what are its KPIs? aka Informatic Urbanism

Back in Feb, Shannon Mattern argued that A City Is Not a Computer. The essay, in part a reaction to Y Combinator’s move last year into urbanism, problematizes ‘smart cities’ and tech’s Californian Ideology.

To wit –

Were he alive today, Mumford would reject the creeping notion that the city is simply the internet writ large. He would remind us that the processes of city-making are more complicated than writing parameters for rapid spatial optimization. He would inject history and happenstance. The city is not a computer. This seems an obvious truth, but it is being challenged now (again) by technologists (and political actors) who speak as if they could reduce urban planning to algorithms. 20

Further, references to “nonsemantic information“, “the longue duré“, “geologic insight” and “urban epistemologies”.


these processes of concentration and extension, and the churning of use and habitation patterns

Back in 2014 Diffusive Architectures explained The fallacy of the ‘urban age’ and why

To properly see, understand, talk about, and strategise for urbanisation, we need new ways to describe and map these processes of concentration and extension, and the churning of use and habitation patterns. ..

Plus, Courtney Humphries argued that By making “urban” synonymous with “city,” we miss the realities of where we live (ie: the peri-urban or suburban) and how our sprawling ways are changing the world. In other words,

What’s very clear is that we need a language and a finer-grain differentiation of different types of urban life and urban ecosystems

re: innovation and civic values

“offers a model for urban living that yokes everyday conversation and discovery – social life writ large – to the dictates of market innovation…At its root, civic innovation is based on an inclusive, if narrowly defined, notion of participation. As long as individuals follow the rules, they are welcome to play.

So much good. Read more here via John Elrick and Will Payne

re: “Unorganized Territory”

The NYT reports that in Maine, Local Control is becoming a Luxury, that fewer Towns can afford.

Resulting in a movement towards deorganizing and the growth of unincorporated areas, which exist in other states, but in Maine account for half of the land.


Source: State of Maine via NYT

Reminds me a bit of shrinkingcities project. While the scale is a bit different, the drivers (economic reorganization and depopulation amongst others), are shared.

James Naughtie talking with China Miéville

The two discuss Miéville’s novel The City & The City, a crime thriller set in a parallel world published in 2009.

Topics include worldbuilding, maps, “half-familiarity“, noir, Raymond Chandlers’ “muted lyricism” and the process of “tabooing…seeing and unseeing“.


via BBC Radio 4Bookclub

Meme-Watch: University Cities

But they differ from the largest cities in their low cost of living, their low unemployment rates and their low violent crime rates…That low cost of living in University Cities nearly perfectly compensates for the higher salaries in the nation’s biggest cities. Put another way, if you adjust salaries for cost of living, the median salary in a University City is $45,218 compared to $45,904 for New York, Boston and the nation’s 15 largest cities.

Via Scott Shapiro at Next City. For more about the project see UniversityCities.org