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Patchopolis is not a new city. Through introduction of new technology, programs and methods it strives to transform the existing condition, because accepting the existing condition through repeating the same mistakes is equivalent to giving up. In the smallest details this mindset can be observed in northern United States cities, where many aspects continue to be designed for summer months, becoming inadequate in less than ideal weather.

There is a common understanding over at least half the country that municipalities will annually deal with cold and snowy for a portion of the year, however design of new developments ignores this fact. During winter pedestrian paths change as sections of public stairs are chained off to prevent maintenance from having to salt and the owner from being liable for accidents. Besides these stairs how many winter mornings are open sidewalks and stairs treacherous due to icy conditions but people arrive before surfaces have been treated? This is one example of a problem that is continually repeated. There will always be unforeseen issues, but this is a problem that seems to be accepted through systematic disregard for searching for a solution. In Patchopolis existing issues are identified and new tests are conducted to find better solutions.

During WWII Allied forces were sustaining heavy losses to German submarines. Geoffrey Pyke, a British civilian, developed a plan to build gigantic aircraft carriers out of ice (99% Invisible, Project Habbakuk: Britain’s Secret Ice “Bergship” Aircraft Carrier Project). Mixing wood pulp into the ice (later called Pykrete) would slow the melting rate and allow the structure to withstand explosions. While this seems like a crazy idea, the benefits we enough that a ship started to be assembled and tested in Canada. It was never completed due to a number of circumstance including improved plane technology and a change in the direction of the war, but the takeaway is the attempt at something new and out of the ordinary. When faced with a problem, acceptance shouldn’t be the default.

Rather than repeatedly making the same mistakes in our cities, Patchopolis celebrates the testing and implementation of new solutions. Entire cities cannot be torn down to start over and they don’t need to be. Many things work. Where there are issues, be they physical like the chaining off of stairs in winter, public health, or socioeconomic issues, the creation of test solutions allows testing at a manageable scale. Where they work, implement them where it makes sense. Those that do not, learn from those results and try something else. Patchopolis does not believe in accepting mediocrity, it strives for a better solution.

The Permanance of Settlement in Cities

Patchopolis re-imagines the city to adapt to citizen movement due to work, travel, as refugees from war and famine, and soon due to climate change. Each move removes the individual from the safe habitat of their home. To ease the process of moving places housing must be re-imagined to convert from place based to mobile to fit the owner’s needs.

There are many influences that force people to temporarily or permanently move their safe space and one of the largest unknowns is the threat of rising sea levels, which will continue to threaten seaside communities throughout the world (Threatened By Rising Seas, Alaska Village Decides To Relocate, NPR). In the United States sea level rising at a steady pace is poised to create millions of internally displaced people. At a more sporadic pace, larger storms will quickly create scenarios where populations will need to move rapidly. This changing paradigm creates an opportunity to reimagine how the individual relates to the city.

In Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, Marco Polo describes fifty-five different cities, which are described not as physical places, but as separate thought experiments where each is assigned a tag (Urban Oases: Getting Lost in ‘Invisible Cities’, NPR). The tags are memory, desire, signs, thin, trading, eyes, names, dead, sky, continuous, and hidden which are descriptions of a pattern ordering the city. With the driver of citizen mobility the most similarity to the new ordering for cities in Marco Polo’s city of Eutropia. “On the day when Eutropia’s inhabitants feel the grip of weariness and no one can bear any longer his job, his relatives, his house and his life, debts, the people he must greet or who greet him, then the whole citizenry decides to move to the next city, which in there waiting for them, empty and good as new…” (Eutropia, Italo Calvino, pg 64). While Eutropia’s driver for moving differs from the forces we face forcing movement, the goal is the same; create cities where when pressures require allow for easy transition to a better situation.

