Interplace explores the interaction of people and place. It looks at how we move within and between the places we live and what led us here in the first place. I’ll investigate the natural and manmade systems that govern our interactions with the world and how much of it we influence versus being influenced by it. We like to think we’re in control, but our environment alone determines so much about where we can live, how we move, how we thrive, and who will survive.
Our lives are influenced by large interdependent systems made up of billions of interactions out of which other systems emerge. All it took was a microscopic virus to grow exponentially around the world and suddenly interactions between people and place are forever changed. So are public and economic policies, global supply chains, cities, regions, and the histories they all hold as new ones unfold. We’ve never witnessed such a profound change to the interaction of people and place. And we’re still adapting.
I spent my career designing complex software systems for hundreds of millions of people around the world that are still in use today. I know how a small change can have a big impact on the attitudes, perception, reasoning, and successes of navigating and interacting with a complex system. I have played a small role in how the world works on their computer and can see how that work has influenced the world.
My focus now is on human-world interaction. Every month I will explore these systems and the symbiotic interactions that feed them. I’ll feature a long essay at the end of the month with with shorter topical pieces and discussions every week. Subjects will be broken down by season exploring these four overlapping facets that influence how we interact and move about the world: Winter - Behavior, Spring - Cartography, Summer - Environment, and Fall - Economics. Join me on the journey.
I grew up in Norwalk, Iowa; home to two superheroes: Aquaman and Superman. Look it up. Ok, three superheroes if you count me. But the west is the best, so I moved to Colorado State to start, then to California where I got a degree in geography at the University of California, Santa Barbara. I then landed a job in Santa Barbara doing 3D graphics software development and eventually moved to Washington state.
I’ve worked at this little startup called Microsoft since 1992. I started out poking pixels, but got a break designing the ruler in Word in ‘93. It’s still used today. I went on to define and refine the design and user research disciplines at Microsoft. Some say I’m The Bill Gates of Design. Thanks, Mom.
Yes, I worked on Clippy. It’s a long story. In fact, I worked on every release of Office from 1992-2007 and then a little bit on Windows. Designing complex software like Office and Windows, for billions of people around the world, is heady stuff for a cornfed head from Iowa. But I’ve learned more than most about how people interact, and wrestle, with complex systems.
But, hey, the world is melting, our cities are stuffed, our streets are clogged, and I’m a geography major. It’s superhero time. So I sharpened my pencils, got a master’s degree in sustainable transportation at the University of Washington, and am here to save the day. I’m still at Microsoft working out ways to use edge and cloud technologies to solve our mobility problems.
If designing ubiquitous software that people love to hate has taught me one thing, it’s humility. I can’t save the day alone, I need you. Join me on this journey as we move about connecting the complexities of human behavior and the interactions that influence us and move us.
Along for the ride will be my wife and two kids. I may get distracted walking, swimming, skiing, sailing, cooking, drawing, playing piano, or pulling my namesake out of the ground, but I promise to share my adventures.
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I’ll do one long essay once a month and then weekly topical posts. I’ll also invite discussion so that people can interact from whatever place in the world they may be. Tell your friends.