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The Sustainable Neighbourhoods in the Digital Age
 

The Sustainable Neighbourhoods in the Digital Age

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A presentation given at Ecobuild in March 2014 in the Future Cities Strand. This was part of a seminar entitled The Sustainable Neighbourhoods in the Digital Age that was chaired by Chris Brown of ...

A presentation given at Ecobuild in March 2014 in the Future Cities Strand. This was part of a seminar entitled The Sustainable Neighbourhoods in the Digital Age that was chaired by Chris Brown of igloo. The aim of the presentation is to explore the potential effect of smart technology on the design of cities drawing on the experience of what happened in previous technological revolutions from the railway to the telephone and the car.

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    The Sustainable Neighbourhoods in the Digital Age The Sustainable Neighbourhoods in the Digital Age Presentation Transcript

    • Smart Cities David Rudlin URBED and the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood This presentation has been prepared for a Seminar at Ecobuild on 4th March 2014 entitled ‘Sustainable Neighbourhood in the Digital Age’. My brief as the first presentation at the event is to put this in the context of the sustainable urban neighbourhood. My interest is not so much in the boundless possibilities of IT to make our cities more efficient (as I shall explain I’m skeptical about that), but on the way that technology is likely to change the city.
    • Lets start with a story of New York. A few years ago when we were visiting New York I was sent out on an errand to buy a suitcase. I walked eastward from our hotel which was just off Time Square following my nose to find a non-tourist shop. I wandered eastwards for a few blocks and found myself in the Garment District. In the heart of some of the most expensive real estate in the world there is a scruffy manufacturing district full of small factories and wholesalers. It intrigued me because the Northern Quarter where we have our Manchester office has a similar role. The economy of New York is based on information. It was the point of entry for transatlantic travelers and therefore not only have the pick of talent emigrating from Europe, but was also the first to receive financial information – hence the stock market, the first to receive new books – hence the publishing industry, and the first to hear about the Paris fashions – hence the fashion industry and the garment district. This on information technology - the technology in question being the ship. However even when technology changed and other places got access to the information, New York remained preeminent the preeminent financial, publishing and fashion centre because it could attract all the best people. However how has the garment district survived when pretty much all clothing manufacture has been off-shored? The answer is that fashion design is a very hands on business, you need to try clothes on, to touch them and feel them, its just not efficient to do this with a six week delay on a boat to china. In other words the speed of modern consumer demand the way that markets change and products need to respond in an age of bespoke rather than mass manufacture offers hope for new forms of manufacturing.
    • A decade of advocacy With many others we spent the 1990s writing and campaigning about cities, trying to reverse decades of suburbanisation. What has happened since that time - the Urban Renaissance as it has come to be known is remarkable. London has become the largest and most vibrant city in Europe and the provincial cities have reversed years of decline.
    • Synthesizing sustainability and urbanism As part of this we developed the concept of the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood (SUN) as a model for an urban mixed use quarter that as an attractive alternative to the suburb. I am delighted that Birmingham, the city where I was born, has now adopted the SUN as the basis for its local plan. Part of what we were doing was synthesising urbanism with sustainability. At the time the sustainability movement was pretty anti-urban, focussing on super green individual homes or solar oriented suburbs. We wanted to show that you could achieve the same environmental performance in dense urban areas.
    • The Smart City and... The Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood Is the same true of the smart city? What are the urban implications of information technology?
    • What does it mean for the new neighbourhoods that we create?
    • The Smart City is... We probably need to start by understanding what we mean by the Smart City. I felt slightly guilty in when asked to do this paper in not really knowing, but I needn’t have worried because its clear from reading up on the subject that no one else does either. There is some rubbish written about the Smart City and it quickly becomes what ever people want it to be. The Resilient City is another one doing the rounds at the moment that suffers from a similar level of woolly thinking.
    • The Smart City is... What ever I say it is, because I’m smart, and therefore by definition... We probably need to start by understanding what we mean by the Smart City. I felt slightly guilty in when asked to do this paper in not really knowing, but I needn’t have worried because its clear from reading up on the subject that no one else does either. There is some rubbish written about the Smart City and it quickly becomes what ever people want it to be. The Resilient City is another one doing the rounds at the moment that suffers from a similar level of woolly thinking.
