As part of my summer roundup, this is the second review of unconventional news items about what’s happening in cities, states/provinces and other sub-national governments. Last week, I wrote about urban migrations and urban work/life balance. This week, some stories about urban technology and compassion.
Many cities claim to be technology leaders, but this story in the Guardian really does stand out: “Welcome to Jun, the town that ditched bureaucracy to run on Twitter – Residents of the Spanish town use Twitter for everything from reporting crimes to booking doctor’s appointments. Is this the future of local government?” The obelisk in the central square is decorated with a Twitter mosaic.
The Mayor is quoted as saying:
“Twitter has created the society of the minute – very quick questions and very quick answers. We now do our paperwork on Twitter,” … “But this is an important point, because who values the work of the people at city hall? The street sweeper? The cleaner? We decided that everyone would have a Twitter account so that they could see that people value their work.”
On the negative side of technology, among all the various scare stories about cyber-attacks, here’s a counter-intuitive argument, “How to hack a city—and why we should”. Its author, Jonathan Keane, notes:
Cities, like any complex system, are potentially susceptible to hacking. The important question is just how susceptible?
“Through smart technologies, wireless connectivity, and the burgeoning Internet of Things, cities and critical infrastructure have been getting a technological makeover in recent years. Amsterdam is exploring several open-source projects and cities like Barcelona, Spain are revamping energy grids and traffic lights. But those new initiatives open up new vulnerabilities.”
Following up on my previous blog post about where people spend their mental time, this research paper in the online scientific journal, the Public Library of Science (PLOS), was of interest — “Do Global Cities Enable Global Views? Using Twitter to Quantify the Level of Geographical Awareness of U.S. Cities”.
The researchers concluded:
“Our findings are that: (1) the level of geographical awareness varies depending on when and where Twitter messages are posted, yet Twitter users from big cities are more aware of the names of international cities or distant US cities than users from mid-size cities; (2) Twitter users have an increased awareness of other city names far away from their home city during holiday seasons; and (3) Twitter users are more aware of nearby city names than distant city names, and more aware of big city names rather than small city names.”
Perhaps their findings weren’t too surprising, although it’s fascinating to see how Twitter data is being used.
Anyway, here’s their ranking of various cities on a global awareness index (GAI):
Finally, perhaps as a counterpoint (or a complement?) to the talk about technology in cities, Louisville, Kentucky is beginning to get noticed for its “Compassionate Cities Mission Statement”. The City boldly states that:
“Compassion is common ground and a unifying force in our polarized world. Compassion impels us to work tirelessly to alleviate the suffering of our fellow creatures, to dethrone ourselves from the center of our world and put another there, and to honor the inviolable sanctity of every single human being, treating everybody, without exception, with absolute justice, equity and respect. Compassion is the bridge between internal practice and external change.”
They go on to identify these dimensions of compassion – “Beauty, Inclusion, Empowerment, Transparency, Universally Positive, Social Innovation, Paying it forward, Hospitality, Abundance, Awareness/Understanding, and Intention.”
All in all, some very interesting developments on the urban front.
© 2015 Norman Jacknis