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A Smart City Remembers Its Past: Citizens as Sensors in Survey and Mapping of Historic Places


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Integral to some conceptualizations of the “smart city” is the adoption of web-based technology to support civic engagement and improve information systems for local government decision support. Yet there is little to no literature on the “smartness” of gathering information about historic places within municipal information systems. This chapter provides three case studies of technologically augmented planning processes that incorporated citizens as sensors of data about historic places. The first case study is of SurveyLA, a massive effort of the city of Los Angeles to comprehensively survey over 880,000 parcels for historic resources. A second case study involves Motor City Mapping, an effort to identify the condition of buildings in Detroit, Michigan and a parallel survey conducted by volunteers. In Austin, Texas, a university-based research team designed a municipal web tool called the Austin Historical Survey Wiki. This chapter offers insights into prior efforts to augment planning processes with “digitized memory,” web-based technology, and public engagement.
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Chapter 4
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-5999-3.ch004
Integral to some conceptualizations of the “smart city” is the adoption of web-based
technology to support civic engagement and improve information systems for local
government decision support. Yet there is little to no literature on the “smartness” of
gathering information about historic places within municipal information systems.
This chapter provides three case studies of technologically augmented planning
processes that incorporated citizens as sensors of data about historic places.
The first case study is of SurveyLA, a massive effort of the city of Los Angeles to
comprehensively survey over 880,000 parcels for historic resources. A second case
study involves Motor City Mapping, an effort to identify the condition of buildings
in Detroit, Michigan and a parallel historical survey conducted by volunteers. In
Austin, Texas, a university-based research team designed a municipal web tool
called the Austin Historical Survey Wiki. This chapter offers insights into these
prior efforts to augment planning processes with “digitized memory,” web-based
technology, and public engagement.
A Smart City Remembers
Its Past:
Citizens as Sensors in Survey and
Mapping of Historic Places
Jennifer Minner
Cornell University, USA
Andrea Roberts
Texas A&M University, USA
Michael Holleran
University of Texas at Austin, USA
Joshua Conrad
University of Texas at Austin, USA
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
Local governments around the world aspire to be ‘smart cities’ where information
and communication technologies are applied in innovative ways to increase the
efficacy of municipal services in a quest for more efficient, and, in some cases
more equitable city (Albino, Berardi, & Dangelico, 2015; Fietkiewicz, Mainka, &
Stock, 2016; Glasmeier & Christopherson, 2015; Townsend, 2013). Although the
rhetoric of smart cities appears to reach beyond volunteered geographic information
and Web 2.0 to autonomous vehicles, artificial intelligence, and robotics (Batty,
2017; Dia, 2017), web-based planning support technologies remain a central vision
of ‘smartness’ (Afzalan, Sanchez, & Evans-Cowley, 2017). Web infrastructure
for technology-augmented planning processes, include the use of social media,
crowdsourcing platforms, and web-based geographic information systems (GIS)
for urban planning and public administration (Townsend, 2013; Evans-Cowley &
Hollander, 2010; Seltzer & Mahmoudi, 2013; Gordon & de Souza e Silva, 2011).
The aim of many of these efforts is to enhance municipal decision-making by
incorporating volunteered time, perspectives, and knowledge.
Some municipal historic preservation programs have expanded the use of digital
technologies to serve preservation and urban planning. An example is the award-
winning, multi-million-dollar effort of the City of Los Angeles to survey historic
resources citywide, including development of specialized GIS tools, a web presence
for public outreach and data collection, and a robust public engagement plan to
accomplish it (Bernstein, Sun, & Sucre, 2009; (Bernstein & Hansen, 2016; City of
Los Angeles, 2017). In Detroit, Michigan, Motor City Mapping and a related effort
among preservationists to survey for historic places aimed to provide information
for a city losing building stock to decades of population decline and disinvestment
(Scola, 2014; Evans, 2014).
In Austin, Texas, a university-based research team created The Austin Historical
Survey Wiki (referred to throughout this chapter as the Wiki) as municipal web
infrastructure to maintain a cumulative database of historic resources that is open to
public contributions. Through this web-based tool, historic resources were intended
to be surveyed, documented, and maintained over time by a combination of municipal
officials, professional preservationists, and interested members of the public. The
Wiki was inspired by visions of advancing municipal decision-making and urban
planning. The effort was based on the conviction that public participation, online or
otherwise, can give governments a firmer basis for making decisions that are more
defensible, representative, and potentially more equitable, because they arise from
pluralistic, democratic processes (Habermas & McCarthy, 1985). The project also
originated out of a pragmatic need for timely information about historic resources
to serve the City of Austin’s long range planning and regulatory functions, which
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
includes drafting land use plans, designation of historic landmarks and historic
districts, and review of demolition and remodeling permits.
This book chapter considers these three cases of city-wide survey efforts along
with the idea of citizens as sensors (Goodchild, 2007) for capturing geographic
information and local knowledge about valued places, especially those that can be
described as ‘historic’. Here it should be noted that when we as authors use the term
“citizens,” we refer generally to members of the public as distinguished from local
government officials or professionals.
In this chapter, the authors offer promising developments and challenges in the
incorporation of data about historic places in local government planning to aid in
‘smarter’ decision-making. The following section consists of a review of literature
related to web-based technologies and models for online participation in planning
processes. A third section delves into the use of historical surveys by local government.
The next describes two city-wide efforts to survey building stock in Los Angeles,
California and Detroit, Michigan. Following sections detail the development of a
Wiki to support historical surveys in Austin, results of testing and launch of the
Wiki, community responses, and quantitative indicators. In a concluding section,
we provide insights about efforts to enhance government information systems and
increase planning intelligence about building stock and historic resources using
citizens as sensors and web-based technologies.
Within the US, a growing emphasis on public participation in urban planning and
historic preservation is attributed to the failures of rational planning and urban renewal
policies at mid-twentieth century, which neglected to include the voices of citizens
in planning deliberations or account for the value of existing urban fabric (Mallach,
2011).1 Arnstein’s Ladder of Citizen Participation (Arnstein, 1969) articulated the
need for citizen participation in planning processes and remains a heavily cited
article in planning literature. Arnstein’s conceptual ladder moves from critique of
governmental processes with no participation at the bottom rungs of the ladder,
to tokenism, to prescriptions for citizen power in city planning in the top rungs.
Moving up the rungs of the ladder, the role of citizens in government processes
becomes more direct and decision-making power is placed to a greater extent within
the hands of the community. At the pinnacle of Arnstein’s model is citizen control.
Today, the virtues of public participation have become more widely accepted
within urban planning, historic preservation has become a common function of
many planning departments (Minner & Holleran, 2016; Minner, 2016), and the
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
technologies used to augment community participation have multiplied. Arnstein’s
ladder has been modified to reflect the acceptance of public participation as an
essential part of planning and to incorporate new modalities of participation. For
instance, Randolph adapts Arnstein’s ladder for contemporary environmental land
use planning (Randolph, 2012). In his conceptualization, the ladder moves from
non-participation to collaborative learning and co-management (Randolph, 2012,
85). At this top rung, Randolph writes:
Stakeholders take part in networks and communities of place and practice to learn
and develop new knowledge and build consensus for creative solutions. Beyond
decisions [or decision-making], stakeholders engage in joint implementation and
learn from adaptive management (Randolph, 2012, 85).
