A Sense Of Place

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There’s a big lesson here: you have to care about everything that surrounds you first before you can do magnificent things within it.

Below, you will find a TED Talk. This is one of those TED Talks that can (and should!) change your life. We forget (or never even pay attention to) a lot of the things that are around us. We don’t take them for granted because we’re not even thinking about them. While James Howard Kunstler is talking about public spaces, urban sprawl and creating a sense of place, his concepts dovetail beautifully into the Blog post from yesterday (Online Advertising Sucks). It’s may very well be impossible to fix online advertising if we don’t fix the platforms and channels first.

Want to think differently and to care differently? Spend your next 20 minutes being blown away by this…


  1. Very timely Mitch. I have been thinking a lot about urban design (there happens to be an issue in my city about where to put an arena). I live and work downtown and live life as a pedestrian (about 90%). I have been thinking a lot about the streets where I feel safe and the ones where I don’t. And the streets where I feel welcome and the ones where I don’t. And cities with arenas in the middle of nowhere (Raleigh) and cities where the arena is downtown (Tampa Bay).
    This talk put it into words – now I know why I feel welcome on some streets.
    I hope that city planners, politicians and ordinary people start to think more about our urban design. We need a sustainable way of existing.
    Thanks for bringing this to my attention – now I have something to share with people when I try to explain

  2. I see people are beginning to think again. We are awakening to the fact that we can and indeed we have an obligation to think about what’s around us and to make changes. Not just in our own lives, but in our communities; in the widest sense of that word.
    I think we’re living in a pretty amazing time right now and I’ll just say again, read Richard Florida. And for urban thinking and design – Jane Jacobs.
    Did you watch the Bjarke Ingals talk? What did you think of that. I saw him give that talk in Oxford and I’d be quite interested in your take on it.

  3. It’s also the random places… the intersections, the traffic… how they put up buildings in general. This TED Talk turned on a lot of lights for me. Not just about the world around me, but in my industry too. We puts ads in places just because that “place” is there… without thinking about how to make the place better.

  4. I have not seen it. I’m going to download it now – thanks for the suggestion.
    I’ve also been following Richard Florida for a long, long time. I’ve lapsed in reading his most recent books, but I do try to keep up on him via articles, Blogs, etc…

  5. Mitch, your ads comment is so true. I hadn’t thought about it like that. “Blank space here – let’s put up a billboard” seems to be the approach. Interesting challenge to see if people can start thinking differently and think about the space.

  6. Just think about Marketing if we started with, “how can this add value to wherever it is we’re going to put this message?” An actual and heartfelt attempt to make the Marketing add value instead of distract and annoy.

  7. Well said! I am thinking about my space (my downtown that I live and work in) and wondering what that would look like. And thinking about the internet and annoying pop up ads, banner ads, etc. How would it look if the focus was adding value?
    An interesting paradigm shift for marketers.

  8. Mitch, this is a great TED talk. I can hardly believe it’s from 2004! One of the reasons I got out of Architecture early in my career is for the very reasons James describes in his talk. Building more big box stores and so called smart centres was and is not the answer.
    Love the tie into your blog post (Online Advertising Sucks). I agree, fix the root of the problem first. Many organizations have (and continue to) make piles of cash (high margin business) on old ad models. I spend a lot of time discussing and testing new innovative models/ideas with business leaders who more often than not turn to back to old ‘tried and true’ models. Why, because they know they can make money and make short term investors happy. Even when the customer data shows their customers are not paying attention to the ads. Even when the majority of their customers are asking, no screaming, for online/digital experiences that are not cultured with noisy ads. The challenge, or key, is changing behaviour and trying new business models (that work and make money). Anyway, back to your point, we need to rethink and reinvent how businesses connect with customers online. Great posts!

  9. This is why I read your blog consistently. My in box is full of social media blah blah blah Twitter blah…ROI…blah blah blah…marketing….blah….
    and then blammo, this intriguing nugget from TED. Thank you! Something beefy to chew on for a while.

  10. Mitch, this TED video touches upon one of the other videos from a few weeks ago; which also dealt with traffic, neighborhoods, and our space. I’m more cognizant after having seen the last video.
    Why can’t we design public spaces with form and function in mind?

  11. The metaphor from architecture to advertising (online or offline) is astounding. This makes me look back at when advertising actually delivered the content, where the makers of “something” would bring you the radio shows. The advertisers actually delivered the content. They would look for ideas that they could produce for the listener. That is still sort of the case – in that advertising revenue feeds the studios, but the direct relationship has been lost. And for most advertisers forgotten.
    This is amplified on the web with our pathetic little banner ads trying to grab attention away from what we really went to the website for. At least on TV and radio some creatives are still trying to offer value for the our eyeballs.
    Ctrl Alt Dlt sounds about right. But maybe, it’s back to the future and looking at what is the unwritten contract we have with “citizens”. What are you going to give me for my time?

