be briefly abandoned again in the short or medium term.

  • The morphology of the place and the status quo:

The choice of the new idea should not be denying the ability of adjusting the project in the geographic and topographic situation. Depending on these physical, tangible factors, many concepts could be operational in the new design. In the case of an architectural transformation. The state of the transformed building should be well examined. Parts of the project may be completely or partly demolished, preserved, or repaired. The location is also crucial. The situation of the project is probably going to dictate many choices regarding the feasibility of the project, the function, the openness/closure of the design, the aesthetics… etc.

  • The identity of the space:

If the element to be modified has a certain heritage status, a different procedure should be set. Following the appropriate terms and rules is therefore fundamental to preserve the historical aspect of the space, respecting or even highlighting the history behind that element of the city. That would deeply affect the transforming act in many ways such as the new function, the architectural style, the building materials, the construction techniques

Space recycling is clearly a decision that comes with several challenges, but it surely brings in the end a more resilient outcome and thus a greater satisfaction.

The reconversion of a building admits a certain level of imagination as well as a deep focus on the original cause of transformation. It allows the building/space to adapt to the ever changing  demands and needs of a society in terms of spatiality and programming. Moreover, the conversion can even remain flexible to implement different functions within the available spaces, not necessarily causing any major changes. This projection into the future, going towards other alternatives, can make the contribution of the designer (architect, urbanist, landscaper) more suitable, adequate and effective for society.

This approach also offers a contemporary conceptual advantage. The recycling of buildings and spaces is involved in enriching the urban landscape with an architectural/urban expression which tends to highlight a lucid coexistence between pre-existing forms and those of the present. Any building or urban space would definitely have characteristics of the period of its establishment as well as its transformation or reuse. Since each trace tells a different story, the fusion of the various stories creates an authentic beauty. In addition, each transformation made to these structures and infrastructures, once well thought-out and carefully applied, would absolutely improve their quality.

The loss of function is one of the main factors in the architectural deterioration and urban decay. However, the vacancy of a building or an urban plot does not mark the end. On the contrary, it is highly suggested that it’s nothing but only the end of a chapter that can give way to a new part of the history of that element of the city fabric. Architecturally speaking, when the building cycle is finished and its structure is still solid and recyclable, it can be transformed or restored. We are then assigning a new cycle to it. Where several urban areas and buildings have been abandoned, but the potential for a new cycle still exists, a new life may take place. It goes under the name of architectural and urban recycling. In the case of architectural projects, this intervention may involve the preservation of the general exterior appearance of the building. It may also imply the addition of a new extension besides the modifications to the interior design. The rehabilitation/restoration/renovation process requires taking into consideration the original building while injecting a new function into it. It allows the building not only to persist over time but also to evolve. According to the French architect Nunes Antoine Fréderic “What is sustainable is something which is destined to last but also to become.” The destiny lies in the future functions that can a space host. This begs the following considerations: What program can smoothly take place in an existing frame? What functional diagram could do justice to the spatial potential offered by the building or the urban space, while fulfilling the main role of creating a new usage cycle?

Building from scratch consumes more energy than transforming an existing space. Energy consumption will decrease because we can save building materials as it offers the possibility of reinforcing the structure, the infrastructure, the quality of the space as well as the insulation and other climate-resistant factors. Using new techniques of building makes the newly transformed constructions more energy efficient, including through building envelopes and recycled or reclaimed construction materials. In addition, this type of intervention is now part of an urban planning approach, saving land, labor and materials. In other terms, optimising the life cycle of a building can be a more sustainable approach.

In order to draw attention to the problems of buildings demolition, the British architect and academic Fred Scott mentioned in his book On Altering Architecture the story behind La Villa Savoye in Poissy, France. This masterpiece designed by Le Corbusier, summarizing the five points of modern architecture, was on the edge of oblivion. Due to some problems with the roof after the Second World War, the building was abandoned and its life cycle came to an end. Shortly before the order to restore the monument, the municipality of Poissy submitted a request for a demolition permit. With no understanding of the hidden potential of La Villa Savoye, the municipality planned to acquire the land in order to expand the school campus located nearby. Subsequently, the building was finally considered a national monument by the French government. Since that time, the building has been restored and it is open to the public as a museum to be visited and a reminder of the importance of restoration.

