After Dark

This post, about the tragi-comic issuing of parking tickets for infractions incurred in deserted Detroit neighbourhoods, reminds me of a tension I’ve noticed before.

Every time I encounter some breathless futurist blather about ‘intelligent cities’ or digital interconnectedness, I immediately think of places like Michigan in the US, where basic infrastructure like street lighting, the quo pro the residents’ quid, is often neither functional nor supported.

We live at a time when economic security is anything but certain, with politicians and talking heads the world over invoking the supposed need for austerity. In an age of decaying infrastructure and funding cuts, what will the future’s ‘smart’ cities look like? Biometric locks, intelligent lighting and urban wireless networks might not be very useful in a blackout. Presumably, the beneficiaries of our dazzling digital future will not be the people who are priced out of chic urban neighbourhoods.