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October 26, 2005

Welcome to the Digital City -- Cleveland Hopkins Airport and OneCleveland

So what's next?

As I meet Clevelanders and others who have followed Case's leadership in the OneCleveland initiative from around the world, the number one question is -- so what's next? From my perspective this is a design question. I think it may be time to think about designing the digital city and no better place to start than the gateway to the digital city, with more than 12 million annual visitors, than Cleveland Hopkins airport. A quick re-hash for those who are reading about OneCleveland for the first time in this blog entry.

OneCleveland continues to be an important catalyst for innovation and engagement in the region. This past week OneCleveland, the region's community network initiative had visitors from the U.S. General Accounting Office as well as an invitations and visits to help colleagues in Syracuse, New York and Boston explore the viability of a OneSyracuse and OneBoston initiative. Cisco flew into town to secure video testimonials from Cleveland's civic leadership on OneCleveland for an executive briefing center "video experience" for higher education customers. Dozens of new community contacts approach OneCleveland on a weekly basis. The mayor of Groningen in the Netherlands has invited us to help them in December and on and on ....So what's next?

OneCleveland is community-owned fiber optics + private-pubic partnerships for last mile fiber solutions + a growing number of wireless clouds + an emerging community computing initiative + a fascinating exploration of next generation identity management in the digital city with both open source and vendor solutions + a growing portfolio of provocative application initiatives in the library, museum, school, health care, research, and e-government solutions. Most important, OneCleveland is an "idea" about a possible future based on open-source leadership and addressing community priorities. So what's next?

OK. ok. I don't actually know what's next for OneCleveland but as I noted from the top here's an idea about a critical engagement. The answer is Cleveland Hopkins airport. Now what's the question?

The Cleveland view of the World -- a quick diversion to philosophy and epistemology

From my vantage point our community is nearly obsessed with the question of identity. Who belongs? Where are the boundaries? What do we call ourselves? What's the brand? Our perspective is constructed from a distinctly 19th century self-image. We imagine ourselves in many ways as competing, pre-modern city-states with walled cities, centurions, with no roads leading in to or out of our cities, without tollways and identity passes. Who belong and what we are and what we call ourselves would be, in this construction of the world, is a relatively simple answer. But this is a horse and buggy view of the world. At best, it is a view of the world which persists in trying to fit "us" as the center of the universe (round peg/square hole). Very much an early 20th century fading memory in which all roads and waterways lead to our steel mills as the core of identity system and our sense of place and who belongs.

Much of the last half of the 20th and now the 21st century and beyond represents a radical departure from that construction of reality. Fifty years of inter-state transportation has made northeast Ohio, a 21st century version of a logistics center for ancient camel caravan routes. Overlaying that image is a growing reality that the 21st century transportation system will evolve from 18-wheel trucks to trillions of daily transactions representing pedabytes of data transported over fiber optics in which, again, we in northeast Ohio are strategically positioned. But our vantage point needs to be fundamentally altered. Our 19th and 20th century vantage point is, I would argue, informed by a tendency to seeing the world as working from a centripetal force (center seeking) in which the dynamics of economy, jobs, wealth, learning, research and so forth combine and congeal centrally to create an inward gravitational force that creates a homeginized whole. This view of the world is deeply embedded in the recesses of our mind and is, in a funny way, a residual artifact and construct whose origins can be traced to the ancient idea that the sun revolves around the earth. The most powerful positive force from this view of ourselves is the strong sense that a centralizing identity matters. It is also at odds with the way the world works today.

The underlying dynamic of the 21st century however is centrifugal in which the same mix of dynamics of economy, wealth, jobs, learning, research and so forth are "pumped out" over the infrastructure of that has enabled a global economy to become our "reality". That infrastruture is a combination of modern transportation systems, the most important of which is the emerging optical networking transportation service. Identity in this world is more complicated, if for no other reason than we have to transform our identities from something we know (even if we are looking in the rear view mirror) to something that we need to construct and lies over the horizon. So as to not leave the question dangling, place, community, and identity are very much at the heart of the 21st century challenge. It is however a view that challenges the idea that the "heart" is the center of our identity systems and begins to reposition the "heart" as a pump that delivers identity messages and vitality throughout our more complex identity systems.

So, why does all this matter and more importantly, what does this have to do with seeing Cleveland Hopkins as the next BIG project for OneCleveland?