  12. I think he’s dead-on on this Ted Talk and it is amazing to think it’s from 2004. Not much has changed as we keep putting of what I think is inevitable. I have only one friend (my 30 year-old niece) who is NOT uncomfortable talking about the social changes we will face very soon. We aren’t preparing for the change and I think the U.S. in particular is in for a shock. I say all this and then of course, have no trouble hopping on planes a number of times a year – that will end for most people. Think of all those who travel for business so much. OVER.
    To me the changes will be hard, but I think life will/could be so much better in our cities.
    As for the web and your connection of this story to it, it is interesting to contemplate making changes to how we do things before we’re forced to. It seems to me, it’s the people/companies who make the change before the “have” to that have the highest chances for success as in “if it ain’t broke, fix it.” I think of Apple and the outrage when it removed the floppy drive how how it’s removed the optical drive from my MacBook Air.
    Thanks for bringing this Ted talk forward.

  13. The only way this changes is by talking about it, then trying new models and then tweaking them. I was there in the early days of Google AdWords. In fact, I used to sell search engine marketing prior to Google existing. Google took the time to make sure it was relevant to the user and super powerful for the advertiser. We need more leaders like that.

  14. That is his ultimate question. We would have to go back and see where the snafus started. Scratch that – what would be the point? We need some forward looking people to push this forward and demand more from our spaces as a community.

  15. Interesting to see a bit of a full-circle with Social Media. This Blog is not a commercial for Twist Image… it’s valuable content (I hope). The hopes are that enough Chief Marketing Officers find us smart enough to want to work with us. Maybe spaces like these are the new/better communities. The challenge is in not polluting them for the sake of instant personal gain?

  16. My head is still spinning from the content and it only spins more after reading the many comments here and the different perspectives that each person is gleaning from the content. It reminds me of a great song: it often means many important things to many different people and no two people have the same description of what the song is actually about.
    It’s art at its finest.

  17. Ah yes, great way to put it. It’s great when something gets interpreted in many ways by different people. There’s a lesson in that, too. We need to check our assumptions all the time.

  18. James Kunstler is a voice, a cassandra, still lost in the wilderness. What he says is dead-on accurate but most are either not listening or don’t care, especially our politicians and city planners. It’s business as usual in most cities with short term thinking and ugly projects.
    In Toronto and Ottawa they are actually starting to march backwards into the 20th century. Toronto’s new mayor is moving to kill a $17B light rail transit plan and Ottawa just gave a central 23 acre park to developers to build a shopping centre, $2 rent a year for 70 years as I understand it.
    I discovered Kunstler’s books 14 years ago and had the opportunity to meet and dine with him in Ottawa in 2007. He is sincere about what says and he continues to speak out. His blog, on his website, is a regular read for me.
    Another interesting TED talk is architect William McDonough, author of Cradle To Cradle, a book on sustainable design.

  19. I was actually on his Blog last night and could not believe the high quality of his posts and the engagement of his audience. It’s not uncommon for his Blog posts to have 500 comments! Now, we just need those city planners and politicians to hop on in.

  20. Sorry Mitch, could not get through 1/2 of this awful TED presentation, the worst that I have ever seen. While I agree that it would be nice to design more beautiful spaces, I shop at Walmart because of prices and convenience (most of what I want in one place). I also shop at Whole Foods. I shop at Walmart because of convenience (most of what I want in one place near my house) and price. I shop occasionally at Whole “Paycheck” because of quality (fresh, organic) and also convenience (close to the office). I might shop at Whole Foods more if it were closer to my home and cheaper. If Whole Foods wants to change the world then they could run as a non profit and open up in my neighborhood.
    And I live in the suburbs because I like the outdoors, green spaces, mostly free of concrete and where my kids can run and play. Some people like the inner city and that is fine, to each his own.

  21. Thanks for the link. I’ve read some of James Kunstler’s books but hadn’t seen the video.
    What seems strange to me is how clear the problems are in our cities (speaking for medium sized Canadian cities anyway) yet how much inertia there is. I’ve spoken with citizens, city planners and politicians and the apathy is incredible. T
    he city planners are on side but feel powerless. The politicians think the majority actually likes this crap. I can’t help but think the politicians are on to something and that thought makes me sad.

  22. Good point about cost, Mitch. Developers build what they can build cheap and turn around fast. All these nicely designed spaces with the fussy extras take longer and they think they’re in the commodity business.
    I still think citizen apathy is a problem too. Regina made some big moves this summer to make our downtown core more people-friendly. One change required three blocks of a major street to be shut down all summer for construction (it’s still closed.) Some suburbanites who drive to work downtown think the Mayor could lose his seat over the disruption in traffic and parking. Can’t see the forest for the trees (or I should say, the cars) πŸ™

  23. I wonder if it’s citizen apathy or is it a lack of education? Maybe us citizens don’t realize there is a choice and an important one to make? For the most part, I would guess that the majority of people run around thinking that a building is just a building and less about how this all fits together into a healthy community.

  24. You’re getting me revved up now πŸ™‚ It may be a lack of education or awareness but it’ll be a huge sell job to make change. Home and Garden TV and the like have my friends obsessed with interior, private details; there’s no thought of public space and common good.
    But, if the greens can do it, maybe the new urbanists can too.
    Maybe they just need better marketing to galvanize the tribe and spread the word. Hmm…

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