Having a fresh new city is in some ways the current condition. A citizen moves to a new place with a new home and in the old place their former home remains to wait for a new citizen. Rather than have homes or hotels that sit abandoned, the residence (a citizen’s sanctuary) should move with them to the new city where the infrastructure is in place waiting for their arrival. In this vision the future society becomes portable. When a traveler enters Patchopolis they find a city that changes like the seasons…

Next Level Communication

The philosophy of Patchopolis is to encourage social interaction. Many social applications (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn. Periscope, etc.) support the Globalization of society, enabling sharing of information and experiences with a world wide audience and allowing individuals to remain in contact with old connections in an increasingly migratory world. However, these applications cannot replace the value of intimate connections, and the serendipitous discoveries, which can only occur in-person. Serendipity cannot be planned or simulated, we stumble into valuable, pleasant connections through the events, places, and interactions with others. Through living in the moment we create these lucky connections. For establishing local connections there are applications like Tinder that encourage local interaction, but they are based on a thin facade. These applications all began from the same method which was to create a tool and let the user tell you its value and purpose. Patchopolis requires the next level of application development that builds applications with a purpose in mind, to enable and encourage local serendipity.

People judge books by their cover. To some degree it is unavoidable and Tinder and other local interaction applications expose that evaluation (Fast Company, I Found Out My Secret Internal Tinder Rating And Now I Wish I Hadn’t). The jumping off point with the application is based on very limited user created information and a visual interpretation. This does not strengthen community and social exchange, it creates a culture that is afraid to fail. Just like the application, created with the least features to attract the most users who will then instruct the developer in how it will be used, the user gives the least information necessary to maximize contacts rather than valuable personality information. This is harmful because individuals become afraid to expose any actual depth and prevents the building of skill of how to present and introduce oneself to someone new. For an application to encourage local interaction it needs to go further than skin deep, it must reveal the qualities of the individual.

The next iteration of social applications needs to be developed as a tool to correct this fear and enable users to better make serendipitous interaction. Up until now developers created tools, threw them at society and said you figure it out, tell us how you will put it to use. This was the developers learning period. It is time for evolution, to start creating tools with an identified purpose.

Patchopolis needs applications that bring the local community together and create opportunities for serendipitous interaction. Based off the concept of silent disco (Silent Events) we need applications that take the user out of their own head and encourage living in the moment. What if the application you were using to listen to a podcast allowed shared listening over a short distance? This would enable users to mutually choose to get out of your headphones and connect with someone over shared content interest. Applications become tools in Patchopolis to engage the members of a community with one another.

Welcome to Patchopolis!

When I was moving to Milwaukee, WI from Minneapolis, MN in August 2011 I struggled with where to start looking for apartments.  I had moved for my job and not owning a car made being within walking distance of the office a good starting point, but what were the other driving factors behind my location decision?  Where do I buy groceries?  Where is the best nightlife?  What will I do for recreation?  These all were prominent factors that made finding my new neighborhood possible.

Now that I have lived here for over six month and “learned” my city I have noticed all the information I didn’t consider.  Simply living near nightlife wasn’t enough but it took learning where the theaters, restaurants, and pubs that I enjoy are.  As I fell into new social circles I learned where they liked to gather.  It quickly became clear that my neighborhood wasn’t in the right spot.

Just like the experiences of living in a city taught me more than could be understood through simple mapping and research prior to moving, there are constantly forces that are changing a community’s business, social, and environmental relationships.  In systems analysis these are referred to as leverage points, and are where small things have a massive effect on complex systems.  For an introduction to leverage Points and how they impact urban systems read Donella Meadows’, Leverage Points: Places to Intervene in a System.  While not every changing force in a city has a massive impact, they do in some way reshape the relationships that are occurring.

Each week this blog will explore a trend in social media, new technological development or urban developmental focus to imagine how applied locally it may impact and engage with the existing city.  Nothing created here expects to be a silver bullet, but instead a chance to imagine how simple changes can improve business and social relationships in a artful and exciting manner that can lead to an evolutionary change in an urban environment.

While this first week is more of an introduction to what I hope to do than an example (check out next Monday’s post (5/28/2012), the first of many that will explore parking lots — my FAVORITE urban site to play with!!!), I invite you to also check out the resources page which contains some of my favorite useful and obscure mapping sites.

Enjoy and have a great week.