"Cities are all about difficulty"
"I believe that cities are all about difficulty. They're about waiting: for the bus, for the light to change, for your order of Chinese take-out to be ready. They're about frustration: about parking tickets, dogshit, potholes and noisy neighbors. They're about the unavoidable physical and psychic proximity of other human beings competing for the same limited pool of resources….the fear of crime, and its actuality. These challenges have conditioned the experience of place for as long as we've gathered together in settlements large and dense enough to be called cities.
And as it happens, with our networked, ambient, pervasive informatic technology, we now have (or think we have) the means to address some of these frustrations. In economic terms, these technologies both lower the information costs people face in trying to make the right decisions, and lower the opportunity cost of having made them.
So you don't head out to the bus stop until the bus stop tells you a bus is a minute away, and you don't walk down the street where more than some threshold number of muggings happen - in fact, by default it doesn't even show up on your maps - and you don't eat at the restaurant whose forty-eight recent health code violations cause its name to flash red in your address book. And all these decisions are made possible because networked informatics have effectively rendered the obscure and the hidden transparent to inquiry. And there's no doubt that life is thusly made just that little bit better.
But there's a cost - there's always a cost. Serendipity, solitude, anonymity, most of what we now recognize as the makings of urban savoir faire: it all goes by the wayside. And yes, we're richer and safer and maybe even happier with the advent of the services and systems I'm so interested in, but by the same token we're that much poorer for the loss of these intangibles. It's a complicated trade-off, and I believe in most places it's one we're making without really examining what's at stake"."
Why do I blog this? simply noting the interesting and straight-forward rhetoric in Adam's proposition about urban informatics. That being said, the notion of "city are about difficulty" clearly echoes with what Fabien and myself try to express in Sliding Friction: The harmonious Jungle of Contemporary Cities opus; namely to reveal the complexity of the environment as well as the frictions of the digital and the physical.