Adam Greenfield (Speedbird) wrote a brief piece a bit over a week ago for Urban Omnibus entitled “Frameworks for Citizen Responsiveness: Towards a Read/Write Urbanism”, which is worth a read. Greenfield first extrapolates from services like New York City’s 311 and the UK’s FixMyStreet the probable development of an “urban issue-tracking board”, “visual and Web-friendly, simultaneously citizen-facing and bureaucracy-facing”. This (online) issue-tracker could harness citizens as willing temporary municipal employees, while offering them a window into the traditionally opaque bureaucracies which are responsible for the upkeep of the urban landscape. Second, Greenfield argues that this vision ought to be expanded and broadened into a city whose constituent parts — the bus shelters, sewers, bridges, traffic lights, cell towers, buildings — become participants in “a dense mesh of active, communicating public objects”, which citizens are, as in the case of the issue-tracker, encouraged to interact with, to query, and to script for — hopefully expounding upon and expanding the existing richness of cities.
It’s also worth reading the comments, particularly those from Enrique Ramirez and Fred Scharmen, as they (and Greenfield in response) address some of the obvious questions about the limitations (cities past and present do not lack for interested parties and engaged actors who aim to manipulate constituent parts and bureaucracies to their advantage) and potential exclusivity of such developments.