In various modified forms, Arnstein’s conceptual model has been used to assess
on-line tools (Senbel & Church, 2011; Hanzl, 2007). Evans-Cowley and Hollander
(2010) write:
participation assessment reflects the level of control afforded participants, ranging
from information-based or feedback-only options to interactive participant self-
determination (Evans-Cowley & Hollander, 2010, 399).
Initiatives aimed at open government and e-government span this continuum;
there are examples of government initiatives that range from providing better (one-
way) access to government data to the use of web-based initiatives that seek to
transform government decision-making processes through direct citizen involvement
(Lathrop & Ruma, 2010). There are related examples of open government initiatives,
especially among state and local governments in the U.S. (Lathrop & Ruma, 2010)
and among some federal governments outside the U.S.2
Some manifestations of open government use crowdsourcing as a primary method
of citizen participation. In fact, crowdsourcing has gained currency in planning
scholarship and practice. Seltzer and Mahmoudi define crowdsourcing as:
issuing a challenge to a large and diverse group in hopes of arriving at new solutions
more robust than those found inside the organization,
while Goodspeed, Spanring, & Reardon define it more instrumentally as: dividing
a large task into small pieces that can be completed by a ‘crowd’ of participants
(Seltzer & Mahmoudi, 2012; Goodspeed, Spanring, & Reardon 2012). Crowdsourcing
is further defined as the completion of task or creation of an online body of work
via contributions of distributed people (and their distributed knowledge) via the
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
internet (Connors, Lei, & Kelly, 2012; Elwood, Goodchild, & Sui, 2012). Estelles-
Arolas and Gonzalez-Ladron-de-Guevara describe “mutual benefit” as central to
the concept in which:
The user will receive the satisfaction of a given type of need, be it economic,
social recognition, self-esteem, or the development of individual skills, while the
crowdsourcer will obtain and utilize to their advantage what the user has brought
to the venture, whose form will depend on the type of activity undertaken. (Estelles-
Arolas & Gonzalez-Ladron-de-Guevara, 2012)
Within the context of urban planning, crowdsourcing can range in the type
and degree of information that is shared, from very basic empirical information
to gathering more complex ideas from the public for municipal problem-solving.
Wikis provide one means for crowdsourcing, especially in the context of
collaborative writing. The invention of the concept of the wiki is commonly
attributed to Ward Cunningham and the best known example has been produced by
the WikiMedia foundation called the Mediawiki (WikiMedia Foundation, 2017).
Walden characterizes wikis as being associated with a write-publish-review-edit-
republish cycle rather than the traditional write-edit-review-publish sequence
(Walden, 2011, 62). Others focus less on the ongoing nature of the editing process
and instead on the collaborative nature of knowledge-production. This is the case
with Beth Noveck’s concept of “wiki government” (Noveck, 2009; Noveck, 2010).
In an experiment of “collaborative democracy,Noveck created a custom designed
wiki for citizens to directly participate in patent review for the U.S. Patent Office
(Noveck, 2009; Noveck, 2010). According to Noveck, citizens who participate
online may be experts in their own right, with specialized knowledge that should
be directly incorporated into the process of review. The custom designed wiki that
she created was focused on bringing together a small group of interested citizens
to work with government to improve decision-making processes.
Central to Noveck’s model is the contrast between the concepts of collaborative
democracy with deliberative democracy. She describes deliberative democracy as
based on the theories of Jürgen Habermas and within this model, planners strive
to create the optimum conditions for ideal speech, which consists of egalitarian
communication among participants in order to reach rational, consensual decision-
making. Using collaborative democracy, Noveck proposes engaging citizens with
the process of completing governmental tasks rather than focusing on forums aimed
at democratic speech. This collaborative model has similarities to Randolph’s ideal
of collaborative learning and co-management (Randolph, 2012), while Noveck’s
model emphasizes an online modality for participation.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
Public participatory GIS (PPGIS) constitutes another set of practices aimed
at improving the interaction between citizens and government, by incorporating
citizen knowledge into geographic information systems. Sieber has traced the
social history of PPGIS within geography, planning, and other related disciplines
describing it as the use of geographic information systems (GIS) to broaden public
involvement in policymaking (Sieber, 2006, 491). PPGIS is an area of scholarship
and practice that evolved out of critiques of the use of GIS by government agencies
that are top down and that neglect local knowledge. For example, Talen (2000) has
encouraged “bottom up GIS” as a means to incorporate citizen perspectives into
planning processes, as has Al-Kodmany (2009), who illustrates the inadequacies of
large-scale governmental efforts to create a complete GIS. Ganapati and Brabham
have also pointed to the potential for the use of GIS to increase citizen participation
in planning and government processes (Ganapati, S. 2010; Brabham, 2009) and
Fitzjohn (2009) to the uses of GIS in layering multiple sources of data to record the
meanings of heritage landscapes.
The development of social media, web-based GIS, and location-based mobile
technologies have further extended PPGIS, as citizens are able to collect detailed
spatial data, annotate geographic features, and share this information online (Elwood,
Goodchild, & Sui, 2012; Gordon & de Souza e Silva, 2011; Tulloch, 2008). These
new capabilities have enabled volunteered geographic information (VGI) (Goodchild,
2007; Elwood, 2008). Michael Goodchild (2007) has emphasized the importance
of this shift to the practice of geography in which citizens become sensors who
contribute new geographical knowledge to mapping efforts.
“Citizen science” is yet another arena in which citizens engage in the production
of volunteered information, usually in empirical data collection for use in scientific
studies or public policy (Bowser & Shanley, 2013; Goodchild, 2007; Newman, G.,
Zimmerman, D., Crall, A., Laituri, M., Graham, J., & Stapel, L., 2010; Ottinger,
2010). Data from these efforts are often related to government and nongovernmental
efforts at natural resource conservation.3 Often citizen science is seen as a means of
galvanizing citizen participation and interest in science. Within the following case
studies there are important parallels between efforts to conserve natural resources
embedded within citizen science projects and the potential to apply this model to
conservation of the built environment through historic preservation and planning.
This chapter draws from this rich context of developments in participatory planning
and web-based technology to describe and analyze major efforts in three US cities
with city-wide efforts to gather information about historic resources with the help
of citizens and integrate it within municipal information systems. The methodology
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
for this chapter involved participant action and observation in the development of the
Austin Historical Survey Wiki, as well as qualitative case study research conducted
to understand comparable municipal historical survey efforts. The next section
describes the use of historical surveys within the U.S., followed by case studies.
Within the United States, over 1,900 Certified Local Governments (CLGs) have
agreed to survey historic resources (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks
Service, 2017). Historical surveys are defined by the U.S. National Parks Service
(NPS) as a process of identifying and gathering data on a community’s historic
resources (U.S. Department of the Interior, National Parks Service, 1985). These
surveys produce lists of buildings, structures, districts, cultural landscapes, and
objects (e.g. monuments and sometimes living resources such as heritage trees)
deemed worthy of recognition and in some cases protection.
Municipal preservation offices typically use the information from historical
surveys to nominate local and national historic districts, designate historic landmarks,
and develop compatibility standards for infill within historic districts. City planners,
economic development specialists and other local government officials can use this
information in revitalization efforts, heritage tourism, and emergency preparedness
and mitigation (Laurie, J., 2008).
