Greg Lindsay's Blog

December 16, 2018  |  permalink

The URBAN-X ‘Zine #2: Rules

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As the “urbanist-in-residence” at URBAN-X — the tech accelerator founded by BMW MINI — one of my favorite duties is writing and editing the “zine” published twice a year on Demo Day. The second issue, “Rules,” explores how startups and citizens are augmenting increasingly machine-readable cities. Now that public space has been quantifiably proven to be a critical, social reactor powering urban life, how will we prevent companies from exploiting it? The obvious solution is to simply put a price on everything. But in doing so, will we learn the value of nothing?

The centerpiece of the issue is an oral history of public space after the smartphone (which you can download here), along with profiles and Q&A of several startups and vignettes from a kitchen-sink dystopian future in which every square inch of the city is priced. Sign up here for a physical copy.

On November 27, URBAN-X hosted a special launch event starring Tech Reset Canada’s Biance Wylie as well as past and present cohort members and special guest stars. Daniel Wu wrote an extensive summary of the event I’d encourage you to read.

The issue’s editor’s letter is reprinted below. Stay tuned for issue #3 in April 2019!

In his novel The City & The City, author China Miéville describes a pair of conjoined cities that are illegible to each other but occupy the same ground. Residents are taught from birth to “unsee” their counterparts with terrible consequences for those who break the rules. Miéville’s story is an allegory for the unwritten rules governing cities and for public goods and public space.

If there is a guiding principle for urbantech startups, it’s making invisible rules more visible. Using various combinations of data, sensors, and smartphones — surrogates for citizens — past and present cohort members of URBAN-X have exposed the price and risks things like a strip of road, the value of a patch of greenery (and who can use it), and codified the fraught relationship between landlords and tenants. They have broken these rules to extract value from the public realm.

The second edition of the URBAN-X Zine explores how startups and citizens are augmenting increasingly machine-readable cities. Now that public space has been quantifiably proven to be a critical, social reactor powering urban life, how will we prevent companies from exploiting it? The obvious solution is to simply put a price on everything. But in doing so, will we learn the value of nothing?

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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is a senior fellow at NewCities and the director of strategy of its offshoot LA CoMotion — an annual urban mobility festival in the Arts District of Los Angeles. He is also a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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Blog

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December 16, 2018

The URBAN-X ‘Zine #2: Rules

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