Headline July 01, 2014



EVEN THIEVES   -white collar and all,  and there are millions by millions of them the world over,  -I now fathom, have a smartphone app. :  ''Makkie Klauwe''.

Makkie Klauwe,   -in a typical robust Amsterdam slang  means something like : ''damn easy pickings''.

So, this world reveals the city's best place for pilfering   -for instance, Reestraat and Tuinstraat,   where bicycles appear to be one great target. This darned app depends for its dark arts on pulling together 

Publicly available data on disposable income,  crime levels and other problems reported in a district,  low reported crime  and broken streetlights.

Luckily for Amsterdam's citizens and tourists,  Makkie  Klauwe  does not exist.

Bram Fritz,  a  graphic design student, thought it up for an  app contest the city held in 2011   -it won the first prize in the ''safety''  category.

Although he says he might write the app one day,  the main aim was to kindle a debate over the ever greater amount of easily available data that can change urban life:

''I wanted to confront citizens with what could become a threat to their property,'' explains Mr Fritz.

As they go about their business of producing most of the world's wealth, novelty and human interaction, cities also produce a vast amount of data. The people who run cities are even more keen on putting those data to work.

Hardly, a week passes without a mayor somewhere in the world unveiling a ''smart-city''  project often at one of the many conferences hailing the concept.

In August last, China announced such a programme, this one spread around nine pilot sites across the country. And then, earlier last year Kenya's then President Mwai Kibaki-

Broke ground on   ''Konza Techno City"   outside Nairobi.

Well, well, then, City bytes. Academics like Ricky Burdett of the London School of Economics  (LSE)   see integrated systems for collecting, processing and acting on data as offering a  "second electrification" to the world's metropolises.

The power cables that penetrated cities in the late  19th century transformed their shape   -there are still no buildings without lifts, their transit systems, their nightlife, their sewerage. (cities need a lot of pumps)-

Ubiquitous data services might have impact impacts as wide-ranging : they could make cities more liveable, more efficient, more sustainable, perhaps more democratic.

In an era of mass urbanisation,  -the United Nations expect   the number of city dwellers to reach  6.3 billion  by 2050,  as many people as there were on the planet ten years ago  -that could matter a lot.

Oh, Ho,  -but clever cities will not necessarily be better ones. Rather than becoming paragons of democracy, they could turn into electronic panopticons, in which............. "everybody is constantly, constantly watched".

They could be paralysed by hackers,  or by bugs in labyrinthine software.

They could furnish new ways to exclude the poor.

They might even put at risk the serendipity that makes cities such creative places, argues  Richard Sennett,  a sociologist at the London School Of Economics, making them  "stupefying"  instead.

These divergent views about the cities of the  21st century  recall  the  "planners versus people"   polarisation of the 20th. Some planners, echoing the architect Le Corbusier's dictum that "a house is a machine for living in":

Saw cities as a assemblages of  such machinery   -factories for life, as it were  -which would benefit from central planning,  uniformity and lots of concrete.

Le Corbuster himself suggested a  "Plan Voisin"  that would have given a big chunk of  central Paris  over to vast  cruciform  towers arrayed with such regularity:

As to make Baron Hausseman's  boulevards look  biggledy-piggledy. 

Critics of the taste for totalitarian embodied in such plans  -and put into practice  all over the world, on a less epic scale, as cities were rebuilt around the needs of the car   -abhorred such top-down imposition.

"Cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody," wrote Jane Jacobs, an American author, in her influential 1961 book:

"The Death and Life of Great American Cities "

The use of  Data   in cities  pits top-down against bottom-up in a similar way. One side stresses the need for  citywide planning  and control, the other advocates just providing access to data that lets citizens make their own decisions.

The Honour and Serving of the Post continues: Thank you for reading and don't miss the next one as we turn Architecture on its head

With respectful dedication to the Students, Professors and Teachers of Architecture and Fine Arts. See Ya all on !WOW!  -the World Students Society Computers-Internet-Wireless:

"' Seamless Cloud For The World "'

Good night and God bless!

SAM Daily Times - The Voice of the Voiceless


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