Digital Cities

Digital Cities

Jon Bo
  • How might we create the sense of a small, evolving town on the internet?
  • What does an average day in such a place look like? How does a quiet ordinary day here contrast to one with an exciting festival in the town center?
  • What goes on at the university campus? What sort of resources are available for learners to use and enjoy? What does the library look and feel like?
  • What is the public transportation of an online town? The central terminal? A port?

The internet is magic. The internet is a tool. We have a magical tool: a way of constructing spaces in ways conducive to spontaneous collaboration and playful learning. Such methods of designing spaces are not limited to the physical constraints of tensile strength, height, and shadows. Cities of bits and networks are infinite; everywhere and nowhere.

Cities are where life happens. Spatially dense; they organize both goods and information. Certain spaces attract particular ideas and people and form a history; a legacy; a story. Such spaces are where ideas, people, and potential come together and form into something more; transforming the potential into the real.

Most current internet properties are just that: places with a financial purpose and an overarching set rules for how and why they operate. Often built to specification to fulfill a particular market segment, such spaces are like faceless glass skyscrapers; devoid of the organic evolution which makes cities feel lived in. They require blueprints, bulldozers, and cranes to construct; a process almost always involving destruction.

This in contrast to the quieter, messier parts of the internet. Spaces not designed from scratch - but instead grown over time by countless passers-by; some of whom decided to add a sentence or a page, some css, or just browse and make an appearance in the guests-online indicator in the footer. Born in a weekend and kept alive by love and bubble gum; these are the alleyways of the internet.

Might it be possible to create an internet space that feels like a seaside port town instead of Times Square? Where not everything is set in stone but is welcoming of extensions: a new park bench here, a new walkway there. A place with a rhythm and a life of its own, where one can come and visit — where leaving means simply making space for others to come explore your footprints and notes left behind.

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