After the success of his first community planning project, Participatory Chinatown, Associate Professor of Visual and Media Arts Eric Gordon continues to study and use new technology to advance community development. He has published a new book, Net Locality, and created a more versatile virtual community planning game called Community PlanIt.
Gordon’s book (with coauthor Adriana de Souza e Silva) is described as “an introduction to the new theory of net locality, an emerging form of location awareness, a concept becoming central to cultural production and everyday life.” He explores how various social media sites, devices, and businesses use location, and the impact this is having on the world. Gordon said that he hopes the book appeals to both trade and academic audiences. “Net Locality is engaged in academic arguments, but written so it’s more accessible than your typical academic book.”
Gordon’s Community PlanIt game is designed for people involved in the community-planning process. “Community PlanIt,” said Gordon, “will introduce community members to planning issues, allow them to share opinions and see the opinions of others, and introduce them to other people in the neighborhood. All of that should lead up to the deliberation process.” The real importance of online networking is that it makes people feel as if they’re being heard, which makes them more keen on involving themselves.
Residents of Lowell, Massachusetts, will test Community PlanIt during the last two weeks of June, using it as a way to harness their energy before kicking off their visioning process. After using the game, the participants will meet in person to produce their ideal image of downtown Lowell.
“The goal is to keep people informed and empowered in these situations, which are oftentimes disempowering for many,” said Gordon.