Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Where do you want to meet?

This post is really a "what have I been up to lately" post. 

And the answer is: Not blogging, for one.  At least not blogging recently. 

I did go see US Senate Democratic challenger Elizabeth Warren face-off against incumbent Republican Scott Brown last night up in Lowell, courtesy of her regional coordinator James Hutchinson who kindly invited me and gave me a ticket. 

Mind if we snap a photo while you wait?

Scott Brown has the ignominious quality of having defeated Angus McQuilken for the state senate seat vacated by Cheryl Jacques about ten years ago now.  It was a sad, unhappy and unfortunate outcome, with the knock-on effect that Scott Brown is now our federal representative.  To be honest, remembering all those years ago, the district was always basically Republican even though Democrat Jacques held onto it for many years.

Fast forward to 2012, and Warren held her own and more last night, through the bogus charges about her Native American heritage, and "whose side was she on" in the asbestos claims.  All lawyers are taught to make a case.  Brown is a crafty pol and a skilled debater.  He's no slouch, and he's reaching for his tar and feathers and brush.  But she's no slouch either, and wisdom is that things are tilting Dem in this state as in many states.  As one pundit said the other day, "the race is hers to lose".  Turn out the vote is all I can urge.  Turn out the damn vote.

But that, for all its inherent interest, is not why I write.  Why I write is that a group I am connected with -- planners and architects (see our website here) -- is about to start a study, using software provided by OpenPlans called ShareAbouts (thank you Ellen McDermott), to map places where people meet.  We've chosen Kendall Square in Cambridge as our target area. Click here to see our map.

Why is this important?  Well, if you're interested in innovation, and who in Cambridge is not interested in innovation, then who you're talking to, and when, and where and how, all become part of the discussion of the likelihood that you'll have a new idea.  It seems crazy, but that may actually be the point.  It is crazy, and that is what makes it worthwhile.

The best description I've heard is that innovation is decontextualization.  Now, that's a very MIT Media Lab way of saying it, but it's a good insight. Taking things out of one context and putting them into another context and seeing what that tells you is perhaps the best way to come to a new idea.  Or maybe it is the most predictable way to come to a new idea.  In any event, hearing what others think is one way to do this.  And the best way to hear what they think is to see them in person, to get the full richness of their person.  All of it very interesting.  Click on those links above to learn more.