Biography

Amine Mseddi profile pic.jpg

Amine Mseddi is an architecture graduate from the National School of Architecture and Urbanism of Tunis, Tunisia. His graduation project was about the revalorization of the brownfields in the city by transformation and reuse. He is currently enrolled as a PhD student at the Faculty of Landscape Architecture and Urbanism at Szent Istvàn University of Budapest. As a continuity to his degree, he is working in his research on the reuse of vacant urban spaces as a sustainable tool to avoid urban decay and support urban regeneration.

Posted in Architecture, Heritage and Planning, Planning, city, and society, Sustainability and resilience, Sustainable consumption, technology, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Planning around COP25: call for blog posts

The recent UN climate conference COP25 took place in Madrid last December. The conference fell short of consensus in many areas, although many technical issues were discussed at length. Effective implementation of the Paris Agreement will require significant effort to tackle climate change, including more ambitious commitment.

Calls to address the climate change issue have turned into a global plea for universal survival (including the human race). As a sign of this plea becoming more vocal, such as through the Extinction Rebellion (XR) movement, young climate activist Greta Thunberg has been selected Time person of the year.

On December 11th, the European Commission issued a ‘Green Deal‘ to help implement the UN’s 2030 Agenda and the sustainable development goals (SDGs). If taken up by the EU community, this document could translate into climate neutrality by 2050.

In the US, the 2100 Project: An Atlas for a Green New Deal at the University of Pennsylvania’s McHarg Center for Urbanism and Ecology literally puts climate change on the map to help implement a potential Green New Deal resolution. 

Globally, many ICLEI members are committed to move beyond the UN negotiations and implement ambitious measures locally at the city level.

In short, the climate situation is spurring people to act. In The Turning Point, animation artist Steve Cutts provides a bleak vision of what our future could be if we do not act now. Creative designers at What Design Can Do leverage design collaboration and solutions to tackle climate change alongside social inequity. Through the Earthshot Prize, Prince William is encouraging cross-sectoral collaborations to help deliver a ‘decade of change to repair the Earth’. And there are many, many more initiatives.

Planners can act too. Beyond the COP25, it is more than timely to make a call for blog posts about resilience in spatial planning. The planning community can leverage effective measures for climate change mitigation and adaptation. Academics and practitioners whose work touches on resilience in one way or another are warmly invited to share their insight through short blog posts (e.g. 500-1500 words). Regardless of the main focus of your work (e.g. strategic planning, transport planning, architecture, energy, finance, food systems, development, governance, environmental management etc.), your insight on the topic of resilience will be highly valued by the wider community of spatial planners and other citizens of the world.

So do send your contributions to: blog@aesop-youngacademics.net

Here are also a few tips about effective blogging.

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Flood in downtown Calgary, Alberta (Canada) in 2013. The increased regularity and severity of floods are just one of the destructive effects of climate change, as repeatedly evidenced over the past decade. As XR activists reminded us: This is not a drill! Picture credit: Wilson Hui on Flickr, Attribution Creative Commons.

Posted in Academia, research quality and assessment, Beyond planning, blogging, climate change, community engagement, development, Dissemination, outreach, communication, Ecology, Economy, Heritage and Planning, Nature, Planning, city, and society, public transport, resilience, Sustainability and resilience, Sustainable consumption, technology, Territory, landscape, land, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Blogging for impact

Read time: 6-8 minutes

Blogging is not only a fun way to share your work as researcher or practitioner, it also supports greater impact. This post reviews the benefits of blogging for spatial planning experts (both young and senior), as extracted from the wider blogosphere.

Why blog?

