Watch for wiki
By now I would guess that most of the plugged-in world, including the nongeek contingent, is aware of the Wikipedia concept: building an encyclopedia by accretion, with all comers invited to add bits and pieces of information about the topic at hand. The result is as wide-ranging, comprehensive, and frustrating as the Internet itself. You might end knowing more about a topic than you ever imagined possible—and more misinformation about it as well.
Don't look now but, for better or worse, wiki is coming to architecture and planning. Recently, the highly interesting online newsletter WorldArchitectureNews.com had an item from Finland, where journalist Tommi Melajoki interviewed the architectural student at Helsinki University of Technology spearheading the idea, Peter Tattersall. Tattersall's idea would be to ask Helsinki city planners trying to provide affordable communities for the elderly to invite citizens themselves to join in the planning. They would quite literally use building blocks, assembling them at various public meetings to develop and grow their ideas. Tattersall sees this approach eventually moving from the literal to the virtual world, with seniors and other citizens contributing planning and building ideas online. Though Tattersall didn't say as much, this could be another iteration of the “Second Life” phenomenon—an online virtual community where visitors build and live in cities (and fantasylands) of their own devising, using their personal avatars.
Yes, it does seem a bit strange, bringing up an idea like this so soon after publishing the Architectural Showcase issues of HEALTHCARE DESIGN, where the professionals of healthcare design put their best foot forward in a big way. No doubt many of these projects incorporated some wiki-type elements, with staff and patients contributing ideas via planning discussions and mock-up rooms—there's really nothing new about that. But today's technology promises to expand that process geometrically.
Technology—for example, building information modeling (BIM)—is making it increasingly possible for anyone with computer access to contribute ideas to the design process in real time. And the wiki concept itself isn't going to go away, with today's surging interest in grassroots empowerment in many fields.
So, when you hear that knock on your door (or clink on your cathode), I submit that it just might be the sound of a fast-arriving future that we should all start thinking about. HD
Richard L. Peck, Editor-in-Chief
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Healthcare Design 2008 November;8(11):8