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3 Big Ideas to Change the City

3 Big Ideas to Change the City

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Over at The Wooly, a small bar in Lower Manhattan, panelists gathered on Monday evening to present “3 Ideas to Change the City.” The event, co-hosted by Control Group (CG) and Launch LM,was moderated by Bob Richardson, CG’s Senior Director of Strategy, and each panelist was allotted 10 minutes to present their city-changing innovation:

1. Open Data 2.0. Presented by Chris Corcoran from the NYC Mayor’s Office of Data Analytics, the idea of “Open Data 2.0” comes as a natural follow-up to much of the curated data being published by city, state, and federal governments. While NYC is among the most progressive cities in publishing datasets for public use, Corcoran noted multiple shortcomings–data hoarding, a lack of communication between agencies, a lack of user interaction or contribution to data, and a simple lack of resources for government offices looking to collect and publish their data for use.

480656_463354607118966_1159495549_nOpen Data 2.0 would involve a real-time feed of data linked directly to the institutions from which it originated.. The goal was not to curate data, but to provide direct access to it. This direct access would, presumably, encourage greater engagement from citizens and provide a more complete picture of the information being gathered by governments.

2. The Quantified Community. Proposed by Constantine Kontokosta of the NYU Center for Urban Science & Progress, the “Quantified Community” is best described as a mash up of the Smart City and Quantified Self movements. As cities work to make smarter use of available data on infrastructure, consumption, travel, and more, millions of individuals are constantly measuring and logging countless aspects of their lives through apps, and social media. By combining these two phenomena, Kontokosta believes we can start creating Quantified Communities.

The goal of a Quantified Community is to be capable of logging all quantifiable aspects (he introduced this idea with the question: “What if you could know everything about a neighborhood?”) of life in a given community. We could know the effect of new tools or gadgets, what happens to certain purchases during rainy days, and the effects of a policy banning liquor sales after 10pm. In short, the more we quantify, the more effective urban planners we become.

3.  Personal Data Lockers. The final idea came from Dr. Anthony Townsend, and it dealt with the fair commercialization of consumer data. Dr. Townsend, taking inspiration from The Locker Project, suggested that localizing data collected from an individual’s various activities into a single, commercial package could help those originating all of this data see a pay off. Communities, especially those “Quantified Communities” spoken of by Kontokosta, could stand to benefit as well. Think about it: as a prospective business hoping to enter a given community, wouldn’t you have an incentive to purchase a community data package?

All of these ideas merit serious attention, and it was encouraging to see the diverse fields of both panelists and attendees. Questions following the presentation were wide-ranging, from the constant struggle between privacy and utility (jury still out) to the contributions average citizens can make to help bring these ideas into reality (become more active in communities, incorporate data into your involvement). The overall message seems to be that 21st century societies will require a much more intimate relationship between individuals, communities, businesses, and governments. The exploration of these ideas are just the beginning.

Image Credit: CC by Camilo Van-Strahlen and LaunchLM Facebook

About the author: James Velasquez

James Velasquez is a writer and journalist working in New York City. He previously worked as a policy researcher in Washington, DC.

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