Thursday, July 15, 2010

Richard Saul Wurman's 19.20.21

Richard Saul Wurman, founder of the TED conference, gave the keynote speech at the ESRI International Users conference in San Diego this year.

His address focused on his 19.20.21 campaign, which highlights the increasing urbanization of our planet, with 19 cities of 20 million or more people in the 20th century. He is working on a series of television programs called Cities: Understanding the Way We Live, to highlight the move toward greater urbanization around the globe.
As part of the 19.20.21 project, which includes Wurman, Jon Kamen and Jack Dangermond as partners, the group is using comparative analysis to understand the urban patterns. Interesting patterns emerge when analyzing the metrics of a city where divisions of geography such as hills or neighborhoods provide distinct patterns of citizens that also affect transportation, and other elements that all affect the quality of life.
Part of the vision of 19.20.21 is the idea of an urban observatory where the information will be organized centrally so that we can all realize that we’re not a planet of countries, but a planet of cities. The creation of a common metric and a means to view each city and compare them in a standard template will help people understand issues of sustainability.
I found this last part fascinating. Recall if you will that most of the history of many can be described geographically in terms of city-states. It's a modern phenomenon that we have fixed boundaries for countries and nations. Even empires, like the Romans, Greeks, Persians, and even later European dynasties, existed as collections of cities with the intervening rural lands protected by armies. But boundaries were not definite.

So what will the world look like in the future with our population continuing to amass in highly populated central cities? Will we revert to a more city-centric political model?
I highly doubt it, considering the information technology that exists to keep track of said boundaries, and the growing international morality that you shouldn't mess with those said boundaries.

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