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How will our future cities use emerging technologies to make information available to everyone? How will these new methods of working together inform, and be informed by, a sense of place? And evolve democracy to its next level? These questions are being imagined today, as how the cities of 2025 will rely on technological infrastructure that is being developed and implemented in the next few years. In our new 3-part Blog post series Robert Leaver of New Commons will explore issues such as “How does research become commercialized through the use of online technology and globally and not just in physical spaces?” And “How can technology connect people, in a community, across sectors – people who are not currently in communication with each other?” Democracy 3.0!
Exploring the diverse elements of our future cities, he looks at the idea of ‘a planet of civic laboratories,’ and the energies and issues we as a larger community will have to work with – including ethnic diversity – to determine how the structures of technology can be made available for use by all digital citizens, as well as how the new community structures we need to create can more than just informed individuals who are connected. Indeed, how do we use this, explosion of technology, an opportunity to create our next intense experience of democracy? In summary, create more informed citizens shaping the future?
Click here to read the first entry in the ‘Digitally United ’ Blog post series.
Some additional resources: A planet of civil laboratories –This is the piece that inspired Leaver’s rant. Funded by a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Institute for the Future has identified the challenge of harnessing data for development and inclusion as a critical cross-sector urban issue for the next decade and beyond. Integrating designed solutions from industry and government with the tremendous innovative potential of an engaged citizenry will be a powerful tool to address this challenge.
With the advent of broadband access, in the next 14 years, our sense of place and our experience of democracy can either explode for the good, or implode. I am on the side of “exploding”.
The explosion of digitized information over the next 10 to 15 years will shape the urban landscape like no other period in human history. The melding of advancing nano-technology with the demand for biological innovation will generate a dominant field of Bio-Tech and create fertile places to unfold -through trial and error – frontiers where the essence of democracy is “on trial.” One developing area is the use of molecular sized nano-bots that are placed inside the human body for research or for treatment. The National Cancer Institute recently wrote: “Nanotechnology allows researchers to study cancer in its earliest stages of progression, enabling early detection and development of novel therapies to target the disease.”
There will be many big stress points to overcome if urbanization, digitization and democracy are to mesh, creating cities of inclusion for even the poorest and most disconnected citizens. We are moving from expanding wireless access to a focus on teaching digital literacy to the as-yet disconnected. This inclusive environment will be constructed upon emerging technology. The fabric of the city will be sewn together using fiber optics of 4G Broadband, and visual interactive displays will become commonplace in the communities, allowing for universal access. The firepower of computation will move toward centralization, with robust cloud-computing that will drastically reduce user costs and the dumping of tech-waste tools into our landfills. Open data systems will empower marginalized inhabitants by shedding light on large volumes of government/civic data. This transparency will not come without risks, however.
Privacy and transparency have always sparred in the shadow of tension. The new world technology will ratchet up the strain. Protection of personal information being one of the primary concerns of everyday citizens, the success of the Digital City of 2025 could very well hinge on the critical question: Who controls the data? There are other points of conflict that will need to be addressed, such as the knowledge gap of the impoverished /disconnected; e.g., the disabled vs. the wealthy. Data collection is frequently the easy piece of the puzzle, while making sense (use) of the information is the real challenge.
The digital city of 2025 will not be the idyllic utopia that many suggest it will be. Rather it could be a place where innovation and prosperity can be nurtured, if we search for common ground among the competing tensions that are intrinsic, to further our democracy in an increasingly complex society.