This post highlights one of the presentations to be made at the National Association for Olmsted Parks‘ Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: Inspirations for the 21st Century – A Vision for the American West symposium at Stanford University on March 27-28, 2014. ASLA is a symposium partner.
Tuning into Social Media Emanating from Parks and Open Spaces
Stories pour out of parks every day. In California, we’re listening at parks.stamen.com. From family vacations in a national park to mornings at the dog run and lazy days on the beach, Californians live their lives outdoors—and share their experiences online on Twitter, Flickr, Instagram, and Foursquare.
Working with Stamen Design in San Francisco, we’ve taken the actual shape of every park in California and used it as a window to watch and listen to social media streaming out of every park and open space in the state. From the tiny, urban pocket park down the street to huge Stanislaus National Forest—the state’s biggest!—this project bears witness to a simple story a million different ways: parks are part of people’s lives in California.
We hope that this project helps connect Californians with their parks—from the liveliest and loudest to the quiet and secluded—and that park rangers, managers, and advocates find these stories and connect with the Californians who use and love their parks.
We’ll be unveiling parks.stamen.com at the National Association for Olmsted Parks‘ Frederick Law Olmsted Jr.: Inspirations for the 21st Century – A Vision for the American West symposium at Stanford University on March 27, 2014. The setting is appropriate. Olmsted conducted a statewide survey and created the first plan for the California State Park system in 1929. Today that system is in crisis. In recent years, the state parks agency has been plagued by financial and management problems. A blue ribbon commission is currently holding hearings around the state to map out a path to sustainability for state parks.
The parks.stamen.com application enables policymakers, managers, and advocates to see what people are doing and saying in the normal course of their interactions with parks and open spaces managed by dozens of agencies, from national parks to state parks, regional parks to neighborhood parks. And it allows park visitors to express themselves and be heard—without having to go to an official hearing.
We are also introducing the idea of using the National Parks Service’s four-letter identifiers—much like airport codes—as hashtags so people can mark their content in a specific park. And we’re bringing those hashtags to thousands of other parks and open spaces. The parks.stamen.com application is in test phase right now as we roll it out and talk about it with park managers, rangers, educators, advocates, and users.
I’ll be presenting this work at the Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. symposium, along with City Nature—a research project at Stanford and UCLA that uses data visualization, mapping, and text mining techniques to explore the past, present, and future of parks and nature in cities. The City Nature project has set the stage for important research and scholarship in urban and environmental planning, conservation science, geography, urban and environmental history, and analysis of the linguistic and literary patterns in a variety of sources through which people and communities express and enact their views of nature from city centers to the most remote wilderness.
by Jon Christensen, an editor of Boom: A Journal of California; columnist for LA Observed; and adjunct assistant professor, journalist-in-residence, and senior researcher in the Institute of the Environment and Sustainability, the California Center for Sustainable Communities, the Department of History, and the Center for Digital Humanities at the University of California, Los Angeles