SOCIETY | Dec 23, 2019

Augmented cities: when technology does not replace man but improves his quality of life

The relationship between institutions and citizens changes and above all the "narrative" of urban centers changes, also thanks to new communication tools.

The cover of the September issue of The New Yorker dedicated to technology, designed by Christoph Niemann, portrayed a man who ended up becoming one with his computer. No evolutionary paradox à la Black Mirror but an invitation to reflection. How are new technologies influencing our lives? And in what direction are we going?

Crucial questions which are in some way answered by the Manifesto of Municipia, dedicated to the construction of new urban centers at the service of people: technological, resilient and at the same time inclusive. The “augmented city”, to be precise, in which people’s use of time and space is “augmented”, improving their quality of life with planning characterized by solid economic and financial sustainability.

A new vision that can materialize every day on several fronts with the use of new technologies: from reduced time in traffic to finding a parking space thanks to sensors, crime prevention through analysis of Big Data and augmented reality applied to the management of welfare services. Even the simplification of tax payments and online administrative procedures that eliminate unnecessary bureaucracy, avoid long queues at counters, facilitate the work of municipal employees and allow users to interact directly with the local Public Administration and receive immediate answers on their PC or smartphone.


Recounting the change

A paradigm shift in the relationship between institution and citizen, but above all from the point of view of communication and “narration” of the city out there. Because, as pointed out in the Manifesto, “if the Public Administration cannot recount this change that it is taking place, then it is a bit as if this change did not really happen at all”. A transparent and inclusive PA, on the other hand, must be within reach, open to listening and dialogue, without being afraid of confrontation. A fundamental contribution in this direction also comes from the growing use of new communication tools such as the Web, chats and social networks, as well as from Artificial Intelligence for countering, for example, the spread of fake news. There are hundreds of best practices throughout Italy, but they are still few compared with the requests of users.

People at the center of the Augmented City

This technological evolution has placed people at the center of the entire system. From their passive role of the past, with choices imposed in a top-down direction, they have become an active part of a revolutionary process, to say the least; proactive thrusts now come from below, from citizens, from trade associations, from businesses that live the city every day, calling for efficient services, more simplification, transparency and greater economic development.

The “augmented city” of the Manifesto of Municipia draws precisely this path and its point of arrival. A path where, to respond to Niemann’s graphic “provocation”, the machine is not destined to become one with man. No element replaces the other. Technological innovation instead places itself at the service of the person, increases capacities (including that of the local PA for preventing rather than buffering emergencies) and responds to their needs in a historical-social moment in which we are daily witnessing the collapse of primary public services. This is the human face of technology. An Augmented City designed by people for people.

Alessia Freda