Welcome to the Digital City

Notwithstanding the ingenuity and brilliance of urban planners, there are almost no meaningful gateways to the modern city. There may be a city center, vibrant, eclectic, generating buzz and a messy vitality but you can't get there from here unless you are already "there". In the modern cityscape, road systems find their origins in the 1950s and 1960s "escape from the city" with population centers dispersing to the suburbs and away from the toxic mix of social discord in the City. To be sure, new green spaces, parkways and pedestrian systems have lured people back to some well planned city renewal projects but there is still no overall city architecture that has let people meaningfully walk, ride or even drive into "the city" as an experience. Welcome to the City is now, in large measure, a piece of nostalgia with only small towns and villages being able to "welcome" you as you pass through or more likely by them on your way from point A to point B.

But the concept of gateway matters. The experience you have as you pass through a carefully architected gateway helps to fashion your sense of identity, collective values, opportunities, and ultimately your relationship to the people, places, and experiences around you. In the digital city of the future, the touch point experience for creating a sense of identity, a portal to the diversity of vitality of the city is the reinvention of the airport as "place".

On a college campus, ask most faculty or students about what place other than their office or dorm room they associate with the "heart" of the campus and most will say the Library. The library world, which has transformed itself to being much more than dusty stacks and a location for meeting (more people experience the library through the intranet campus network than walking through its doors), is and should be a sense of "place". The analog for the digital city, I think should be the airport.

Admittedly, most people think of Cleveland Hopkins airport as little more than a modern version of the greyhound bus station and a frustrating experience at that. It is, however, the most potent portal we have to creating a "welcome to the digital city" experience. More than twelve million people experience Cleveland Hopkins Airport on an annual basis. It should be the focus of our efforts to create a unique sense of place and experience to acquaint the visitor, to welcome the returning resident, to facilitate community, communication, and commerce.

Draw a circle of 50 miles (1 hour drive) around Cleveland Hopkins airport. Even though most of us see the airport as "on the margins", turned around and viewed as the center of our 21st century universe it is very much the gateway and "pump". Draw another circle with 400 miles (or about 1 hour flying time) from Hopkins and of course Hopkins is at the center of a lot more of our daily experience.

For sake of argument, grant me this proposition and let's briefly explore what can be done to refashion Cleveland Hopkins as the gateway to the digital city.

Experiencing the Airport of the Future Digital City

It's all about a bold experience. Coming and going. It's about entering the digital city as a knowledge center, as health care, as culture, art, parks and nature, water, entertainment, family, and it is the experience itself of entering or leaving the digital city. New York may never sleep, and what happens in Vegas may stay in Vegas but Cleveland is a Connected Community that is always "wired and turned on".

Let's begin by exploring how people get to and from the airport. The regional transit experience needs to be reinvented. Start by making all the red line services wirelessly enabled with free wi-fi access and then work with the airport to promote it as an integral part of the digital city experience.

Garage systems with intelligence on open/available parking spaces have been around for nearly a decade, maybe we should explore. Service from the garages to the terminal could perhaps also include a modern twist with concierge transportation services available.

What about valet drop off and pick up at Hopkins. That service has been around and could be enabled through simple SMS technology, a phone call, or other innovative approaches.

Let's re-invent the public art on display around the airport so it looks less like Northeast Ohio in 1953 and more like the region it is today. Specifically, let's commission with Cleveland Public Art to secure a local and international set of artists who want to use Cleveland Hopkins as a digital canvass for digital art. Cleveland Museum of Contemporary Art is bringing an extraordinary exhibition of all digital art to MOCA in January, why not look for permanent installations along with shorter installations with artists from around the world who want to exhibit in the digital city.

We need music and libraries and movie theaters for shorts at Cleveland Hopkins. Live music, some of which can be digital, a branch of the Cuyahoga Library supporting its innovative ebooks, e-audio books, and now its pathbreaking work to deliver e-videos should all be "launched" at Cleveland Hopkins. Personal or small audience digital theaters should be established to showcase local digital movie shorts from both professional and amateur videographers. The Cleveland International film festival should have a small program at Hopkins. The same could be said for the outstanding folks festivals in the region, opera, house of blues, and chamber music. Why not have a presentation series at the airport in terminal "C" on Monday and Wednesday, in Terminal "B" on Thursday and in the waiting area on Friday, and in the concourse over the weekend. Let's share with 12 million people what makes northeast Ohio rock!

