Fake Omaha Project Central


Comprehensive FAQ

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18. What are Fake Omaha's "community values"?

Within Fake Omaha the city, we let stories and triumphs define the community's values.

Before turning those details loose, we ensure that they're supportive of our basic project values. We admit, this answer will reveal some of our personal leanings. But we would not be investing so much time in Fake Omaha unless we had some sincere convictions:

First, there are no silver bullets. Complex problems have complex solutions. The point of this project is to work through every layer of that. One-fell-swoop "solutions" – be they malls or casinos or stadiums or sporting events – have failed time and again; we will not consider them for serious use in Fake Omaha. Silver bullet projects do appear in our context, but only to contrast with comprehensively conceived, better thought-out solutions.

Second, we love entrepreneurs. Great cities are bursting with great ideas – applied in small businesses, big businesses, schools, clinics, non-profit organizations, and even municipal governments. We do everything we can to encourage ideas. When the climate is ripe for ideas, cities develop a powerful momentum that catapults them to new levels. True to the detailed nature of this project, we aim to apply solutions with an entrepreneurial spirit: they start with a big, inspiring vision – and they take shape through a keen, responsible path of actions. When they succeed, everyone who worked at them reaps the rewards.

Third, we do not undercut the value of public services. Though taken for granted where they function well, strong public services are the building blocks of a healthy, pro-entrepreneurial environment. This is the reason that all of our core issues are public matters.

As part of this principle, we believe in a sensible balance of private and public. In the last 20 years or so, these two genres have tangled into a totally illogical flip-flop – governments have become heavily influential in private endeavors, and corporations have been asked to manage inherently unprofitable public endeavors. Both camps have couched this in the language of "public-private partnerships". It's a broad concept with some merit – but too often, it's a sly way of saying "clueless politicians and uncreative businesspeople."

We don't apologize for wasteful, inefficient governments. But we also don't believe in leadership by lowest bidder. To be clear, we see boundless opportunities for business and government to collaborate. But there's an idea afoot that private money and private initiative can completely replace public money and public commitment. In Fake Omaha, we work actively to combat this futile trend.

Without extending our editorial too much further, we'll describe our principles with one word: levelheaded. We're not communists, we're not libertarians. Hard-line views – at either extreme – will not fit with the direction and intent of this project.

As for the whole project, many "layers" of Fake Omaha are free of political implication. Even if you're staunchly opposed to our values, you can still find an in that will color the project as it builds your portfolio.

19. What are your credentials?

We place a higher value on credibility than we do on credentials.

Lowering the hurdle for idea cultivation is a key goal of Fake Omaha. We don't believe that an advanced degree, an inch-thick CV, or strategic political connections automatically make one person's ideas better than someone else's.

We highlight bold but practical ideas that would stand up in the real world. By insisting on a high level of detail, we stimulate our participants to understand the full range of complexity surrounding their interest. We encourage new and eye-opening perspectives. We're fond of conversations, photographs, field trips, good questions, unstructured research, crash-course experience and anecdotal evidence – the types of fact-gleaning that don't always fit into a syllabus.

This method generates ideas that aren't just thorough and logical – they're motivated. With the right blend of investigation, participation and care, anyone is capable of producing a valid idea.

A few years ago, our friend Greg Graves summed up that outlook rather poetically: "Education is always a result of passion, but passion isn't always a result of education." Those words have inspired us ever since.

20. Do you really think your offbeat approach would work in real life?

It already does.

A while before Fake Omaha began, we felt an itch to chip away at some longtime challenges in our communities. We formed two organizations – they do two very different things, but they both embody the Fake Omaha spirit:

Summer in the City — a non-profit group dedicated to improving the community service experience. Every year, Summer in the City connects thousands of volunteers to memorable, meaningful service projects – painting, planting, construction, mentorship, just to name a few. Through a carefully crafted operations model and a fun, flexible format, Summer in the City has made a visible impact in the communities it serves. It has also inspired countless young people to see community service in a positive light.

airBus — an upstart transit system to connect a major university and an international airport. For heavy travel seasons, airBus coordinates a complex scheme involving as many as 20 buses, 30 employees, and thousands of customers at a time. Implemented by students, airBus is a lesson in planning, financing, marketing and management – not to mention a preferred transportation choice for almost 14 percent of the student body. airBus is a non-profit effort, but it runs with strong business principles and a relentless focus on efficiency.

