If you were asked to improve your own neighbourhood, what would you change? And how would you go about communicating those changes?
Cities are systems, or rather, many systems that interconnect. Like buildings, they can be thought of as having layers, each changing at its own pace. If those layers are loosely coupled, the city — like the building — can adapt.
Recently, new urban layers/systems have started to emerge. They are made up of rapidly proliferating computing power, carried by people and embedded in the environment, used to access vast amounts of data.
At the same time, games have given rise to a new form of literacy — systemic literacy. However, to date, players have mostly inhabited the systems that make up games. They can read them. Writing, on the other hand, is another matter. True systemic literacy means being able to change the systems you inhabit.
True read/write systemic literacy can be used to craft games, yes. But it can also be used to see that many other problems and challenges in daily life are systemic ones.
To be sure, the real-time city will confront its inhabitants with many new problems. It is of the essence that the people shaping these new systems have a deep concern for their fellow humans. But it is also at least as important that people are taught the knowledge and skills — and given the tools — to change stuff about their surroundings as they see fit.
The wonderful thing is, we can shape systems, using the ‘new’ streets as a platform that transfer this knowledge and these skills to people. We can create ‘serious’ urban games that facilitate speculative modelling, so that people can improve their living environment, or at least express what they would change about it, in a playful way.