Blogging is increasingly popular among academics and practitioners alike. Individual professionals, research groups and companies now routinely blog about their work, leading to a flurry of blogs available within spatial planning (see particularly the excellent list of planning blogs provided by Feedspot). Simone Tulumello reminds each and everyone about the importance and many benefits of blogging. Sharing your work isn’t just about fancy academic publications. You need both blogging/fast sharing and formal publications, as part of a balanced publication strategy. If you and your organisation suffer from the ‘Publish or Perish’ syndrome, you can rest assured that you could possibly also Publish AND Perish. Blogging is just a great tool to make your work more impactful.

The flip part of the popularity of blogging is a sure sign that the golden era of blogging in the noughties (2000s) is a thing of the distant past. If you seek superstar blogger status, brace yourself for some disappointment.

The fact that planning experts and aficionados commonly share their work by blogging should be exhilarating, however. The diversity of available outlets means your work can reach a wide range of readers based on the geography, theme, and type of your work. Whether you are a researcher in-the-making or a senior planner, there is blog for every purpose. Academic blogging is a great way to further disseminate your research. It can also be used to help demonstrate the impact of your research. In the industry, digital marketers routinely remind entrepreneurs about the value of blogging for business. Researchers, too, have a lot to learn from digital marketing experts about impactful communication and marketing. Although the ‘publish or perish’ paradigm may prevail at many research institutions, the present and future of impactful knowledge seems to lie in the ability to translate insight and experience in easily digestible and actionable pieces of content.

To effectively market our own work and ideas, we may need to reconsider how we look at and relate others’ work. To become seen, one must first learn to see (see the book This is Marketing by Seth Godin). Blogging is probably as much about sharing and celebrating our own achievements as learning to appreciate and share that of others’. The sharing ethic of blogging is underpinned by the fact that the internet is all about collaboration. Blogging is a free and accessible way of sharing what makes you unique and special.

Picture of an ABC retro typewriter

Get to your favourite writing device and start blogging! Picture credit: ABC  Cole Steel Series 3 Ivory Portable Typewriter (1950s) by Retro Tech Geneva

To blog effectively, the following tips can come in handy.

A 1000 words

An average semi-academic blog post can be about a 1000 words. Both literally and visually. Literally speaking, 1000 words is just about right length for an analytical blog post. Give or take 500 words (i.e. 500-1500 words). The blog of the AESOP Young Academics promotes ‘semi-academic’ contributions: easy to read, and yet rich in analytical value. You do not want to make your readers too hungry for more. Neither do you want to inflict them with scroll-numbness in the fingers.

Visually speaking, the adage that a picture is worth a thousand words holds true for blogging. When you include a carefully-chosen picture or diagram, it could be worth the entire 1000 words in your post! You can also cheat with word count by having 2 or 3 good pictures (visual readers will thank you for it). Consider providing due credits if you do not want creators chasing you. That includes crediting yourself if you are the creator!

Blogging is Fun!

Blogging can/should be FUN. Big time! It is absolutely not a chore. At the same time, the harsh truth is that digital natives, just like digital immigrants, are not necessarily naturally-born bloggers. As with some of the most enjoyable things in life (be it fine beverages, coffee, soulmates, languages, art, silence, prayer, physical exercise and so on…), appreciation will likely grow over time. Fun may be commensurate with experience, exposure and/or repeated trial and error. Enjoyment may therefore arise with skill or experience, rather than the other way around. Skill, in turn, largely emerges from the capacity to sustain deep focus… Such is the Zen of fun, effective blogging. It is the middle way between the cracking fireworks of creative trepidation at one extreme, and the dim dullness of the writer’s block at the other.

Find your Muse

Related to the last point, we all need our muses, teachers, gurus, role models or sources of inspiration. In 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey emphasises the need to identify, connect and tap into the source of our creativity, passion, and purpose in life. It makes all our endeavours more effective. Inspiration can differ for each and every one of us. For example, you may find yourself tapping your inspiration in the air around you. At a jazz award ceremony in 2014, pianist Keith Jarrett shared: “Music is either in the air and you find it; or it is in the air and you don’t find it, but you just don’t try hard enough” (6’55). So it is largely your choice not to be held back.

