Smartphones and the City

by Brendan Colgan

I am sure you are all aware of the smartphone revolution. Smartphones have increasing impact on our day to day lives. Meaningful human communication and interaction depends primarily on language, both spoken and written. Any phone (more or less) can do this. Yet with “Apps” smartphones go further and have become a means by which we negotiate and manage our everyday lives.  They affect how we navigate, discover,  eat, communicate, relate, interact. They have become an intermediary between consumers and producer, locals and tourists. It is perhaps no surprise then that so many cities are embracing such a technology.

Technology Cartoon #6176 by AndertoonsMore and more cities are creating city specific “Apps” or working to become more smartphone friendly by expanding accessibility and network infrastructure (like Philadelphia’s attempt to become the first completely free-wifi city). But do smartphones go beyond that? Do they provide an opportunity to change how we organize, structure our cities – both socially and physically? Are they helping break down socio-economic barriers? Are they leveling the playing field for citizens so they can be more engaged and better identify with their city? Do they make cities more attractive? Can it be a mechanism of city re-branding? or will it inevitably lead to gentrification? Do I like my city more because of my phone? Even if I am a local, am I really learning or exploring my city if the only reason I am at the “local hotspot” is because of my phone? Perhaps. I’ll keep you posted.

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