For over half the nearly 300 people in the audience at the fourth Geodesign Summit in Redlands this was their first Summit. So there was a serious effort by several speakers including the MC Tom Fisher to define what geodesign is.
Geodesign is an invented word, The first use of the word has been traced to 1993, and picked up by ESRI in 2005. Some of the definitions of the term that I heard at the conference include
Geodesign is a method which tightly couples the creating of design proposals with impact simulations informed by geographic contexts and systems thinking and (normally) supported by digital technology. Mike Flaxman, amended by Steve Ervin
Geodesign makes design decisions data rich.
Geodesign takes GIS analysis into the future.
Geodesign is design in a geographic space. Bill Miller
Geodesign is a vision for using geographic knowledge to actively and thoughtfully design. Jack Dangermond
Geodesign changes geography by design.
It is clear that for serious societal and environmental issues, designing for change cannot be a solitary activity. Rather, it is inevitably a collaborative endeavor, wth participants from various design professions and geographic sciences, linked by technology from several locations for rapid communication and feedback, and reliant on transparent communication with the people of the place who are also direct participants.
To understand what geodesign means in practice, the best way is to look at specific projects. At the conference there were a number of interesting presentations about diverse projects all of which reference geodesign and which provide examples of what people mean by geodesign in practice. I plan to blog about several of these.
Why geodesign ?
A common theme in a number of speakers' presentations is that the effects of population growth, urbanization and climate change have reached the point where we urgently need a serious change, this change will require new tools, and geodesign could be one of them.
For example, Tom Fisher offered some pretty frightening statistics which are not hard to find these days. There was a pervasive sense at the conference that the planet is on the brink and we have to change. And if we don't change, the implications will be dire. Bran Ferren put it this way (paraphrased) - this is that moment in the history of the US and of the world when we need to have a new and unfashionable conversation, a long term conversation on a complex topic where there are no simple, short answers. David Bartlett (IBM Smarter Planet) was more specific. "It is clear that there is an immediate requirement to significantly and urgently change the way our built environment is managed."