Beyond conventional uses for historical surveys, information about historic
resources has the potential for use in urban design and place-making initiatives.
Preserving historic resources can enhance neighborhoods, retaining a sense of place
in the face of urban change (Allison & Peters, 2011). Historic resources contribute
to the diversity of the city as temporal collage (Lynch, 1972). Data about historic
resources can also be used in sustainability initiatives aimed at conserving material
resources, reducing construction and demolition waste, and retrofitting buildings to
improve performance (Preservation Green Lab, 2012; Frey, 2008; Stein, 2010). In
declining communities, historical surveys can be used to identify assets that should
be preserved in the face of demolition initiatives aimed at addressing blight and
abandonment (Bertron & Rypkema, 2012).
Given all of these uses, a historical survey is not simply a list of historic resources.
The uses of historical surveys range from long-range planning to use in development
review and regulatory processes. These decisions include whether buildings can
be demolished, if they can be remodeled and how, as well as the kinds of new
development that may be allowed within certain districts or neighborhoods.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
In Los Angeles and Detroit, two U.S. cities with vastly different economic fortunes,
civic leaders, city officials, and citizen volunteers have gathered and mapped
information about building stock and historic places. The initiatives in both cities
have employed citizens as sensors and web-based and GIS technologies. Both of
cases can be viewed as “smart city” efforts to gather information using technology
to augment efforts.
In rapidly growing Los Angeles, an Office of Historic Resources was created to
organize and administer a large-scale historical survey of the city’s neighborhoods for
historic buildings and structures that could be eligible for designation and protection.
The multi-million-dollar effort called SurveyLA was first conceptualized in 2000
and over 17 years moved from idea to completion. The initiative was supported with
a $2.5 million dollar matching grant from the Getty Foundation, a nongovernmental
organization that
supports institutions and individuals committed to advancing the greater
understanding and preservation of the visual arts in Los Angeles and throughout
the world (Getty Foundation, 2017).
In 2006, after years of planning, the Office of Historic Resources matched the
grant, officially launching a city-wide effort that surveyed the entire city of Los Angeles
comprised of 880,000 parcels and approximately 500 square miles (Bernstein &
Hansen, 2016, 88). The comprehensive survey effort was deemed complete in 2017.
Professional preservation consultants conducted windshield surveys, which were
integral to the SurveyLA process. Consultants were aided by the development of new
technological tools. This included the Field Guide Survey System (FiGSS) developed
by the City of Los Angeles. FiGSS consisted of a new ESRI ArcGIS toolbox with
functions that support viewing contextual information about city neighborhoods and
direct entry of field observations into a GIS on a tablet or laptop. An open source
web-based heritage management system called Arches, developed by the Getty
Conservation Institute, was used as a platform to make a queryable online database
publicly accessible (Figure 1) (City of Los Angeles, 2017; The Getty Conservation
Institute, 2013). Other online technologies were used to support SurveyLA, including
a blog for survey updates; the use of MindMixer, a platform for online engagement
to encourage the public to get involved in SurveyLA; and integration of survey data
into ZIMAS, the online land and zoning database for the City of Los Angeles. In
2011, SurveyLA won a national planning excellence award for public outreach from
the American Planning Association, partly due to its its savvy use of traditional and
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
new media including the development and use of GIS and online tools, as well as
multi-lingual materials and outreach to underrepresented populations, which attracted
250 volunteers (Jarmusch, 2011). In SurveyLA, volunteers were “sensors” of data
about historic places; however, much of that information was provided to consultants
and planners using traditional paper-based methods that had been processed for
incorporating into technology later.
Meanwhile in Detroit, the Motor City Mapping project was initiated to gather
information for decision-making about how best to channel funds to demolish
abandoned properties. While SurveyLA was motivated to determine what not to
demolish for redevelopment in a rapidly growing and expensive real estate market,
Motor City Mapping and a related historic resources survey were organized in a city
forced to declare bankruptcy in 2013 after years of population loss and disinvestment.
The Detroit Blight Removal Task Force (the Task Force) was organized in 2013
with three appointed chairpersons
Figure 1. Screenshot of Historic Places LA, a website that displays historic places
identified in SurveyLA, the Los Angeles Historic Resources Inventory. The page
is displaying residential multi-family properties that are potentially eligible for
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
to remove every blighted structure and clear every blighted vacant lot in the City of
Detroit as quickly as possible using an environmentally-conscious approach (Detroit
Blight Removal Task Force a., N.D.).
The Task Force outlined a plan to rapidly address the demolition of properties
using federal Hardest Hit Funds. By 2014, about $1.5 million in private and
nongovernmental funding supported a windshield survey of the entire city for
blighted properties (Davey, 2014). The Task Force’s plan focused on leveraging this
Motor City Mapping effort to maintain an ongoing, open, parcel-level information
portal, available on-line at all times to all residents (Detroit Blight Removal Task
Force b., N.D., 24). In this case, the web-based innovation involved the creation
of the Motor City Mapping website (Figure 2), complete with the ability for any
citizen to text pictures of blighted properties for addition to the database (called
‘blexting’) (Figure 3).
Historic preservationists in Detroit became concerned about Motor City Mapping
and the prospects of mass demolitions. Normally, the use of federal funds for demolition
or development requires an analysis of impacts on historic resources; however, the
Hardest Hit Funds were exempted from the Historic Preservation Act of 1966 (Scola,
2014). Therefore, the nongovernmental organization Preservation Detroit launched
the Detroit Historic Resources Survey, in which volunteers helped to rank properties
for their potential historic value. The aim was to create a ‘preservation overlay’ to
Figure 2. Screenshot of Motor City Mapping website, which is now archived. Data
from the website was moved to the City of Detroit’s website and a national database
for parcel-based data called Loveland.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
be added to the Motor City Mapping project (Ibid.) Preservation Detroit’s effort
also involved the use of an application for smart phones and tablets developed for
volunteers to use in the field (Bragg, 2014). The survey effort was organized in
partnership with the Task Force, Data Driven Detroit and Loveland Technologies,
which were implementing Motor City Mapping (Evans, 2014). The results were
placed in a publicly accessible location (Data Driven Detroit, 2017), but they do
not appear to be integrated into either the archived Motor City Mapping portal
(Loveland Technologies; Data Driven Detroit, n.d.) or a more recent version of the
portal called Loveland (Loveland, 2017).4
Similar to the effort in Los Angeles, it appears that the use of citizens as sensors
has come to a close and there are no longer opportunities for volunteers to add or
correct information for historic resources. This contrasts with the following case
Figure 3. Queue of recent blexts with data in the Motor City Mapping website.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
study of the Austin Historical Survey Wiki, which was designed to accommodate
cumulative and ongoing survey by both professionals and volunteers, even after a
comprehensive city-wide survey is conducted.
The need for a historic resources survey in Austin was initially highlighted as an
action item in the city’s comprehensive plan and downtown plan (City of Austin,
2011; City of Austin, 2012). A conventional yet costly solution would have been to
commission a new comprehensive historical survey. However, the financial resources
to accomplish a city-wide survey seemed out of reach. It was thought that a Wiki
might be a more economical solution, as local governments elsewhere had gathered
historical survey data, and some have made them accessible online, often through
web GIS (Bertron, 2013; Austin Historical Survey Project Team, 2009). This was a
solution that would enlist citizens to expand the City of Austin’s knowledge of the
community’s cultural resources.