    • The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • ITC and urban management The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • ITC and urban management Open source big data The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • ITC and urban management Open source big data Innovative creative cities The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • ITC and urban management Open source big data Innovative creative cities Collaborative democratic cities The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • ITC and urban management Open source big data Innovative creative cities Collaborative democratic cities The fallacy of control The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • ITC and urban management Open source big data Innovative creative cities Collaborative democratic cities The fallacy of control The wisdom of crowds The Smart City is... We can however break down what people describe as the smart city into these four areas. The great battle is between the first two and the extent to which the data generated in the city is used by big corporations or available on open source platforms. We will come back to innovation in a second and other speakers will talk about collaboration. For the moment lets focus on the first two which I have termed the ‘fallacy of control‘ and the ‘wisdom of crowds‘ - no points for guessing where my sympathies lie!
    • The efficient city This is IBM’s vision of the Smart City. I have no problem at all with much of this, whats not to like about systems that make our cities easier to use and more efficient. But I can’t get that excited by it, and in the literature on this type of smart city there is a worrying reductionist tendency...
    • The fallacy of control You would think that with a few more systems, a little more data and some clever coding we will have the city under control. We will have it running like clockwork (probably the wrong analogy) and all our problems will be over. We have been here before, it never happens and never will and if it did the city would be diminished by it.
    • The impossibility of cities As Jane Jacobs said (and its a rule that you can’t do a presentation like this without mentioning her at least once) good cities always operate just beyond the point where they should collapse. Its that teetering on the edge of impossibility that makes them exciting and drives innovation. Smart City technology of course is part of that innovation, but it won’t bring the city under control it will just allow it to scale new heights of impossibility.
    • The fallacy of control Ordered cities that exclude the possibility of chaos are very dull places.
    • Big data Which brings us to the second definition, the idea of big data, the flows and access to ideas and information that drives innovation and creativity.
    • ...its as if we have been programmed to be collectively smart. “ ” The wisdom of crowds In this we draw on some of the ideas that I havde been getting very interested in recently, complexity theory, emergence and swarm intelligence. The same power that lies behind Google’s search engine or Cloud sourcing has always driven cities. Bring together a few thousand, or a few million people either virtually through the Internet or physically in a locality and interesting things start to happen - like civilisation. I had an interesting debate with a group of academics in Manchester last week who were very hostile to this idea - seeing it as a right wing, anti-democratic anti-government ideology, which worried me. However its not the way I see it at all. It may be anti-planning but having spent years working with local communities it seems to me that this wisdom is what we try and tap into through the democratic process and through consultation.
    • “ ” The wisdom of crowds The theory does however have some interesting rules - the idea that the crowd is smart than its smartest members and is actually made smarter by its ‘dumbest‘ members. The idea that the crowd is wiser if people come to a view independently without a debate or an attempt to come to a consensus. It may be a terrible recipe for a consultation event but it says something very interesting about how cities work.
    • “ ” Diversity of opinion The wisdom of crowds The theory does however have some interesting rules - the idea that the crowd is smart than its smartest members and is actually made smarter by its ‘dumbest‘ members. The idea that the crowd is wiser if people come to a view independently without a debate or an attempt to come to a consensus. It may be a terrible recipe for a consultation event but it says something very interesting about how cities work.
    • “ ” Diversity of opinion Independence The wisdom of crowds The theory does however have some interesting rules - the idea that the crowd is smart than its smartest members and is actually made smarter by its ‘dumbest‘ members. The idea that the crowd is wiser if people come to a view independently without a debate or an attempt to come to a consensus. It may be a terrible recipe for a consultation event but it says something very interesting about how cities work.
    • “ ” Diversity of opinion Independence Decentralisation The wisdom of crowds The theory does however have some interesting rules - the idea that the crowd is smart than its smartest members and is actually made smarter by its ‘dumbest‘ members. The idea that the crowd is wiser if people come to a view independently without a debate or an attempt to come to a consensus. It may be a terrible recipe for a consultation event but it says something very interesting about how cities work.
