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The Street as Platform
Alex Steffen, 29 Dec 08

I realize now that I've been delinquent in recommending Dan Hill's truly excellent speculative essay The Street as Platform, which explores a cross-section of all the ways that urban environments have become suffused with data. It's one of maybe 25 things I read this year that actually changed the way I see things in daily life:

We can’t see how the street is immersed in a twitching, pulsing cloud of data. This is over and above the well-established electromagnetic radiation, crackles of static, radio waves conveying radio and television broadcasts in digital and analogue forms, police voice traffic. This is a new kind of data, collective and individual, aggregated and discrete, open and closed, constantly logging impossibly detailed patterns of behaviour. The behaviour of the street.

...[T]his is all everyday technology - embedded in, propped up against, or moving through the street, carried by people and vehicles, and installed by private companies and public bodies. Each element of data causes waves of responses in other connected databases, sometimes interacting with each other physically through proximity, other times through semantic connections across complex databases, sometimes in real-time, sometimes causing ripples months later. Some data is proprietary, enclosed and privately managed, some is open, collaborative and public.

Those who are paying attention already know that the information richness of urban environments is already changing what's possible within them, even spurring new forms of entirely urban innovation. I can see no reason why this trend will not accelerate, and very few reasons why it might decelerate.

I think the implications for sustainability and social innovation could be profound.

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Yes, it's true and when something it's really happening there are more than one person thinking the same...

I recommend about this topic the open source urban design by Scott Burnham,(

And my modest contribution, using Lisbon as a urban art laboratory (

Posted by: Pedro Soares Neves on 30 Dec 08

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