By Nidhi Batra – Sehreeti
We, fellow urbanist, have dwelled on Jane Jacobs – ‘Eyes on the street’ construct, appreciating and propagating the inclusive livable city where public places become lifeline of the city, abuzz with activity, and in turn offering the best form of security, surveillance and engagement with the city environs.
But times are changing, cities unfortunately are moving into cocooned ‘zoned’ areas, interactions amongst city dwellers is getting limited, exploration of the urban environment of the city – be it your neighborhood park, a public place or even your city plaza is diminishing. We seem to no longer ‘hang out’ in public places as much. Idea of an outing seems to be a walk in the 1km long air conditioned environment of a mall! Participation and engagement with the city environs is for certain therefore getting limited. Fallout of such a disengaged citizenry is no sense of ownership and belongingness to the city. In the development field, we keep idealistically harping about citizen participation, asking people what they want and how would they want their locale to change or improve. But reality of the matter is, unless they are gravely affected by that development, most people are not bothered. We then know that the key to this indifference is the lack of association with the physical realm of our cities.
In some cases where citizens are excited to participate and comment, our tools of dissemination become a challenge. Key to active citizen engagement is to have ‘informed’ citizens who are aware of all pros and cons of any kind of development process. Beyond the conventional dissemination tools of print and media – tools of augmented virtual reality are now being encouraged. Citizens can click a picture of their neighborhood, suggest some changes and post it to the concerned authorities. Or authorities can create a walkthrough of the new development proposed in the virtual realm to allow citizens to know how and what is in store for them!
Source: Augmented Reality at the Service of Participatory Urban Planning and Community Informatics a case study from Vienna http://ci-journal.net/index.php/ciej/rt/printerFriendly/1087/1107
City Gaming have been catching up – with games that are either using the ‘environment of an existing or futuristic’ city or games that are encouraging people to voice their opinions through play.
Newest entry to the realm of city gaming and which has used the virtual augmented reality to its fullest is what entire world seems to be hooked on to these days is Pokémon Go! Users are busy chasing virtual pokemons in their neighbourhood and in turn are probably pacing around public places, streets, alleys that they never did before!
Speaking to few people – got interesting review – ‘apparently it helps us walk – you end up walking miles trying to catch the pokemon, one boy in my niece’s school entered the neighbouring apartment she says and realized it too late!’. Some people are calling it the newest ‘Social Experience’. Public places around the world are ‘encashing’ on pokemons to get people!
Amongst all this, I am sitting and wondering –did they manage to nod a hi, or give a smile to the other ‘fellow’ who probably was also taking a walk with him? Did they stop and managed to look at the landscape around, or enjoy the ducks or hear the bird chirping?
Cases have been reported of people being so damn hooked on to it that they have even met an accident on roads, chasing the pokemons. And we are calling this a ‘New Social Experience’?!
Jacobs is becoming more and more relevant today, with not just planners ‘ravaging’ the city – but all new technology too seems to be isolating us more and more with us and our physical realm. In such ‘urban upbringing’ we are not going to have any associations with our environs – so we better don’t expect to be engaged, participatory, concerned citizens. Kytta (2003) had suggested that when a child climbs a tree and finds a strong branch, the prospect of building a treehouse in that branch becomes a sequential affordance. Discovering these hidden affordances of the environment contributes to “deeper understanding” of place “based on highly personal experiences”. If we, our children, youth, are glued to these virtual augmented realities and miss the existing – very tangible – REALITY… we are in danger!