While the client for this project was a city government, the Wiki was developed
and implemented by a research team at the University of Texas at Austin, working
with the local preservation society -- a non-governmental organization, and the
City of Austin’s planning department and historic preservation office. Members
of the team worked intensively with city staff and community members to develop
and test the Wiki, using pragmatic action research and participant observation as
primary methodologies. Observations were gathered through numerous research
team meetings, neighborhood association and community open houses, and the use
of the Wiki in graduate courses in which students worked with community members
to test the tool and survey historic resources. Additionally, web analytics were used
to collect quantitative data about usage of the web-based tool.
There were several key issues in designing and developing the Wiki. The first
was whether the Wiki should be a highly customized website or one that was
expeditiously assembled (a mashup) of existing tools. This was largely resolved
with consensus that the tool needed to be custom built, which enabled new features
to be incorporated that were not available among existing platforms.
A second major question was whether the tool should be primarily based on
proprietary or open source software. The research team decided to use a Google
Maps Application Program Interface (API), a toolkit that allows developers to
build a custom application, so that the Wiki would be intuitively familiar to the
public as well as easily replicable. The Wiki uses a Google Maps API to display
base maps and to allow users to add historic places. It has a MySQL database and
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data modeling: data forms and user registration are accomplished with Drupal, an
open-source PHP-based web framework.
Finally, the research team discussed at length whether the Wiki should be
structured primarily by the bureaucratic needs of the historic preservation office or
whether it should reflect freer forms of interaction more common to social media
and digital history sites. Neighborhood groups were already using the paper survey
forms for volunteer-based surveys; in effect Austin was crowdsourcing historical
surveys without using any online tools. Thus, there was a research logic to simply
retaining the City of Austin’s paper forms as a structure and migrating to a platform
that better supported crowdsourcing. Citizens already involved in historical surveys
would then find the online survey questions similar to the paper form they were
already using and newcomers to preservation would find sets of questions that they
could respond to online.
The Wiki was designed to allow citizens to add historic places and to contribute
and edit data associated with each historic place (Figure 4). The Wiki also includes
data from the City of Austin and professional historical surveys. In order for the Wiki
to be used in official decision-making, the sources for all contributed information
needed to be known and retained as part of the City of Austin’s public records.
Figure 4. Screenshot of the Austin Historical Survey Wiki.
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Several features of the Wiki emerged in response to these imperatives. One of the
most fundamental was that information cannot be contributed anonymously; all data
is displayed with the real name of the contributor and a timestamp. Additionally,
each piece of data has a full revision history, in which prior contributions can be
viewed along with names of the users who contributed or edited information.
Another central feature of the Wiki’s design is moderation. All contributions
are reviewed by a moderator before they are published. The Historic Preservation
Office selects and manages the moderators. The moderator may choose to send
submissions back for further editing or may publish the submission, at which point
the data becomes publicly visible. Protocols were developed to prevent moderators
from slowing the flow of information or overstepping their bounds. Moderators
were instructed not to review information for accuracy beyond gross and obvious
error (e.g. “920” instead of “1920“), but to ensure that information was neither
spam nor abusive.
Central to the custom design of the wiki and its management of citizen contributions
are “data review levels.” A data review level is associated with each data field (see
Figures 5-7), indicating whether its contents have undergone “Preservation Office
Review” or “Professional Review,” or if the data remains “Unreviewed.” This
hierarchy is rooted in the City’s Development Code, because surveys reviewed
by the Historic Preservation Office are used in demolition review and evaluation
of historic district nominations.5 Data at different levels of review are displayed
simultaneously and with a timestamp, so that users can compare data from different
levels of review. 6 “Unreviewed” data may be promoted up the hierarchy, but there
is no expectation that data must be reviewed and promoted, except in the context
of official review functions.
The research team uploaded information from prior professional surveys conducted
over more than 30 years, allowing this data to be immediately editable by any
member of the public or any professional with regard to factual accuracy, evaluations
of historical significance, and updates reflecting physical change. With the Wiki,
historical surveys become less of a product completed at a certain point in time, and
more of an ongoing process, involving citizens, preservation professionals, and city
staff in a continual process of quality control and database maintenance (Figure 8).
In addition, the tool was designed so that registered users can download data as
a comma delimited file (.csv) for all historic places (or any user-defined subset).
The data includes geographic coordinates, so users can display and analyze data in
Excel or any geographic information system. This allows users to sift and analyze
data as they wish. This feature allows community-based organizations, other city
agencies, scholars, and web and mobile developers to access the city’s information
system for purposes that could range from original research to the development of
heritage tour apps for cell phones.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
Figure 5. Screenshot of historic resources page.
Figure 6. Close-up of historic place page showing preservation office reviewed data.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
The Austin Historical Survey Wiki was designed to increase participation among
a dispersed community of citizens who could contribute their time, observations,
and values to widen the city’s inventory of historic places. If citizens contributed
information, team members reasoned that this might lead to a deeper knowledge of
local heritage and enrich historic preservation and planning processes. The team hoped
that the Wiki might also help the city’s historic preservation office to recognize a
wider range of cultural resources –a more diverse array of resources associated with
Figure 7. Close-up of historic place page showing unreviewed data.
Figure 8. Comparison of traditional historical survey methods and the Wiki survey
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
ethnic and social heritage; resources considered vernacular or that are associated with
cultural landscapes (Shapiro, 2007; Kaufman, 2009; Mason, 2006); and buildings
and landscapes associated with the recent past. Furthermore, the team hoped that
the Wiki would lead to several important outcomes including more identified and
preserved historic places, more citizens engaged in historic preservation; and more
transparent and participatory processes within local government planning and
historic preservation.
The research team also recognized from the outset that there were going to be
substantial challenges to successfully employing web-based technologies. Some
of these challenges relate to the digital divide, or unequal access to technology
according to race or ethnicity, age, and other societal divisions that may inhibit
access to technological education and infrastructure (Zickuhr, 2013). Additional
challenges include the differential availability of citizens to contribute time and
attention; the potential for the contribution of erroneous or misleading information;
difficulties in representing local or traditional knowledge using the existing web-
based GIS portal; and limitations in the capacity for community-based organizations
or governmental agencies to develop and maintain online initiatives (Seltzer &
Mahmoudi, 2013; Sieber, 2006). Other concerns expressed in literature related to
volunteered geographic information, citizen science, and wikis have to do with the
validity of amateur contributions and their ability to be taken seriously by local
governments, scientists and other professionals, and decision-makers (Johnson and
Sieber, 2013; Ottinger, 2010; Riesch & Potter, 2014).
An iterative process of design, development, and community engagement was integral
to the creation of the tool and ultimately to understanding barriers to participation.
The Wiki was first tested in a neighborhood near the university.7 The research team
met with volunteers in their homes, introducing them to the tool. While volunteers
expressed enthusiasm, some seemed discouraged with a nascent beta website that
had usability challenges. Existing political conflicts in the neighborhood, including
ambivalence around organizing a historic district, contributed to burnout among a
few volunteers who gave up before completing a neighborhood-wide survey.