Once you find your muse, nurture it and treat it with great respect and gratitude.

Look and listen

Looking at how others share their work and ideas can provide inspiration about how to communicate your own work and ideas. Find your role models. This can (and should) include drawing inspiration from people completely outside your field, such as artists, entrepreneurs, authors, and so on (see below for how to steal with taste).

No rules, no limit

When it is comes to rules, the sky is the limit (as this 1993 dance hit generously reminds us). Particularly if it’s your personal blog, you are your own master. Blogging on established websites can also entail significant freedom. Planning blogs such as this one can feature any of the following: book reviews, insight about personal career paths, reflections about the field, reflections about specific themes or issues, summaries of published journal articles, summaries of conferences and seminars, short biographies of iconic spatial planners and architects, advice about careers or complete a PhD…  You name it!

Perfection is the enemy of the good

Perfectionism is both a boon and a curse. When it comes to blogging, good is usually **much** better than perfect. Like for journal articles, one good idea per contribution is a good rule of thumb. Do your spellchecking and proofreading, but don’t try to cover up all possible mistakes – everyone can learn from them! Sharing the difficulties you encountered in the field or in your research can save your readers from similar mishaps. By seeking the good at the expense of perfection, you can actively support collective learning.

RemingtonNoiseless8_by Oliver Hammond on Flickr

Blogging on the Web 2.0 has never been so easy! Picture: an authentic Remington typewriter, with an unusual 1930s design, noiseless! and in size 8 (between a mobile and a standard typewriter format), by Oliver Hammond on Flickr, Non-Commercial Creative Commons Attribution

Purpose and strategy

Effective blogging hinges on clarifying your purpose and strategy. Even if you write a single blog post, you should be crystal clear about your overall purpose. It will be useful to have a strategy for structuring, writing and disseminating your blog post, for example through social media. If you write regularly, you can plan a series of posts each dealing with a different topic or different facets of your work. If you are a regular contributor to a blog or run your own blog, you can have an overall strategy for what you want to achieve. A clear strategy can clearly benefit the full life cycle of a post, from ideation to feedback from users. It can also tie in with your wider work and career goals as planning academic or practitioner.

Share generously (but not obnoxiously)

Blogging is about sharing in many ways: about a wide range of topics and in many different formats and writing styles. Sharing is best done often or at least regularly. As such, it can be a form of generosity whereby you give freely at least some of the precious experience and insight you have gathered. Promote your blog posts and other work largely through all relevant social media such as Facebook, Twitter and relevant LinkedIn groups. This said, avoid bombarding readers with narcissistic/self-referential content or by obnoxiously colonising social media feeds. Share with good measure.

Short, sweet and simple

Blog posts are typically short. Longer content could well become journal or magazine articles. Even the shortest blog posts can generate a life-changing impact on your readers – these may take up to several years to appreciate fully! This can certainly be the case with exceptionally creative posts.

Keeping your posts ‘sweet’ means making them engaging and fun to read and write. Crisp writing can also ensure your posts are both short and simple, which can greatly aid with digestion. Bite-sized content can be particularly effective. Meaty content can also be easily digested, if well-seasoned and prepared.

Keep it simple by avoiding all unnecessary jargon. It may be tempting to write academic or semi-academic posts in a very formal manner. But blog posts serve a specific purpose: to disseminate experience and ideas broadly in an accessible way. Keep your best academic language to those fancy Q1 journals. Assume also that your blog readers don’t own a PhD about your particular topic, unless high-level experts in your niche field are your sole intended audience. Impactful research arguably deserves a broader range of readers than the tribe of experts that you interact with on an everyday basis. There are no excuses for not writing simple content; even the most complex ideas can be communicated in a simple way.

