Urban Fringe: Year 1

Welcome to the Urban Fringe, the new blog of the Berkeley Planning Journal. I have the honor of being your Editor. Allow me a few words to share my vision for this new adventure. Fact: We live in the future, and it is awesome. Just consider your phone. When planning and technology intersect, good things can happen. We have exciting tools like virtual scenario planning tools, NextBus, and electronic handheld survey devices.

Unfortunately, a lot of planning-focused technology just doesn't work. In my experience, part of this is due to a separation of context and skill.

In this case, technologists often have the skill, but not all of the context. Every software developer has multiple roles, including resident, neighbor, or transportation user. If I had a nickel for every iPhone application developer that's asked "how can I make an app that lets everyone tell their city government how to make the city better", I would have a lot of nickels. Many of these apps were actually built, but most would make a planner say: "Well, now what?"

Technology built on a fundamentally broken system preserves that disfunction.

This is where context, and planners, should come into play. We have the experience, case knowledge, and user empathy to ensure that new technologies can accomplish what they set out to do. Fulfilling these new opportunities is as much our responsibility as the technologists, but I don't think that collaboration is particularly strong right now.

My goal for this blog is to bring the planning context and technical skills a step closer. We will showcase the impressive range of skills and interests of the student planning community. But we will also explore the variety of mechanisms that planners can use to express their ideas online. And last but not least, we will have fun doing it.


We will attempt to publish weekly on Tuesdays for the fall semester, but expect several tweaks and adjustments as time goes on. We welcome contributions from any current or recent planning student and feedback from anyone. If you like what you see, please comment and share it with your network. We appreciate your readership.

More Thanks

I would like to extend my deep gratitude to the MIT CoLab Radio and its editor, Alexa Mills. As the student editors and faculty advisors of the Berkeley Planning Journal moved our peer-reviewed journal online, we rejoiced in the possibilities that unfurled before us. CoLab Radio was a definite inspiration. I've worked with CoLab Radio to showcase a research project of my own, and know firsthand that Alexa has endless reserves of patience and boundless inspiration. I hope the Urban Fringe is able to make similar contributions to this online community, but of course, Berkeley-style.

I look forward to finding out exactly what style will turn out to be. Won't you join us?

Ruth Miller, Urban Fringe Editor