Hackerspaces, internets and cities

December 15, 2009 § 2 Comments

Name dropping Jane Jacobs at a tech conference is a good way to get my attention. And that’s exactly what Meng Weng Wong did on the hackerspaces panel at  #nsc1 in Singapore the other day. His point: those of us trying to build a vibrant, healthy digital world can learn from people like Jacobs who know how to build vibrant, healthy cities.

A native New Yorker who lived most of her life in Toronto, Jacobs was amongst the wisest people to ever write about cities. Some of the things she encouraged us to do included:

  • Embrace density as form of connection. It creates serendipity and dynamism.
  • Also encourage diversity. Different ideas banging together drive entrepreneurial discovery.
  • Build — or at least look for — ways for cities to evolve and reconfigure overtime.

Jacob’s argument was that cities built on these principles are engines of economic expansion, growing the pie by fostering innovation that creates new industries. Sound a bit like the open internet? Indeed.

Of course, this healthy city <–> healthy cyberspace link shouldn’t be surprising coming from someone who founded a hackerspace (Meng just opened one in Singapore). Hackerspaces tangibly embody the essence of both a good city and the open internet. Chaotic. Malleable. Evolving. Resilient. Filled with all of your closest friends. These are wonderful places born of internet culture. Which makes me smile, and gives me hope.

PS. Another cool internet <–> city link at #nsc1: Pio Stark‘s talk on how 19th century growth of cities into teaming masses of unfamiliar faces led to the need for new systems to track identity. New identity systems to deal with so many unfamiliar faces? Very much something we need to be thinking about now on the internet.

§ 2 Responses to Hackerspaces, internets and cities

  • Lukas Blakk says:

    You know, dropping Jane Jacob’s name gets my attention too. My first thought when I hear her name is of Jane’s Walks that have been taking place in lots of cities. Now it makes me wonder about the possibility of “walking” through the open web with some kind of docent who would explain the connection between the areas you visit and how they make a particular “neighbourhood” on the internet. Picturing Miro -> EFF -> Creative Commons as a really simple example.

  • msurman says:

    Lukas: love this idea -> open web tour guides. I wonder how you would do it as an experiment?

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