The City as a Platform

Aaron Renn (via the Urbanophile blog, a must-read for anyone interested in the dynamics of urban areas) discusses the concept of “The City as a Platform”. As a technology platform provider trying to crack open the “local” nut for the benefit of local media companies, I like the various analogies mentioned in the post but I especially love this one:

The City as a Train Station: (…) We can think of the city as the place we access networks that give us the ability to travel to or interact with other places and things. They are our “network access point”. Just as some train stations or air hubs have better service that others, so to with cities. How many networks does it give you access to? How can you improve your connectivity?

What it means: As I’ve mentioned before, “local” is much more than local businesses. It’s much more than consumers/readers/taxpayers.  It’s much more than news, classifieds, crime information. It’s the complete ecosystem of local stakeholders and their complex interactions: consumers, businesses, news, classifieds, schools, local governments, events, etc. I believe that’s one of the main reasons why “local” hasn’t been cracked yet. Everyone is focused on one or two pieces only.

“Local” is real life. It’s complex and chaotic. If you start thinking of the city as a platform, you quickly discover the various pieces of that universe. Breadth/depth of information/social interaction will be a key success factor to “own” local.

4 thoughts on “The City as a Platform

  1. Maybe it’s impossible to “own local”, precisely because it’s complex and chaotic. Maybe we need to reframe this as “share local”. To more you share, the better your hub/network. Hence the greater the value of your service.

    (Stating the obvious: happiness is in the API)

  2. As ever, interesting pointer Sebastien.

    As Sylvain says, maybe it’s impossible to truly own Local.

    Perhaps, it’s about using technology to enhance peoples lives by giving them tools to organise the chaos. By that, e I mean basic organisation to order things but also to creation (including sharing).

    One example that came to mind is http://www.flook.it

    Also, if you are interested in urban dynamics, I suggest reading “Skateboarding, space and the city: architecture and the body”.

    owning Local but it’s about providing people with a set of tools to help them

  3. @Simon As you say, maybe it’s all about a dashboard. Think of a Twitter reader but for aggregated local content.

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