#dconstruct09: adam greenfield – elements of a networked urbanism

It is our first time at dConstruct in Brighton, and its fifth edition. Let’s see what we pick up other than first impression—wow, this is a larger audience than imagined!

Adam Greenfield – Elements of a Networked Urbanism

By end of 2008, more then half the world’s human population lived in cities (U.N.). By end end of 2012, networked sensors will account for 20% of non-video Internet traffic (Gartner)

Cities as open APIs, where every resource has a 128 bit address, if not its every component. A world of dynamic responses, its constants becoming variable (building membrane responding to CO2 levels or a road responding to traffic).

If everything is so adaptable, isn’t there going to be a loss of sense of space for people? If latent information becomes explicit, aren’t we going to become uncomfortable (imagine you have TOO MUCH information about your local restaurant and pub and police force)?

Moving from a browse behavior to a search behavior, from a held information environment to a shared one: curating and re-releasing things, like packages of urban experience (e.g. secret information now: where to get shirts ironed fast and cheaply). From object to service, from vehicle to mobility, from ownership to use.

What if information, including personal history, never expires anymore, but persists? What if, at the same time, we are not longer passive but interactive, actively engaging in curating our city? What if wayfinding turns into wayshowing (take this subway car to exit onto that street—makes me think of Tube Exits, the iPhone app). However, this can be disempowering, as technology fails—all networks fail.

A city of such potential, fully networked to the point of garbage bin RFID chips, is being build in Korea: New Songdo City is a U-City = ubiquitous city (see ubiquitous computing).

Transition from community to network is troublesome. Community exists through cohesion based on plausible liability, on the nodding conversation level, and the interesting things happen where there’s a gap: in income, in habits, in ethnicity, etc. The current urban trend towards homogenization in a SN type of network fashion (do think Facebook) is threatening: too much information on your neighbors ruins community, too explicit knowledge (this neighborhood is Tory or Scientologic) creates a suburban feeling, rather than the urban one we were after when we decided to live in a city.

To avoid these mistakes, we need good urban design, we need to bring, next to technology, the best human contributions: intelligence, sensitivity, tact, delicacy. We need to contribute in design ourselves and become a constituent rather than a consumer.

Thoughts? Definitely a good coming together of various concepts and theories. I hoped, however, that there would be more about the future rather than the present.

Adam Greenfield

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