    • “ ” Diversity of opinion Independence Decentralisation Aggregation The wisdom of crowds The theory does however have some interesting rules - the idea that the crowd is smart than its smartest members and is actually made smarter by its ‘dumbest‘ members. The idea that the crowd is wiser if people come to a view independently without a debate or an attempt to come to a consensus. It may be a terrible recipe for a consultation event but it says something very interesting about how cities work.
    • Cities as data collectors So cities are collectors and magnifiers of the wisdom of crowds. They are, and always have been, smart. Technology is secondary to this fundamental truth. In the past ideas passed by word of mouth and could travel no faster than a galloping horse. Because cities brought large numbers of people together they were the places where these ideas were exchanged most efficiently.
    • Cities as data collectors
    • Cities as data collectors
    • Cities as data collectors
    • Cities as data collectors
    • Cities as data collectors
    • Cities as data collectors
    • Cities as data collectors: Railways... Technology has simply changed the speed and spacial impact of this data - just as it did with the transatlantic steamers. In the 1840s the invention or railways had an impact very similar to that of the Internet. It led to a series of booms and busts and caused the nascent industrial revolution to expand exponentially.
    • Cities as data collectors: Railways... Reading Sherlock Holmes its amazing how he would write to someone saying that he would be visiting the following day and expect a reply before he left. This is a speed of communication unrivaled until the invention of email.
    • Cities as data collectors: Railways... But Train technology is nodal - it is based on lines that run into urban centres and therefore it tends to reinforce these centres. Trains allowed cities like Chicago to suburbanise as the plan above shows but the suburbs were all connected back to the urban centres therefore reinforcing their importance.
    • Cities as data collectors: Electricity... The next revolution came at the end of the 18th century with the inventions of telephones, electricity etc... leading once more to a series of booms and busts...
    • Cities as data collectors: Electricity... But in the whole once more consolidating the importance of cities because this was where the technologies were available.
    • Cities as data collectors: Cars... However the next technological innovation was less positive. This is my mum as a little girl standing in front of the family’s Austin 8 in the 1930s. The car is not nodal, while all roads may lead to Rome, the result is that Rome becomes a very congested place and the car makes a range of other places equally accessible.
    • Cities as data collectors: Cars... According to Robert Fishman in his book Bourgeois Utopia, which charts the history of the suburb, the key moment came when land interests on the Los Angeles City Authority got them to scrap the city’s trolly car system. Instead the city invested in roads, allowing it to expand outwards rather than upwards.
    • Cities as data collectors: Cars... The car therefore became the first technology for the transmission of ideas that was anti-urban.
    • Cities as data collectors: Information Technology... What then of the Web which has been the latest technology for the transfer of ideas and data. Many people have predicted that information technology would also be ant-urban. It would free people from locational constraints, allow them to live and work where they like and still have access to all the information and interaction that they would at the heart of a great city. It has not however happened that way...
    • Cities as data collectors: Information Technology... This is partly because internet traffic relies on physical infrastructure, wires and fibre optics, wireless networks, data-centres and switches. These are expensive and are naturally installed in cities where there is the population density to make them viable. This will always be the case, technological improvements will always happen first in cities so that cities will always have a technological advantage over other areas.
    • This means that the pattern of internet use is actually very similar to those of the transatlantic steamers that created New York. Because of this the internet has reinforced the importance of cities and the relationships between them.
    • The Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood So what are the implications for the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood. Sure it will be managed more efficiently and will have a smart energy grid, broadband wireless etc... Lets take all that as read - its important but not transformational. Lets look at just a few issues that could be much more significant.
    • The Creative Class The first is to do with smart people. As this table from Richard Florida shows, the economy of the world is increasingly based not on the availability of large workforces, raw materials or transport links. The economy is based on the capacity, creativity and qualifications of the population. Places that can attract qualified people will do the best. These people are found in the greatest numbers in the world’s great cities...
