Urban Architects

Union Square, New York City.Image via Wikipedia

Jack Dorsey, who came up with the initial idea for Twitter and co-founded the company often talks about his fascination with cities, mass transit, and bike messengers. He says it was this fascination that led to the inspiration for Twitter.

Dennis Crowley, the founder of Dodgeball and Foursquare, shares that fascination. When I first talked to him about Foursquare, he told me that he "tries to build things that make cities easier to use".

Steven Johnson, the author and co-founder of Outside.in was inspired to create that company when he was writing the Ghost Map which is about the urban scourge of cholera and how a map of the Soho neighborhood in London solved the question of the source of cholera.

Steven's co-founder of Outside.in is John Geraci, who I first met at ITP's senior project show when he was showing off a cool service called Found City which I blogged about at the time. John is now running an incubator for entrepreneurs that want to reinvent how cities and urban governments work called DIYCity.

And one of the crowd favorites at TC50 this past week was a company called CitySourced, which built "a free, simple, and intuitive tool empowering citizens to identify
civil issues (potholes, graffiti, trash, snow removal, etc.) and report
them to city hall for quick resolution". This is exactly the kind of thing I was talking about in my "public channel" post earlier this year.

These and many others are our new urban architects. I am not suggesting that the traditional roles of urban planning and architecture aren't still important to our cities. They are and will continue to be.

But there is something new afoot in urban life. And it starts with the mobile phone, a computer in our pocket or purse, that is with us at all times.

Services like Twitter, Foursquare, and Outside.in are changing the way I use the city and I am certain they are changing the way many of us use the cities we live in. And we are just at the very beginning. Think about what happens when we get true augmented reality services on our phones. Think about what happens when we get real social networking services on our phones. Think about what happens when we get new interfaces on our phones that don't require us to be looking down and typing when we we are out and about.

This is an area, the intersection between mobile, local, and urban life, that we are particularly excited about. You can see it in our portfolio and you'll be seeing more of it soon. If you are working in this area, please come talk to us.

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