DR. BO ZHANG
Assistant Professor // Oklahoma State University Landscape Architecture
Smart Landscape, Compacted Landscape: Critically Engaging Social Media to Understand Open Space Publicity
How can public open space be scrutinized for its profound impact on contemporary social life? How can new forms of communication and publishing in the digital age bring considerable intellectual weight to the topics of today? How can public space planners and designers be supportively informed instead of desperately overwhelmed by today’s massive amounts of information? And how can landscape architects penetrate the surface of design vocabulary to reconstruct symbolism and to exert social impacts on the society?
This presentation answers these questions by relating social media to landscape architects, as a resource, a method, and a take-off board. Social media, voluntarily and openly posted by public space users, lends landscape architects a huge set of efficient, and ever-growing data to better understand outdoor publicity. Compared to conventional methods, such as survey and on-site observations, social media data not only contains a large amount of records and participants, but also suggests a financially economic and less time-consuming method to view the usage and perception about public open spaces. To be seriously informed, landscape architects may need to switch their roles related to social media, from pure users to readers, interpreters, and critics.
Having developed a series of social media textural and imagery analytic methods, this speaker rewrites immediate histories of public places with advanced richness and complexity. Unveiled here are diverse usage patterns of several well-known open spaces, such as the Seattle Freeway Park, Fort Worth Water Gardens, and Bryant Park in New York City. The unprecedented clarity, depth, and comprehension may allow our future thinkers to tackle issues, problems, and failures。 Social media data needs to be read and interpreted with critical minds, using both statistical analysis and phenomenal interpretation. A Confederate monuments redesign project is examined in this regard.
To sum up, landscape architects should be at the forefront of reckoning with social and environmental aspects of the designed outdoor environment. This suggests an updated professionalism for landscape architects. Social media, as voluntarily posted data mirroring people’s voices, should be strategically and critically employed to better understand and contextualize as we try to understand how the outdoor environment is used and point toward what it should be.