The research team continued to work with the North University neighborhood
while moving on to further test the Wiki in East Austin, an area of the city with
several historically African-American and Hispanic communities.8 The research team
was aware that previous historic preservation initiatives in East Austin had met with
suspicion, criticism, and active resistance. In the early 2000s, gentrification became
a major concern as property values rose and demographics shifted. A community-
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based organization dedicated to environmental justice identified historic preservation
as one of the main culprits of gentrification (Chusid, 2006).9 Mindful of this, the
research team focused demonstrations and open houses on history and preservation
efforts already underway, in partnership with the organizations undertaking them.
The Wiki was presented as a tool to aid community-based organizations in
achieving their own goals. When presenting at an African American museum, for
example, the research team explained how the new tool might help with cataloguing
objects associated with particular sites and promoting exhibits. When interacting with
neighborhood groups, the Wiki was presented as a low-cost approach to conducting
historical surveys required for local historic district applications. Music and cultural
organizations were invited to use the Wiki to upload stories about significant sites,
businesses, cemeteries, or other places that could draw community users and catalyze
appreciation of neglected historical figures from the East Side.10
Some community members associated with efforts to document the area’s African
American and Hispanic community histories, engaged the Wiki and the research
team with skepticism.11 Community leaders’ suspicions were grounded in concerns
about how data would be used. Would it be used to support gentrification or secret,
long-range planning that bypassed public engagement? The Wiki’s inclusion of
numerous fields to catalogue architectural features may have intimidated lay and
older users who felt that they needed to contribute specialized information or who
only wanted to contribute stories related to inhabitants of a historic home rather
than documenting its architecture. For some residents the digital divide remained
a reality, especially for seniors who may be able to record oral histories or share
photos, but were wary of using an online tool.
Some conversations with residents and preservation advocates led to passionate
discussions about the community’s changing demographics. East Austin was rapidly
changing; while the Austin region is one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas
in the country, its central city, including East Austin, is losing African American
population. There appeared to be, at the core of many informal conversations, a
desire among residents of color in East Austin to control the images, planning, and
funding related to their cultural assets in the face of demographic change, growing
development pressure, and concerns about the community’s relationship to the
City of Austin and its development-oriented initiatives. Some community leaders
were more interested in having comprehensive discussions with their communities
on the meaning and use of historical surveys before engaging the Wiki. The
greatest concern was being able to tell stories, especially about lost places. While
performing outreach with a local African American historical group, its leadership
had a wealth of stories about “touchstone” sites, places that were meaningful to
those who remembered vibrant businesses that served as important social spaces
and community institutions (Allen, 1989). Some community members were more
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
enthusiastic about documenting their personal and community attachments to these
touchstone sites. They seemed reluctant to participate, because the Wiki was built
for municipal purposes and didn’t seem to encourage community remembrance of
important social spaces.12
One neighborhood group was interested in organizing a local historic district
to slow the rate of demolitions and preserve their interpretation of neighborhood
character. This neighborhood group embraced the Wiki, dedicating time before one
of their meetings to test the tool. However, introduction of the Wiki revealed fissures
between Anglo and Latino residents, in a community undergoing demographic and
socioeconomic shifts. A Latino preservation advocate pointed out a less-than-flattering
photo of a property that came from a decade-old professional survey on the Wiki.
He expressed concern that photos taken by strangers and posted to the Wiki would
contribute to stereotypes about Latino residents. Other advocates did not see the
City-sanctioned neighborhood group as legitimate representation of residents and
suggested other, less Anglo-dominated groups for more “authentic” testing.
While designed for better transparency and for community-based, some viewed
the Wiki with suspicion, concerned that there were ulterior motives including
gentrification and the cultural appropriation African American and Hispanic heritage.
The Wiki was designed for community-based organizations to use for their own
purposes as well as the City of Austin’s; however, its status as a municipal platform
and database may have reduced participation among community-based organizations.13
The Austin Historical Survey Wiki was officially “launched” at City Hall with great
fanfare on June 4, 2012. News media covered the event and general enthusiasm
was expressed by participating officials and by members of the public. By 2017,
320 users have registered to edit or contribute to the Wiki, although only 117 have
contributed data. As a measure of broad participation, this number is modest in
a city of more than 940,000. On the other hand, the Kansas Historic Resources
Inventory, another website that allows public contributions, has 456 registered
users, in a state of 2.9 million (Kansas State Historic Preservation Office & Kansas
Historical Society, 2014).
Table 1 shows the number of contributions as of the writing of this book chapter.
The column “number of places created” represents the number of historic buildings,
objects, structures, and other sites that have been added to the Wiki.
An aim of the project was to encourage community-based organizations to adopt
the Wiki as a means of organizing information for their own purposes. The local
heritage society continues to add content and uses the site to disseminate content, but
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only on a limited basis. It remains an open question as to the number of community-
based organizations that will have the interest and capacity to contribute to the City’s
information system in a systematic way that also benefits community-based goals.
The evidence seems to indicate that adoption of the tool is limited and that major
outreach efforts would be required to revive participation on the Wiki.
A test of the Wiki’s capacity to support government decision-making and the use
of volunteered data will come when City staff begin regularly including Wiki data
in staff reports that involve deliberation on the part of the Landmarks Commission,
the Planning Commission, and the City Council. Or when citizens insist on the use
of Wiki data in official proceedings.14 Neither has happened. If data from the site
were incorporated into the daily practice of municipal preservation and planning,
as had been intended from the start, it would more directly test the hypothesis that
the public can contribute valid data to information systems used in planning and
decision-making. The lack of use in public decision-making means that the connection
between the Wiki and public administration is largely unrealized and the connection
between the two is likely to be invisible to many potential users.
In addition, professional consultants conducting surveys for the City of Austin
have not incorporated citizen outreach with the Wiki into their workflows (see
Figure 9). City Preservation Office staff have neither required public engagement
nor used the Wiki to do more than disseminate information. The experiment brought
into high relief not only the limitations in the capacity for government agencies and
community organizations to maintain online initiatives as anticipated by Seltzer &
Mahmoudi (2013) and Sieber (2006), but their reluctance to apply data from the
tool in decision-making processes or facilitate communities of active users willing
to review and edit data already on the Wiki.
During a PowerPoint presentation before the City of Austin’s Human Rights
commission hearings on gentrification, Fred McGhee, an archaeologist, preservation
advocate, and former city council candidate, mentioned the Wiki during a discussion of
data types that should be publicly available to those wanting to understand changes to
Table 1. Contributions to the Wiki as of July 2017
Number of Places Created 10,336
Images Uploaded 4,355
Documents Uploaded 1,249
Current Data Fields 44,764
Data Fields Added 98,425*
* These numbers include data that have been archived due to the contribution of new information at the same
level of review.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
their community’s built environment. He suggested greater public access to a platform
that integrates data related to zoning cases, historic preservation designations, and
other related data (McGhee, 2015). However, despite the opportunity to integrate
the Wiki and its data into CodeNext, a major initiative of the City of Austin to
reconsider its zoning and land development ordinances, there was no movement
by the City to do so.
