GeoWeb 2.0

On day one of the 2010 GeoDesign Summit, Michael Gallis discusses GeoWeb 2.0 and its relation to GeoDesign principles and practice.

Jan 6th, 2010

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00:01I'd like to say that I think this issue of GeoDesign, what we've seen today... an important and profound step forward.

00:10But I think the challenge for us is to become relevant.

00:15And relevant to what?

00:17Well, this morning's speaker, the dean from Minnesota, outlined a global problem...

00:23...with the collapse of the environment threat and its implications to humans.

00:29But I felt that his explanation was, in fact, very mild.

00:33Because our firm has been involved with a number of government agencies including NOAA...

00:37...the Forest Service, and others, within which it is clear that the problem... greater than any of us in this room really imagined.

00:45And it's moving at a pace faster than any of us imagined.

00:49The issue is, are we keeping pace with the rate of change in the world...

00:55...or do we think the world is changing at our rate of speed?

00:59It's not.

01:01And what are the tools we need?

01:05You know, a decade ago, it was explained to me there is a great deal of difference...

01:14...between service providers and deal makers.

01:19And in a search to become more relevant to the process, I embarked on becoming a developer.

01:27And I had to put together my first deal.

01:31And in doing that, I had to discuss with a friend...

01:33...who I knew from real estate to put that deal together...

01:36...and I remember telling him I wanted to be a partner in a deal...

01:39...and I felt if I was a partner in the deal, instead of just being hired as a designer...

01:44...for the deal that I would have more influence on its outcome.

01:49And I remember him looking at me and saying well, you know... could be a partner in a deal... get your 3 percent or 4 percent or whatever you architects get.

01:56And I remember looking at him saying, no, I don't want 3, 4 percent, I want 50 percent.

02:01And he looked at me and his eyes got bigger...he says, oh, you mean you want to be a partner.

02:07And I said yeah.

02:09And I had to go through the process of becoming a partner and learn how that was done.

02:16And I remember after becoming that, we were putting together one part of it...

02:19...and we had to do some work with another development corporation...

02:22...we were trying to work out the deal, the joint venture.

02:25And I was trying to emphasize the importance of design.

02:29And I remember the fellow turned to me and looked at me and said, he says... sound like an architect.

02:36He says, you keep talking like that, no one's going to take you seriously.

02:41He said, this is about money.

02:43He said, come on, Mike, get real.

02:47Now, later in the process I was at the Real Estate Institute in New York...

02:52...we were doing projects in the State of New Jersey...

02:53...looking at a tristate organization and its infrastructure needs...

02:59...and trying to link in the real estate community to that.

03:01And I remember sitting in a room about a month after 9/11.

03:06And the dean I was working there...assistant dean, got a call from Larry Silverstein.

03:11You know, he's the guy that owned the towers.

03:12And they were having the conversation about the rebuilding of the tower...

03:15...and the problems involved.

03:16And probably you don't realize, the biggest problem was the HR problem.

03:19Nobody wanted to work in the towers, because how would you like to work in a new building...

03:24...sitting on the graves with 3,000 people beneath you?

03:27It's a huge problem.

03:30And after that, somehow they must have got...I could only hear the dean...

03:34...I couldn't hear what Larry was saying.

03:36And the...and the dean one point, they must have been talking about...

03:41...the design of the towers, whatever.

03:42Because he said, don't worry about that, we'll get a name and dress it up.

03:49Well, that's what we are.

03:51We're a name, and we dress things up.

03:55And that's an error very profoundly important to the process.

04:00We are only marginally relevant to the major issue of our time...

04:05...the transformation of the globe, the transformation of the environment...

04:09...the threats to our own society.

04:14Now, two years ago I had an opportunity to be an advisor... the presidential panel on infrastructure.

04:20There was 12 CEOs appointed by the president, Senate, and the House, chaired by the secretary.

04:27And a huge issue on the table, the evolution of the system, because the federal government...

04:31...the Bush administration wanted to get out of it, versus a national plan and strategy.

04:37Huge, two polar opposites.

04:41Four appointed by the president plus the secretary, two by the Senate...four by the Senate...

04:45...four by the House. Which eight...nine were Republicans, four were Democrats.

04:51It seemed like a slam-dunk.

04:54The evolution on its way. doing that, they had organized eight study groups.

05:04Roads, freight rail, transit, intermodal, technology, safety...all chaired by experts in their field.

05:13And they asked me to come in and do a background for them.

05:18And I talked about the U.S. in the global economy and what kind of infrastructure do we need?

05:25Because it wasn't about solving a problem in roads or transit, that.

05:29It's what does the nation need?

05:33So they...they created a ninth area.

05:35They called it the big picture.

05:38What does the U.S. need?

05:39What a novel question to ask.

05:42Because they were in there solving problems, not asking where we're going.

05:49And at the end of the day, we had a remarkable event take place.

05:56Five Democrats voted with four Republicans for a national plan and national strategy.

06:04And actually said it was for the good of the nation.

06:08Now if you can imagine Washington, anybody doing anything for the good of the Washington...

06:13...for the good of the country, you must believe in the Tooth Fairy and Santa Claus.

06:18They worry about doing things good for the Republican Party and the Democratic Party.

06:22Nobody gives a crap about the good of the nation.

06:25So when they did that it was kind of an awesome...went around Washington, reverbera...what happened?

06:31It was done with pictures. With pictures!

06:37Because we're not treating this correctly.

06:41We're making pictures.

06:42Now we're making 3D pictures.

06:45But...and we call it visualization.

06:48I kind of hate that word.

06:51We think of language as words made of alphabets.

06:55We think of mathematics, a language made of numbers.

06:59This is a language.

07:01A visual language.

07:04We must transform it from pictures into a language of communication.

07:08What convinced those guys to vote that way was not oceans of statistics and words... was pictures of a global network.

07:17It was a sequence of images.

07:20And we now have in front of us a tool that can increase the levels of dimensionality...

07:24...think of that.

07:27Increased dimensionality, increased connectivity.

07:33Rather than fragments, we can now see continuously.

07:36And the connections and the dynamics of the interaction.

07:40But to be in...a language, it must have structure and syntax, and it must convey meanings... must not just be sounds and babble.

07:51We have to think about constructing a language...

07:55...using GeoDesign as a tool to construct a language.

08:00Because I have found throughout this entire process, it wasn't sitting as a partner in a deal.

08:09It wasn't being an advisor.

08:11It was about the way you convey information.

08:16And business leaders and political leaders don't have time.

08:23And the power of image is that it can convey relationships immediately and instantaneously.

08:34And I would like to see us think about the work we do...

08:38...which has such great meaning but is not taken so seriously.

08:43About the tools we need, in fact, to produce change.

08:49I think this offers a great step.

08:53Let's help it evolve and turn it into something that will be truly meaningful.

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