Summer in the City and airBus afford their "participants" a chance to activate passion. They are both ventures of trial and error – while we enjoy ourselves, we also learn. Most of all, these are living, breathing organizations. They continue to succeed and grow – proof that freeform, DIY problem-solving can accomplish real goals. Fake Omaha is deeply rooted in this belief.

Be sure to draw the right conclusion from this answer. We're not claiming to be smarter or better or more enlightened than anyone else. What we -are- saying is that when many forces told us we couldn't, we did. You can, too.

21. Can I read more?


Fake Omaha has been featured in numerous art and urban planning publications. All of these pieces give excellent previews of the map and/or project:

Goodspeed Update (December 2007) — an in-depth interview that largely inspired this website. Posted on a resource-rich planning blog with informed, stimulating discussion on a variety of city issues. (thanks to Rob Goodspeed)

ESOPUS Magazine (April 2007) — a short interview and extended graphic spread with various hand-drawn maps. In its stunning twice-yearly editions, ESOPUS features mixed-media art and creative expression. (thanks to Fritz Swanson, Jason Polan and Tod Lippy)

TripleCanopy Online Magazine (June 2009) — maps, artifacts and other "windows" into the daily life of Fake Omaha. TripleCanopy is an innovative online publication featuring different themes in every release. (thanks to Rachel Aviv)

LSA Magazine (May 2010) — photos and interview about Fake Omaha, airBus and putting personal interests to work. LSA Magazine is the alumni magazine of the College of Literature, Science & Arts at the University of Michigan. (thanks to Fritz Swanson)

I-D Magazine (September 2009) — photos and article about Fake Omaha maps and places. Featured alongside emerging design conventions, graphic arts and innovative construction techniques in the worldwide I-D Magazine. (thanks to Michael Silverberg)

Fake City, Real Dreams/WDET Radio (April 2008) — an engaging audio set with input from Fake Omaha's residents. In this piece, Fake Omaha is referred to as "Fake City". Several of the ideas expressed are active in Fake Omaha. (thanks to Zak Rosen)

Performance Z-A/Storefront for Art and Architecture (October 2007) — an in-person talk on the cartographical elements of Fake Omaha. The event included a dramatic, full-size display of the hand-drawn map on a special installation in New York City. (thanks to Tod Lippy and Jason Polan)

Pecha Kucha Night (November 2008) — a short, formatted talk and slideshow about Fake Omaha. Presented among eleven other features treating topics from clothing design to graffiti to landscape architecture.

Please check these links out. And be sure to support the people who have supported us!

22. What do you mean "lorem ipsum"?

Nothing at all.

Lorem ipsum doesn't mean anything. It's not ancient Latin in search of translation, it's not a cryptic code to unlock the universe. But it sure looks like real words!

And that's the point. We borrow this concept from the world of printing and graphic design. Those activities are all about presentation – and not at all about content. Still, when laying a page out, a designer must have some text to work with. This allows for proper positioning, sizing, coloring, typeface selection, et cetera.

Actual content text lures the designer's attention from the fine points of layout (or, as happens far more often, the layout is setting up before the copy is ready). The designer could drop in dummy phrases over and over, but this is also distracting.

Lorem ipsum is an excellent alternative. It's a stunt double for real text. It is a potentially endless vocabulary of non-words. It can go on for unlimited pages in place of real writing. High-quality lorem ipsum has short non-words, long non-words and can actually be pronounced. It's meaningless, so the designer can maintain a safe distance from content. It's realistically configured, so the visual pattern of a repeating phrase doesn't make the layout look ridiculous. Best of all, it resembles real copy. When viewed quickly, a page of lorem ipsum looks just like a page of true content.

The parallels with Fake Omaha are striking. Our project acts as one big veil of lorem ipsum – allowing participants to design solutions, with a realistic-looking text, without getting drawn too far in. We're building a toolkit of useful ideas – and we're doing it by removing distractions. Our context may be "meaningless", but it isn't nonsense.

Just like there are people devoted to maps of fake places, there are people devoted to the wonders of lorem ipsum. Check out this convenient source for more information. And if you see "lorem ipsum" turn up anywhere in Fake Omaha, it's homage to this very helpful concept.