On the Austin Historical Survey Wiki, citizens can describe a place’s historic
significance as well as its attributes. They have the ability to place markers anywhere
on the map and record information about any place within Austin’s city limits as
historic resources. In this way, the Wiki can capture representations of collective
places of value. This is an important modification to the current method of historical
Figure 9. This screenshot shows a survey of city-owned properties conducted by a
preservation professional and disseminated on the Wiki. Volunteers were not employed
in the survey process; however, citizens can still contribute new “unreviewed data”
about these places.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
survey, which is largely driven by staff and professionals. This may have constrained
participation among those who do not wish to use standardized forms or established
preservation categories to share information about local history.15 In this case, the
opportunity to participate is not a free form invitation to add memories about a place;
the Wiki is an invitation to share data related directly to the goals and objectives of
the Historic Preservation Office.
Part of the rationale for the Wiki was to provide a platform where historic resources
could be identified in advance of conflicts over development. This assumes that
citizens are willing and able to articulate their attachments to historic places before
they are threatened, and to share information in a way that a local government can
use in its established bureaucratic processes. The Wiki does not intentionally exclude
alternative narratives about place, but it does not explicitly encourage them either.
Some members of the research team were disappointed that the tool could not
give citizens the opportunity to give voice to what they believe should be done with
the data (Minner, 2015) The Wiki created a data-gathering and data-maintenance
tool that relates to Noveck’s notion of collaborative democracy; however, it did not
provide a space for online deliberation. One can indicate that a historic resource is
eligible for landmark designation; however, there is no place to share ideas as to
other creative means of preservation, remembrance, or celebration.
While the inventory is crowdsourced, the solutions to how one might preserve
a place are not. If a user has an idea for adaptively reusing an abandoned or
underutilized building or for incorporating artwork that celebrates the past, there is
no place to contribute these ideas. This limits the potential rewards of participation,
such as giving citizens a sense of empowerment and even some limited control over
how their data is used (as their data might be accompanied by their perspectives).
Group preferences or consensus over the desirability to preserve a place cannot be
represented on the site. This may limit the formation of communities of Wiki users
who might otherwise steward data on the site.16 The Wiki is similar in that regard to
the portals created for SurveyLA, Motor City Mapping, and Preservation Detroit’s
historical survey.
Community participation also requires city government to have an ongoing
commitment to overcoming divides that are not only digital, but also to address
mistrust that has developed out of a much longer history of prior government
interactions with the community. This necessity for trust cuts both ways; the Austin
Historical Survey Wiki was created with the idea that preservation professionals and
city staff would want to seek out public contributions and open their information to
revision and additions beyond their control. 17
Furthermore, the choice to participate on the Wiki requires a user’s willingness
to associate a particular piece of information with one’s name. That requires trust
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in the intentions of local government and other users. Distrust can be based on a
range of concerns, from doubt that the information will be used, to concerns that
data on the Wiki will be used either to oppose or to promote preservation in ways
with which the contributor might disagree.
Even with these observed issues and limitations, the authors feel strongly that
there is value in the tool that was produced. The public now has access to previously
inaccessible professional surveys. As the research team prepared data for upload
to the Wiki, many questions were raised that required working closely with City
staff. This resulted in clarifications and corrections to professional assessments as
well as basic information about surveyed properties. Thus, both accessibility and
the quality of information about historic places has been improved.
In addition, the system of moderation and data review levels is replicable and may
be useful for other government efforts that could benefit from citizen involvement
in data collection. The categories of data that has been accepted by government
officials, vetted by professionals, or simply available and unreviewed is a substantial
improvement over crowdsourcing sites that do not make this clear. The Wiki provides
a system of accountability for data that a local government accepts as official, while
allowing citizen-generated data to coexist online. Some of this crowd-sourced
information will become official data; some may simply remain visible. In time,
the availability of citizen contributed data may change what is considered official
government data, expanding beyond current norms and standards.
Austin’s Wiki should not be understood as a crowdsourcing model that simply
parses out discrete and easy steps for a general public, but a tool that requires
government officials and other professionals to continually interact with citizens
and to facilitate the flow of information into and out of the tool. It is a tool that was
built for the preservation community to share information with government officials
and for both to engage in joint fact-finding. From Austin’s web experiment, it is
evident that the ability to realize improvements in public engagement and planning
support systems for decision-making will require more than technical infrastructure.
The successful implementation of tools similar to Austin’s Wiki will require
continued development of both technological infrastructure and public outreach
methods that can enable diverse communities of citizens to coalesce, collaborate,
and deliberate online. At the fundamental level, the success of this model requires a
willingness among government officials to engage with the public and a long-term
commitment to both citizen participation and stewardship of online resources. Online
engagement also requires willingness on the part of community-based organizations
to share information, encourage their constituents to actively participate in local
government data gathering, and advocate for the use of citizen-generated data in
decision-making over the long term. Ultimately, this model requires government
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
officials and professionals not only to design and maintain a usable platform, but to
actively facilitate both collaboration and deliberation among citizens, community
stakeholders, and decision-makers on and off-line.
The case studies of large-scale survey efforts in Los Angeles, Detroit, and Austin,
highlight a few models for gathering and sharing information about historical
resources. All three have led to technological investments in web infrastructure that
range from improvements to and deployments of both open source and proprietary
GIS, the innovative use of social media and texting, sophisticated moderation and
tagging of data, and multi-lingual and multi-media public outreach. In all three
examples, data from the historical surveys remains publicly available and is shared
Austin’s wiki effort differs from the other two, as the city-wide survey effort has
not been deemed complete. The Wiki remains open for additions and corrections,
while there appears no remaining open invitation for new information or corrections
to data in Los Angeles’ or Detroit’s historic resources surveys. The concept of the
historical survey as an ongoing and cumulative process without an end date appears
a significant advance in concept. After all, the state of historic resources changes
with demolitions, remodeling, and reinvestment; what is valued by citizens may be
ever-shifting, and the need for stewardship is continuous.
In the use of ‘citizens as sensors,’ all three cities had survey efforts that actively
engaged volunteers in surveying for historic resources. This invitation was directly
channeled into a pre-existing historical survey process and the tasks associated with
gathering of empirical data that can be easily entered into a city’s land use, zoning,
and property records information. This is a “crowdsourcing” model in which the tasks
of local government or business groups are prioritized. Perhaps the greatest limitation
to making each of the cities ‘smarter,’ is the limited depth of holistic engagement
with historic preservation. In each of the examples, citizens remain instruments of
local government needs. The values or deeper intellectual engagement – the ladder
of citizen engagement or collaboration -- in determining what historic resource are of
value and how to respond to this information does not extend to upper rungs. While
deeper engagement and thinking about historic preservation and local government
control may have resulted from these efforts, it was not central to either the process
or technology. To do so would have required more fully engaging citizens as the
central control or ‘brain’ rather than sensor. This would mean extending the function
of digitizing memory to direct deliberation about it. This does not mean to imply
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that participatory efforts or technological innovations failed – far from it. Instead,
this is to point to the need to create even greater and ever present opportunities to
incorporate our ability to remember the past and deliberate about its value into the
creation of collective visions and actions to shape the future.
This project was funded in part through the City of Austin, a grant from the University
of Texas at Austin, a Certified Local Government Grant administered by the Texas
Historical Commission, a grant from the National Center for Preservation Technology
and Training, and a Preserve America grant by the Department of the Interior,
National Park Service. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations
expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect
the views of the U.S. Department of the Interior, or other grantors.