Steal with taste

Digital content wizard Brian Clark reminds us that there is nothing new under the sun. All ideas have likely been thought of by old men wearying robes back in Ancient Times. So whether you like it or not, you are bound to steal. If ‘stealing’ rings harshly to your ears, how about ‘borrowing’? This does not mean that you should plagiarise, because you should not! Plagiarism is the First Law of Unethical Research. This includes self-plagiarism. A caveat should be made for conscientious stealing, especially if done with taste. In our current digital age, as in the foregone golden age of sea pirates, some view that authentic piracy can be a most noble endeavour. Depending on the context, and on which side of the sea you are sailing, presumably…

Stealing has been particularly rife in all manners of creative creation. Pablo Picasso allegedly wrote or said: “Bad artists copy. Great artists steal”. Would rap, R&B or pop music even exist if it weren’t for good stealing? Would the work of the 100 most influential urbanists have been possible if it weren’t for borrowing from fellow architects, constructors, surveyors, human geographers, anthropologists, environmentalists, activists and politicians? Even the whole Open Source model of digital technology rests on the synergy of infinite, value-driven acts of stealing that help grow the digital commons for the benefit of the most. So if sharing knowledge is your trade, steal from the masters.

Tell a story

Write a post as though you were talking or giving a presentation to your readers. Engage them body and soul. Even academic research can be narrated This can make blog posts more fun to read and write at the same time.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Let’s face it: even the most generous, selfless blogger can rightfully expect something in return for their hard work of sharing. Who would say no to a fan club or entourage of supportive researchers and practitioners? Online communities make the digital world go round, which also applies to spatial planning (think AESOP, ISOCARP, the American Planning Association, Planetizen, etc.). Just don’t market your work beyond what is actually useful for the wider community. Don’t build your name on people’s back. Sharing responsibly and ethically remains the underpinning principle of blogging. Rightfully crediting others for their work and ideas can also make you get away with conscientious stealing. Pay the dues to those who have shaped your own work. And pay the dues to the blues in case your hard blogging isn’t as impactful as expected! Dust yourself off, and try again. Oh, and watch out for the ugly bloggers out there. Lest you become one yourself. One could also advise to publish your best knowledge assets in reports and journal articles before blogging about them.

Your voice

Blogging is a process of finding and refining your voice. It takes both practice and knowing yourself. This requires being clear about your motivation. You may want to pitch your voice differently based on your purpose, audience and the topic you are writing about. Rather than simply copying others, aim to develop your own voice. As someone famously said:Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”.

Zero sum

In all, the art and science of writing effective blog content depends on the overall purpose of the post, the message you want to convey, and the intended audience. There are no winners or losers. Just sharing.

Now that you have read this enticing post, you will be naturally inclined to share your work and insight on the AESOP Young Academics network’s blog – one of the best spatial planning blogs on the blogosphere!

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No rules, only guide posts: Be more pirate. Tell a story. Pictures speak a 1000 words. To be seen, one must first learn to see. Find your voice. Picture credit: Pirate Girl by Sönke Haas on Flickr, No Derivatives Creative Commons Attribution.

 

Besides the embedded links, the tips and insight shared in this blog post are largely inspired from the following sources (listed by date of publication): 

Benedikt Fecher and Sascha Friesike at LSE Impact blog. A systemic view of research impact: an invitation. Published 20 November 2019.

Research Out There at the University of Kent. Resources for writing academic blogs. Published 7 July 2019.

Susan Gunelius. Ways bloggers can use Twitter. Updated 24 June 2019.

Lars Lofgren at QuickSprout. 10 Lessons Seth Godin can teach you about Blogging. Updated 4 February 2019.

Lucille Valentine at Research Impact from the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at Newcastle University. Finding out about blogging for impact. Published 6 December 2017.

Tom Crick and Alan Winfield at The Guardian. Academic blogging – 10 top tips. Published 13 December 2013.

Chris Gilson & Stuart Brown on the London School of Economics (LSE) impact blog. How to: Academic Blogging. Published 13 December 2012.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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