We need art at the Cleveland Hopkins. The Cleveland Museum of Art could create an experience over the next two years to both inform the public of its renovation efforts and also deliver art education and art experiences. The amazing installations that CMA exhibited at this year's Ingenuity Festival could be part of the Art program at Hopkins. MOCA could commission local digital artists.

Let's explore a regional museum and hall of fame annex at Hopkins. Inventors, Football, Rock, Western Historical, Great Lakes Science Center to name a few. The facility could be both a "taste of Cleveland" (more on that in a minute) as well as a chance to explore interactive programming with educators and curators.

Talking about food, this may not be hightech but somehow we've got to do better in creating a food experience at Hopkins than the mall eateries and collection of jams and syrups. When I smell grilled onions, perogies, gyros, falafels, and good knockwurst at Hopkins, along with a requisite amount of healthy food, I'll know I am in Cleveland.

Cleveland's world-class health care providers should have a real presence at Hopkins and not just still photography. Why not set up some sort of healthcare service at the airport. No one's ever done that? Why not look to create a Cleveland Health Care Urgent Care facility at airports around the country modeled after whatever it is that we can dream up at Hopkins. It should be projecting our high technology health care offering, because that is precisely what our providers give us every day at our hospitals and clinics. Lets just bring health care options to 12 million visitors.

I have encouraged Cleveland's Convention and Visitors Bureau to see the "welcome to the digital city" at Hopkins as an initiative worth pursuing. I arrive into Cleveland and at the welcome desk (that today looks like it must have in 1964) I might see a bank of interactive video conference screens with each of the major hotels in town. A concierge greets me (maybe in a tuxedo) and invites me to have an interactive quick video call with my hotel in downtown or in Akron or Beachwood. I can tell the hotel that I have arrived and that I am either looking for a ride, or that I am looking for tickets to a show, or an update on a meeting taking place and so forth. The experience could be enabled with modest investments and create a unique service to the business traveler.

What about a personal gps enabled device for frequent users of the airport. I arrive back into town and I land at gate D17. Bummer. I agree to meet my wife at the Continental luggage area. A video screen at luggage displays in alphabetical order (real name or handle) that tells a visitor both in the luggage area and/or perhaps curbside my estimated time to arrival for pick up.

What about a "I missed the plane" luggage report that could be displayed in the luggage area reporting all the luggage that didn't quite make the handoff at Chicago O'Hare and is displayed for customers as they enter the luggage area (rather than waiting for 45 minutes before beginning the claim). And what about a more efficient way to attend to the claim?

What about a digital gaming room at Hopkins? Maybe one exists. Could be a lot of fun as well.

Leaving town for Vegas, LA, Cancun, or Toronto, why not explore networked video displays at each gate area that gives me the weekly chamber of commerce line up of activities, festivals, and special events in those towns. No service like that exists? OK. maybe that's a business waiting to happen.

The walls on those long concourses could certainly be a huge opportunity for creating the experiences we're after. Live videocams of our County Parks with families cross country skiing, tobogganing, hiking, or kayaking or swimming. Live shots of our CityTV van moving through the region with local stories and supported by local businesses. Sports, music, democracy walls with floor to ceiling live text and video feeds from major news sources around the world, and some of the video footage from the rock halls induction ceremonies along with digital walls for professional services and venue information could be part of a moving experience through the tunnel between terminals D&C and of course along the rest of the Hopkins complex.


The last stream of conscientiousness was just a 15 minute off the top of my head set of ideas that if they are bad belong entirely to me and if they are good, I'm sure I got them from someone else.

I think there is an imperative to rethink place in the digital city. Cleveland Hopkins can be the center of our region and the gateway to our digital cities. This doesn't mean that local communities are swept away. Hopkins is however, in the 21st century our community access portal to all that makes our individual neighborhoods unique and special. Of course, if only 10 percent of this kind of effort were to take place we need bold leadership, money, and a plan. OneCleveland helps us imagine what is possible and can very much help bring many of the right resources to join the leadership of the airport authority together to help imagine, design, fund, and build our gateway to our digital city.

Posted by lsg8 at October 26, 2005 04:20 AM and tagged Bytes 

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