People power: A design for digital cities

people power

The shape of cities and how they influence our behaviour is no longer just the concern of planners, architects, urban designers and politicians. Through the Dublinked open data network, the Studio have met designers, technologists, hacktivists, researchers and entrepreneurs who are all exploring how the urban environment is going to change in coming years. They are using Dublin as a test ground to develop new products and services using live city data.

Dublin is a good ‘prototype’ city.  It is big enough to have complex city systems that can be scaled internationally but small enough that ‘everyone knows everyone else’ so that big city problems – environmental, social and economic – become local and can be solved.  The hacker ethos of remaking the city from the ground up can bring fresh perspectives from outside the city planning system.

Digital technologies and social media are making it easier to engage with people who would not normally interact with consultation processes. For example, crowdsourced data from twitter is already being used in emergency planning to get real time information on flooding events in Dublin. There is also potential to crowdsource local knowledge and engage communities in the planning of their own neighbourhoods.

In the UK web platforms like Spacehive uses a crowd funding model for community projects proposed by citizens themselves. But if this approach to public funding is applied in Ireland how would it fit in with elected government and planners who are making decisions for the common good of the whole city? If more projects are funded locally will this lead to a call to reduce taxes, especially in light of new property taxes on the way? Could it encourage philanthropy, for example the High Line project in New York benefitted from a €35million donation? Or is there a danger it could favour wealthier neighbourhoods where people have more money to kickstart their project? These are all questions that will arise as collaborative urbanism approaches gain momentum.

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