Scott Paterson: How is technology impacting social and economic divisions in cities?
When thinking about this question I find I'm focusing on division and how I might perceive how a division of any kind might be experienced. For starters, technology is designed. It gets designed. This design process can be the make or break point when technology is going to become divisive or not. There is a reason your microwave clock blinks 12:00 or car radio clock is off. It's too hard to adjust it. That's not user error that's technology design error. The folks involved didn't consider how people might use or whether they might even desire such a time display.
It’s all too common in this diagram for people to start with what they know – technical feasibility or business viability. That's what they're experts at, where they live 24/7. Innovation can come from anywhere and anybody. You can start anywhere on the diagram, but you will find if you cover off on all three circles by the time you finish you'll have followed a different path that if you hadn't.
To bring a kind of tangent to this a bit I want to share two recent stories I've come across that highlight someone overcoming division and someone perpetuating division. I don't think either of them considers what they're doing as this, but in light of the question, "How is technology impacting social and economic divisions in cities," you can see their actions in relief to the pressures of a divide.
First is the photographer Olivia Bee. She has an amazing, inspiring Ted talk where she shares her point of view on motivation and dreams. She discusses shooting photos despite pressures to conform, as she says, "you have to do stuff besides the stuff you have to do". My favorite phrase of hers is, "aspirational compromise is for pussies". While watching I was wondering about the impact of advertising about technology. How much is that messaging causing a divide? Watch video here:
The second is a blog post from Bernalwood. My neighborhood blog. It's about a Richard Florida map of San Francisco, specifically Bernal Heights, where the blogger points out, "...if at times Bernal Heights seems a bit divided on itself, well... that's because in some ways it is...".
But upon closer viewing you realize it is really the technology constructing the divide, visualizing the divide. The granularity of the data combined with the mapping technique cause generic divisions to be drawn that I suspect are much more nuanced. At issue here seems to be the kind of categorization of data - of people - that Olivia so strongly rejects. And at the heart of it is design. Before I get too far off topic, I'll close by sharing an article in the Atlantic about this issue of maps and subjectivity.
If we start by engaging and considering people, their behaviors and motivations, we can change the course of the design process - to be user centered, not divisive.
Leave your comment below, or reply to others.
Read more from the Meeting of the Minds Blog
Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Progress needs to be made in the evaluation of approaches to developing resilient communities. The evidence base for the effectiveness of these approaches is currently lagging behind practice. Funding for evaluation is generally too short-term to offer scope for capturing the developmental nature of community resilience related activity and evaluations on wider outcomes are lacking.
Disaster resilience is frequently pursued separately by the public and private sectors in the US. Federal, state, and local governments take it as their role to execute disaster preparedness and emergency response for their populations; however, economic recovery is often not addressed. The public sector does not necessarily engage businesses, nor does it seem to plan for the economic “reboot” required after a disaster, resulting in business disruption continuing for much longer.
The clout of local governments should never be underestimated. When Xcel Energy recently made the monumental decision to pursue a 100% carbon reduction goal by 2050, Chairman and CEO Ben Fowke noted that local communities are already leading the charge.