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A Smart City Remembers Its Past
1 The National Historic Preservation Act of 1966 was adopted to protect historic
resources from destruction of urban fabric using federal funds. The same year,
the federal Model Cities program adopted public participation as an essential
feature of urban revitalization efforts.
2 “E-government” is also a common term within public administration that
refers to the use of online technology to improve government “management
and delivery of public services” (Hu et al., 2009).
3 For instance, scientists at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, a
research center connected to the University of Texas at Austin, have developed
online platforms enabling scientists to work with groups of citizens to gather
observations of invasive species around the state (, 2011) and
to map urban forests to be used in efforts to conserve and enhance municipal
resource protection in Austin (Tree Folks and Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower
Center, 2014). These were early prototypes for Austin’s Wiki.
4 Note: The Loveland Technologies effort has now been expanded to include
parcel-by-parcel mapping in cities across the U.S. (Loveland Technologies,
n.d.; Arieff, 2016). At this point in time, there appears to be no inclusion of
historic resource survey results in this Data portal for Detroit or any of the
other communities represented on the Loveland website.
5 Austin City Code §25-11-213(B)(2); §25-2-353(C). Preservation professionals
are defined by reference to federal rules: “Secretary of the Interior’s professional
standards for expertise in “history” or “architectural history” as described in
Code of Federal Regulations Title 36, Chapter I, Part 61 (Procedures for State,
Tribal, and Local Government Historic Preservation Programs).”
6 Each field’s review level maintains separate revision histories. The Historic
Preservation Office manages the data review process. Data fields may be
promoted individually or in batches. When it becomes apparent that there are
large quantities of data that should be promoted in batch, for example when a
professional survey effort is completed, the preservation officer can query the
Wiki for these fields and batch promote them. The overall effect is that data
moves up the ladder from one level of review to another, while leaving traces
of its migration behind for users to follow. Editing any data field, regardless
of its review level, will submit as new non-reviewed data. Thus, users may
suggest corrections without overwriting officially accepted data.
7 This phase was funded by grants from the City of Austin and a Certified Local
Government grant from the Texas Historical Commission.
8 This phase of the project was funded through a National Park Service Preserve
America grant.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
9 In response, the City launched a staff task force that explored the potential
causal link between historic preservation and gentrification. The task force
concluded that there was little evidence that preservation contributed to
displacement (City of Austin 2003). The task force even suggested that
preservation tools had a positive effect on neighborhood stability and had the
potential to mitigate the effects of gentrification. Nonetheless, there remained
the potential in introducing the Wiki that prior battles could re-emerge.
10 Amateur genealogists and alumni from Huston-Tillotson, a historically black
university, were two groups who expressed enthusiasm for the project after
presentations. The genealogists, accustomed to utilizing public land and property
records, considered the Wiki a more detailed, personalized tool with potential
to make their family histories more tangible, by associating ancestors with
places. Alumni saw the potential for sharing stories that they worried might
soon be lost as elderly membership passed away.
11 The African American Cultural Heritage District, designated by the state
in 2009, holds particular significance in the planning history of the city.
Encompassing much of what was called “the Negro District” in the 1928
City Plan, the District commemorates the success of the African American
community despite segregationist public policies.
12 The Wiki had been designed to allow and even encourage the documentation
of places that had been demolished or otherwise no longer existed. Still, it
wasn’t immediately apparent to users what the City’s Historic Preservation
Office would do with this information.
13 In addition, language translation, a feature that supports non-Native English
speakers across the city, is presently difficult to deploy on the Wiki. In an
early version of the Wiki used in beta testing, a language translation feature
made translation services via Google readily accessible. After transition to the
City of Austin’s servers, the path to activate Google translation became less
apparent. This may have substantially affected the usability of the Wiki for
Spanish-speaking populations or others whose first language is not English.
14 Another test of the Wiki will arise when developers and real estate agents
begin to consult the Wiki for information and contribute information to it.
15 This may be particularly problematic in Austin, a city that has been noted
for its geography of creative resistance, where community members fight the
homogenization of place with a particularly protective stance toward beloved
taco bars, music venues, and other places of the very recent past threatened
with redevelopment (Long, 2010; Minner, 2013). To date, users of the Wiki
have not recorded much of the more elusive attachments to place celebrated
in the popular media and blog sites about Austin.
A Smart City Remembers Its Past
16 Unfortunately, there is now no way to know where there are conflicts over
designation or over the data on the Wiki. The best one can do is to search for
the records on the site to see if information has been systematically modified
and then try to talk with individual users.
17 In addition, some users were unwilling to add images to the Wiki without the
means of retaining greater rights to their photos (uploading images grants to
the City non-exclusive rights to reproduction). Some desired the integration of
Creative Commons licensing, which offers a standardized means of sharing on
the web that retains certain rights, such as requiring attribution when images
are used, and specifying whether images may be modified (Creative Commons
2014). The Wiki does not yet deploy the system.
... In Texas, as well as in many other states, county historical commissions are particularly suitable spaces for fostering these values, because they are also the interested parties that are consulted during Section 106 review processes. Further innovations in surveying approaches and platforms that recognize the systemic racism and marginalization of diverse ontologies of place in preservation standards would ideally inform the preservation certificate programs' curriculum [38]. ...
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Abstract This article examines public historic preservation agencies’ ability to support social inclusion aims within the context of the Certified Local Government (CLG) program. Though administered by the Texas Historical Commission, Texas’ State CLG program is federally-funded and makes available special access to technical assistance, grants, and loans to qualifying communities contingent on compliance. Program surveys the state staff administered to city and county historical commissions with the CLG designation indicate challenges around diversifying their leadership and identifying training opportunities. This article reviews those surveys to detect insights into how the state CLG program can create spaces in which local commissions can increase their “representativeness” through changes in assessment and training content. Specifically, I analyze two government assessment tools used to evaluate local CLGs’ ability to meet federal and state training and participation expectations. I compare these survey results to self-assessment activities and questionnaires collected during a pilot training on implicit bias, outreach, and cultural resource surveying I conducted with multiple CLGs in Gonzales, Texas. Findings suggest more creatively designed training and capacity building is necessary around inclusion, identifying structural barriers to participation, and foundational knowledge of historic preservation and planning practice, and ethics. (Pre-Print)
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Cancer Alley is an 136,794 meters stretch of chemical and industrial plants along the Mississippi River between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Since 2005, the area has experienced more than two dozen hurricanes with major rainstorms in between. Cemeteries, although just as vulnerable to storms and cancer-causing chemicals as the local population and natural environment, are overlooked casualties of frequent hurricanes and plant siting. During hurricanes and annual flooding, cemeteries in South Louisiana sustain significant damage such as dislodged coffins, difficult to reintern remains, and burial records damaged or destroyed. African American cemeteries are vulnerable to climate change impacts such as flooding, are often inaccessible, undocumented, and rarely recognized as environmental justice concerns, until now. Recently, environmental justice activists have mobilized to resist a Formosa plant's siting close to a historic black cemetery in St James Parish. The authors hypothesized that the Formosa siting is not an isolated case but instead reflects a pattern of racialized multihazard exposure of African American people and cemeteries. They created a database of cemetery locations—many of which were previously unmapped—based on the race or ethnicity of those interred in two parishes. Then, they performed a spatial analysis comparing cemeteries' exposure to flood hazards and proximity to hazardous chemical sites based on racial makeup. Findings show that black cemeteries have more multihazard exposure than other cemeteries due to accessibility and flooding. Results indicate that racialized multihazard exposure of cemeteries should be an emerging concern of Gulf Coast disaster recovery planners and researchers.
