21st Century Spaces and Experiences In The New American City

A few days ago at the 80th Annual Meeting of the @USMayors, I was asked to elaborate, for its Council for A New American City, on one part of the future-oriented economic growth strategy I have developed for them – the blending of physical and virtual space to create new destinations and experiences that will attract and retain people in this century.

These ideas are intended to help a city remain vital in a future world where people can live anywhere. (See earlier posts if you want more background on the technology and socio-economic trends that are creating this future world.)

I described blended spaces for working, shopping and, in general, living in an urban area.  First, cities need to enable new, more informal workspaces in which most people will earn a living in the future.  These can be in formal co-working spaces or in homes.  But they might also be in hotel lobbies or in parks (like Bryant Park in New York City that is equipped not only with Wi-Fi, but also electrical outlets along the edge of the grass for when your laptop needs recharging).

Second, cities should enable new virtual shopping options, which might be part of transportation systems, on the street, or in any public space where many people go by (and could buy).  The deployment of virtual shopping has direct economic benefit to the city government because it can increase sales tax revenues, increase revenues from advertising in public spaces (like bus stops) and even allow the city to get a piece of the sales transaction that occurs in its facilities.

And, at least until it becomes more common, virtual shopping can provide people an exhilarating “experience” that adds to the quality of life in a city.

Beyond shopping, I gave several examples of how blended virtual/physical space can improve quality of life – how it can provide a “wow” factor for a city.  For example, the mayors were intrigued by 3D projections on buildings.  I referred, for example, to how Chattanooga could project on downtown walls or streets what was going on in its large freshwater aquarium at night when the aquarium is closed.

I also reminded the mayors that quality of life includes the experience of being a citizen in a city.  That experience goes beyond merely getting city services on the web, but includes active citizen engagement in the co-creation of public policy and co-production of public services.

Finally, I noted that any city can implement at least one of the ideas I presented, without a big capital project.  Compared to lots of other projects, these had little cost – and sometimes no cost at all to the city government.  So the final guidance was: go ahead & experiment!

If you’re interested in getting a copy of the whole presentation, please feel free to contact me (njacknis@cisco.com).

© 2012 Norman Jacknis