Thursday, August 24, 2006

Back to the Future

Many of you have seen this already. But one of those projects that will never be finished is an attempt to make some sense of the old papers/reports and sundry research that fills my office. There is just an immense amount of stuff that has been done in the past that is just lost from the region's collective memory. That would be ok except we have such a strong predilection to repeat the past. To address this I am slowing trying to scan and sort some of these reports, at least the ones that exist in my office. The general reference for what I have so far is online at:

Like I said, its a work in progress, but I thought I would point out three things I scanned this week. Each is 20 years old or more, but these are remarkable if only because one could write these same reports today. Barring a few tweaks and name changes, they would still be apropos. These three reports are:

Strategy 21. Pittsburgh/Allegheny Economic Development Strategy to begin the 21st CENTURY. a proposal to the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania by the City of Pittsburgh, Allegheny County, The University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University. June 1985

High Tech; Future Over the Next Decade in Western Pennsylvania. Roger S. Ahlbrandt Jr. Associate Provost. University of Pittsburgh. Paper Presented at "The Global Economy" The Third Annual COnference on Industry and Society, Indiana University of Pennsylvania. October 24-26, 1984.

A Cry for Leadership. Roger S. Ahlbrandt Jr. Associate Provost. University of Pittsburgh. Presented at the Joint Ventures in Housing and Economic Development Conference. Co-Sponsored by U.S. Deparment of HUD and ACTION-Housing, Inc. October 23, 1984.

I could point out interesting or at least ironic facts from each of these.. but the Strategy21 document from 1984 does have as it's main transportation priority as building something named the Mon Valley Highways... which would beget the Mon Valley Expressway. It's interesting for a lot of reasons, but does point out how most of the key decisions for that were made decades ago.

If you have read all that.. you may be interested in a more systematic attempt to sort out the history of economic development literature in the region. The best place for that is the Regional Economic Development Bibliography and Data Base (TRED/Biblio) which was put together by Jim DeAngelis and Sabina Deitrick. If there are any wayward funders out there, I would love to both update that database and also make it available in a searchable online database as well. Any takers?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope this provides a foundation of knowledge and not a gordian knot of public policy. Is there someone out there willing to read the lot of it and let me know?

I do see a problem in that all of the information comes from officialdom. Your call of course. Any non-official proposals or commentary would also be hard to find. I did a brief search for Pfaffman + Associates alternative to the Mon Fayette Expressway and couldn't find it.

I'd still hold to Patrick Geddes' precept to "survey, survey, survey." That is, to make decisions we should observe current conditions and behavior.

I'm sure you're assuming a balance of going to the literature and observation, but perhaps a critical bibliography is needed to guide us neophytes.

It would be great, Chris, if you did all the work and created such a thing; but perhaps this might be an opportunity for a wiki. Mark Rauterkus has even created one:

But, you know me, I've drunk the cluetrain/distributed solution Kool-Aid.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 10:28:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

Why does Roger Ahlbrandt count as officialdom? becasue of his association with the university? It that is it, it would be hard to find anyone who is not similarly tainted. Roger (who has passed away unfortunately) was one of the last great people who focused academically on neighborhood/community issues both here and in general. and he is kind of harsh on the local powers that be in that one paper that reads more like a speech.

the link to Sabina and Jim's work is just such a bibliography you ask about.. unless you mean something different.

we do surveys here.. a lot of surveys mind you. No survey is really meaningul without proper context.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 2:59:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Am sorry about the loose classification of Roger Ahlbrandt as an official. Only knew of him remotely, and thought it was interesting that he did research on neighborhoods and communities.

Skimming through the TRED/Biblio I'm thinking it's more comprehensive than what I was thinking of. It was written in 1994 on documents from 1990 and before, so you're probably right when you say it needs updated/updating.

Regards your final statement, "No survey is really meaningful without proper context," I must say that one of the best things about Nullspace is that you sometimes present maps without "proper context." It sometimes eggs on those of us in the peanut gallery.

On consideration, I'm looking for information that I find interesting and resonant, that leads to coalescence and action, rather than trying to prescribe research methodology. Am also sorry if my comments seemed presumptuous.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 5:00:00 PM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

How about creating a Wiki for updating the bibliography? That way others could help with the work load, chiming in with updates along the way.

Friday, August 25, 2006 2:10:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sounds good to me. Basically, I see creating something with links to documents and thumbnail reviews of documents. What should we call it?

Friday, August 25, 2006 9:15:00 AM  
Blogger Jim Russell said...

We have Wiki!

Installing this involved a server migration and host of admin problems, but the Wiki has landed.

On to more important things, like the name. When I Google "WikiBurgh", nothing comes up. Same goes for "WikiPittsburgh". I didn't check, but I'd bet that those domains are available as well.

Friday, September 01, 2006 2:24:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I pasted a couple of things in.

Friday, September 01, 2006 9:50:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

. . . including a Critical Bibliography page.

Friday, September 01, 2006 9:55:00 AM  
Blogger C. Briem said...

guys... I appreciate that and am flattered you think some stuff I have should go up there. I will see what I can do. Honestly I have to admit I am a little dubious that this will take off only because I think the audience for this stuff is so limited. The 3 of us in town who would want to read that, let alone contribute, may not be critical mass... but lets see.

Saturday, September 02, 2006 9:45:00 AM  

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