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O artigo tem como objetivo a investigação da temática da preservação patrimonial no contexto das cidades inteligentes. As smart cities, ou cidades inteligentes, constituem uma proposta relativamente recente, cujos primeiros estudos datam da década de 1990, e que começou a se difundir a partir da década de 2010. Essas propostas visam transformar o espaço urbano e seus serviços de modo “inteligente”, com o uso das novas tecnologias da informação e comunicação (TICs), em vários campos de atuação, tais como saúde, mobilidade, segurança, dentre outros. Entretanto, observa-se nessas propostas uma abordagem quase inexistente a questões relacionadas ao patrimônio cultural, o que motivou o presente estudo. Para tanto, foi realizada uma revisão sistemática de literatura (RSL), contando com 56 publicações de diferentes países, conjunto que revela algumas questões importantes para o campo patrimonial frente a projetos de smartificação de cidades, como as que já vem ocorrendo no Brasil. Como conclusões, aponta-se a proposta desses estudos de constituição de uma nova forma de preservação patrimonial – o “patrimônio inteligente”, discutindo suas implicações, limitações e possibilidades.
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We should all become tourists in our own cities, surveying and enjoying the iconic, historic, and ordinary around us. Actually, we often do: imagining the landscapes of the past, mourning the loss of beloved elements of the urban landscape, and appreciating or disapproving of new development. However, the daily tours of our local habitat can become routinized. Even as we treasure the places around us, we may forget to consider the ways in which these buildings and landscapes will be preserved, adapted, or redeveloped into the future. In fact, we often have limited opportunities to affect the way our environment is adapted, and the occasions to share ideas about the future of existing buildings and landscapes may be few and far between. We may share photos of places we like on lnstagram or Facebook, but those images are rarely stitched together to form a collective plan. Community members may be asked to participate in visioning the future when land use plans are drafted for districts or even the whole city. However, the output of these planning processes are future land use maps that most often erase existing buildings and landscapes with abstract land use categories aimed at guiding new construction. Given the limitations of these planning processes, we may fail to see the potential for reinvestment in existing buildings. It is rare for a planning charrette to gather details from the public about the ways in which a building might be adaptively reused or to identify the small features of a building or landscape that might be incorporated into new development. Planning processes are often, by necessity, farsighted. This means that the built environment that exists now may be too close to build a clear, collective vision of incremental change or of alternatives for the near future.
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Commercial strips are ubiquitous elements of the American landscape. They offer important opportunities for inquiry into the ways in which cities are adapted, preserved, and redeveloped over time. This research examines the dynamics of reinvestment along central city commercial strips in Austin, Texas. Research was aimed at understanding the relationship between reinvestment in existing commercial buildings and larger processes of redevelopment and change along commercial strips undergoing transition. Case study commercial strips were selected that had been established in the early to mid-twentieth century and that had experienced decline and subsequent reinvestment. Historic patterns of land use, transportation, and economic trends are described and related to the relatively recent growth of concentrations of local businesses and reinvestment activity along case study commercial strips. “Core samples” of preservation and adaptive reuse were examined using spatial data, building surveys, historical data, and interviews with associated actors. Additional interviews were conducted with actors who have initiated, influenced, and regulated reinvestment, including business and property owners, developers, neighborhood activists, a media correspondent, city officials, among others. This research details the private, public, and community-based actors who shape the character of reinvestment; the influx of new businesses and retention of iconic businesses; and conflicts and negotiations at the edges of commercial and residential districts and between public and private sectors. The dissertation relates observations along Austin’s commercial strips to four themes identified in the literature and their associated views of improvement: 1. commercial strips as “wicked problems” of land use and transportation; 2. commercial strips as cultural landscapes and roadside heritage; 3. commercial strips as concentrations of commercial properties with opportunities for sustainability and retrofitting of commercial properties; and 4. commercial strips as contested arenas of gentrification. This research highlights the importance of understanding the durability of existing land development patterns and of incorporating an understanding of the continued and adaptive use of buildings and urban fabric in land use planning. It presents emerging opportunities for preservation practice beyond standard practices of survey and landmarking. It illustrates the many ways in which actors have agency, or “choreograph” change individually and collectively, in responding to opportunities and challenges presented in the context of social and economic change.
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Problem, research strategy, and findings: Historic preservation and planning often operate together in the United States within local planning departments, sharing some common roots and a "fragile, uneasy alliance" (Birch & Roby, 1984). Over time, developments in both preservation and planning brought these disciplines and professions closer together, including shared concern for sustainability and common ground in community economic development, revitalization, land use planning, and urban design. Simultaneously, areas of tension and potential conflict emerged. Some preservation-oriented scholars and practitioners call for the expansion of preservation's sphere of influence and concern, while others caution of negative effects. In this literature review, I identify areas of confluence and friction, as well as silences and gaps, focusing especially on planning and preservation literature since the 1980s. Takeaway for practice: Few scholars have identified what planners and preservationists (and those who do both) can learn from one another, with some important exceptions. Planning scholarship can benefit from understanding how preservation has changed in tandem and in relation to planning. Preservationists can gain much from incorporating contemporary planning theory, especially with regard to participation and building an equity agenda for preservation that builds from preservation's strengths and recent advances toward recognizing a wider, more representative set of historic resources. Both planners and preservationists can benefit from stronger alliances in which scholars and practitioners engage in deeper dialogues and exchange. This interdisciplinary collaboration can unite leadership and vision with regard to equity and social justice, with deeper place-based knowledge to improve the social, environmental, and economic health of communities.
The abundance of online public participation tools has made it difficult for planning organizations to decide which tool will best meet their needs. Understanding the benefits or challenges of specific tools, facilitation requirements, or how individual tools may best advance the public participation aims is not always easy. This article builds on theories of planning, organizations, and information science to discuss various factors that cities and planning organizations should consider in deciding whether and how they should choose online participatory tools. While the technical capability of online technologies in facilitating participation and decision making should be examined, the capability of planning organizations and communities in adopting these technologies should be considered as well. This article argues that planning organizations should choose a participation platform based on the capacities of their organization, the characteristics of the communities that are going to use the tool, user-community norms and rules, and the tool's capabilities.
Historic preservation has most often been thought of in terms of architecture and aesthetic appeal as opposed to a vehicle for economic development. Recently, it has been shown that a range of industries can be economically fortified by historic preservation. However, historic preservation has the capacity to do far more than just bring about positive economic outcomes in various industries. Using the cluster based economic development theory, this article will describe how a cohesive economic development effort, centered on historic preservation, can be an important part of a city’s economic development strategy. The article provides an overview of the tourism, environmental management, housing, and film making sectors in conjunction with a cluster based approach. This focus demonstrates how this approach can help cities increase inward investment and move away from imitation and toward innovation.