Can you Crowdsource a City?

A screenshot of the Video for the City 2.0, the 2012 TED Prize Winner, which aims to use technology to rebuild our cities. Photo via Atlantic Cities.
Pop-Up,” “DIY,” “Kickstarter” “LQC” (That’s lighter, quicker, cheaper for the unfamiliar). Urbanisms of the People have been getting awfully catch-phrasey these days. What all these types of DIY Urbanisms share is a can-do spirit, a “Hacker” mentality: people are taking back their cities, without any “expert” help.

Unfortunately, of course, this mindset creates an anti-establishment (often, anti-architect) antagonism that would render any wide-spread change nigh impossible. Yes, the DIY movement, facilitated by the use of technology, is excellent for getting people involved, for encouraging important, innovative ideas – in the short-term.

As Alexandra Lange recently pointed out in her post “Against Kickstarter Urbanism,” technology is not a “magic wand,” and crowdsourcing initiatives often fall short in the day-to-day, nitty-gritty work of a large-scale, long-term urban project.

But while technology certainly has its limitations, its potential to facilitate connection and communication is unparalleled. What is vital, however, is that the technology enhance, not replace, our physical relationships. Instead of using online platforms as divisive or purely conceptual forums, they must becomes tools of transparency and trust-building, mediators of a conversation that invests and connects all parties on the ground.