This post by John Tolva is heralded as “critical reading if you have any interest whatsoever in networked cities and citizenries” by city-ubicomp expert Adam Greenfield.
… [think] of the city itself as an open platform with an API. Physical objects generate data that can be combined, built upon, and openly shared just as it can be from the data portal. The difference in this scenario is location. Where much of the data in the portal is geo-tagged, data coming from the built environment would be geo-actionable. That is, in the city-as-platform scenario certain data is only useful in the context of the moment and the place it is accessed.
Just don’t call it an ‘urban OS’:
… I’m growing skeptical of calling all this an operating system, at least in the sense we traditionally do. Much of the talk of an urban OS focuses solely on centralized control. But if you’re true to the analogy of a computer operating system it would have to be a platform for others to build applications upon. In truth, this is a lot more like a robustly deployed, well-documented set of fault-tolerant API endpoints than it is an OS.
There’s been a lot of interest in urban spaces in the last few years from people such as Adam Greenfield, Andrea Resmini and Luca Rosati (who we also covered in this year’s EuroIA conference notes), and Dan Hill (who we also covered at Interaction 10). However, Tolva’s perspective is particularly heartening given that he represents the public sector, and represents a growing number of authorities realising the future role of open data.
City of Chicago image NC-BY-CC by accentstage