A new science of cities, as a sum up of quantitative predictions based on big data, self-called smart technologies and internet of things, ensures that everything will become predictable and every spot of the city will be scrutinized under a complex and multi-layered pattern of sensors and displays of any kind. To some extent, turning scientific knowledge into useful knowledge for understanding cities at macro and micro level seems to be a reasonable and plausible ambition. Geoffrey West, for example, gained attention thanks to one of those TED talks that inexplicably received enormous attention for its simplicity, insists in the predictability of certain factors that may be common to any urban reality in terms of population growth, mobility and crime using certain physical and natural sciences laws.
|Image by Jeffrey Beaumont posted on localgod.tumblr.com|
How and why people use public spaces, gather in intersections, make use of public transport, meet friends, look for the sun or organise in common,...hide a large amount of blind code for the most optimistic ICT-driven smart city visions. In fact, Urban Code is nothing more but an updated exploration in a certain neighbourhood based on some of the “usual suspects” of any bibliography exploring city life: A pattern language, by Christopher Alexander, The death and life of great American cities, by Jane Jacobs, The image of the city, by Kevin Lynch or The social life of small urban spaces, by William H. Whyte. And, even though authors claim that these observations hold true for any cityscape, some of them are particular consequences of the specificity of this neighbourhood.
Anyhow, most of them are clearly an invitation to broaden some predominant views on cities and avoid the Sisyphus condemnation of expecting a predictability level that will never happen. Great tools are emerging to ease understanding what happens in a city and can be used for any purpose, from energy demand patterns to traffic flows, from understanding the pulse and sentiment of citizens to personalizing public services delivery. But there is still a wide range of not digitized information that is of crucial value and is part of a hidden code, the intelligence on the streets.