    • Livable Cities This is causing cities to think about how attractive they are to these smart people. The magazine Monocle undertakes an annual survey of the world’s most livable cities that city authorities take very seriously (manly because the Monocle readership is a pretty close match to the demographic that they need to attract). The Monocle top livable cities tend to be located in a band running from Scandinavia to Switzerland, or in recent years Australian. The top ten in 2013 was: Copenhagen, Melbourne, Helsinki, Tokyo, Vienna, Zurich, Stockholm, Munich, Sydney, and Auckland. The high scorers are those with low crime, good environments, quality design, healthcare, etc... The conclusion I reluctantly draw is that todays creative individual is attracted to safe, slightly dull cities. Berlin comes in at 20 and Barcelona at 21, the highest ranking US cities are Portland at 23 and SanFrancisco at 24. London, New York are nowhere to be seen, which is interesting since they probably have the highest concentrations of creatives.
    • Local democracy A further aspect of the smart city is citizen democracy and more direct communication between city authorities and the population of the city. This is going to be covered by Tony and Mike who come after me so I will leave it to them to discuss in more detail.
    • Degrees of visibility I’ve not seen this very much discussed - but one of the issues that interests me is visibility. The commercial parts of cities have always depended on passing trade. Cities across the world have a hierarchy of high streets, secondary streets etc... and most of the shops, markets, banks and public institutions have jostled to be on the high street. Then when the only visibility needed was a five storey high Walmart sign the structure of high streets started to disintegrate. Now with on line retailing visibility is more to do with your Google ranking than your position on the high street. What does that do to locational parameters when a company on the top floor of a warehouse on a back street can reach a global market? On the other hand we recently did a project in Garston in South Liverpool where the high street was in a very run down state having been bypassed and outcompeted. However half way down an otherwise vacant shopping parade was to be found the bright pink presence of the Liverpool Fairy Cake Company, a bustle of activity that could only survive in the area because most of its trade was web based.
    • Passive Surveillance And then there is security - some of the scariest bits of the smart city relate to surveillance - It can all get a bit like the film Minority Report in which the police of the future are able to arrest criminals before the crime actually takes place. However there is a entire urban history that can be written based on safety and security http://climaxcity.wordpress.com/2013/07/22/ feeling-safe/ and anything that changes the way that people feel about security is likely to have an impact on the city.
    • The Smart City? Then there is the issue of innovation. Edward Glaeser makes the case in his book The Triumph of the City that cities are centres of innovation. However he only does so by suggesting that Silicon Valley is a city - which of course it is not. Those of us who believe that Jane Jacobs was right when she argued that new economic activity can only arise in cities need to consider whether silicon valley disproves the theory of is the exception to the rule. Certainly in recent years the Tech industry has been predominantly urban, Berlin being the latest city to see a boom in Tech start ups and innovation.
    • Voluntary Crowdedness ....and interestingly even in the sticks there is a trend for Tech start-ups to seek the interaction that you get from close proximity to others engaged in similar activity. We get this magazine in the office which in this issue has an article on ‘voluntary crowdedness’. This involves coders and living communally in suburban villas - living six to a room, working long hours and eating a lot of pizza - recreating in effect the conditions they might find in a dense city.
    • Whereideashavesexmattridley Which brings us back to the garment district of New York and its enduring role as a creative manufacturing district. It brings us to the fundamental point summed up in Matt Ridley’s memorable idea that cities are places where ‘ideas have sex’. Very occasionally this can happen in a suburb, or in a large corporation, but never as often or as inevitably as it does in a big city that is able to attract thousands of people smart people and create the idea environment for them to interact, spark off each other and collaborate.
    • Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods This then is the real smart, sustainable, urban neighbourhood of the future. Not one that is controlled by smart cameras, smart grids, or any other types of technology, but one that attracts smart people and creates the conditions where they can innovate. The cleverest smart city technology today will look hopelessly dated in a few years time. What is needed is not hard wired solutions but the ability to innovate and respond to opportunities that we don’t yet understand. This is a picture of the Northern Quarter in Manchester were our office is based - one of many places trying to create these conditions.