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What are we drumming up in our technosocial city visions?
Each key tap like repeated beats on a doorway to wiser paths?

Could this be a call to action for all, for journalists, policy gurus, lawmakers, urban designers, architects, digital makers, activists and everyday people, yes we all, to ask deeper questions, more rigorous questions? Why does status quo journalism and popular thought revolve around sales PR from vendors of a technology? How do those mindful of our living responsibilities become more literate about technological determinism? When will most see the failure of technocratic modernism? At what planetary cost? While hubris lauds our material “progress” have you felt our climate crisis to render such proud calculations from status quo logic as profoundly and decidedly unwise?

Whose answers are being heard & repeated?
Are we too often still asking the wrong questions?
What are wiser questions to take to heart, and turn to each other asking right now?

What about these 15 questions* to ask about any public urban technology?:

  1. What is the problem to which this technology is a solution?
  2. Whose problem is it?
  3. What new problems might be created by solving the original problem?
    1. What does the solution enhance?
    2. What does the solution make obsolete?
    3. What does the solution retrieve that had been obsolesced earlier?
    4. What does the solution reverse or flip into when pushed to extremes?
  4. Which people and what institutions will be most seriously harmed by this new technology?
  5. What changes in language are being forced by these new technologies?
  6. What sort of people and institutions gain special economic and political power from this new technology?
  7. Is it contextual to the place?
  8. Are local people collaborating in making & using it?
  9. Does it support a human scale relationship or interaction?
  10. Does it increase face to face interaction?
  11. To what degree does the project support all our Commons?
  12. Is there mentoring?
  13. Is it connected to existing community wisdom campaigns?
  14. Is it inclusive & respectful to the full diversity of all human & non-human life?
  15. How sustainable is ongoing iteration planned for & supported?

What came to mind just now? Was it that urban tech and smart cities schemes are often a complex complected mix of numerous technologies which require many rounds of this type of rigorous inquiry to even approach holding some wise governance understanding?

Do you hear this call for more mindful reflective culture? That responsibility to each other and future generations? Are you there already? Then can we talk about how placemaking in the digital age requires even more cross-cultural community interaction & equanimity?

Do you feel how this deeper dialogue, so open and expansive… is courageously democratic?

What happens if you ask these questions with someone right now?

* Adapted from Neil Postman, Building a Bridge to the 18th Century: How the Past Can Improve Our Future, 1999; Marshall McLuhan, Laws of Media, 1988; Jim Diers, Neighbor Power: Building Community the Seattle Way, 2004, and the author’s unpublished work from 2016.