Hot or Not: Urban Planning Edition
February 21, 2012
Before Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg launched a Hot or Not-type website that got him into trouble with the Harvard administrative board. Remember? After picking a fight with his girlfriend, who promptly dumps Zuck’s condescending arse, and returning home to post an irate and petty blog post (livejournal!) about the incident, we watch the budding Time person of the year aggressively code his way past privacy barricades on his way to building Facemash, a site which pitted photos of two Harvard girls against each other, with students ranking them according to levels of “hotness.” Whether the events actually unfolded in the manner of a Hollywood bank heist doesn’t matter because that’s how they did for most of us. Thanks to “The Social Network”, we see Mark Zuckerberg but we hear Jesse Eisenberg.
But back to Facemash. The site model may seem a bit antiquated (the dubious ethics behind its content is beyond dispute at this point), but here we are, with Beautiful Streets, which pairs two randomly selected Philadelphia streets and asks the user to decide which is more beautiful. ”What makes a beautiful street, or a pleasant neighborhood?,” the site asks. “Maybe that’s hard to define, but can you tell a beautiful place from somewhere that’s not so hot?” What turns out to be another outlet of fleeting distraction can actually provoke some interesting insights. When presented, for example, with a shabby collection of old row homes or immaculate suburban lawns, do you immediately go for the “urban” street or for the cul-de-sac, and why? Are you faced with the dilemma of restraining your nostalgic or base aesthetic impulses in favor of your educated opinions? Maybe? OpenPlans, the makers behind Beautiful Streets, want to see how digital tools such as Street View help shape urban planning projects. The group also hopes to “experiment” with the data it collects from user responses (like Zuckerberg?) and posts the results on the site for all to download (definitely not like Zuckerberg).