are smartphones changing the geography of our cities?

The increasing prevalence of mobile communications technologies has important consequences for urban transportation. The new ability to carry your social life around with you, enabling instant connections regardless of physical location, has the potential to reconfigure how we think about time and mobility, and in turn how we build environments to suit our travel behavior.   For example, it appears to be impossible to use smartphones safely while driving, so smartphone users have a motive to seek an alternative mode so that they can make use of their travel time.

 Ben Schulman has an interesting take on this in his paper, The Car as Smartphone: Effects on the Built Environment and Sociality, which you can download below. He places the smartphone in a continuity of change in human communications technology, and traces how those technologies have helped to shape our cities. 

The built environment then is a reflection of the predominant communication devices being used at given points in time that shape sociality. In other words, we develop an infrastructure necessary to accommodate the needs of our preferred communication tools.

This idea is a larger envelope around the familiar idea that all cities are built around the transportation technologies of the time.  Transportation, after all, is one kind of communication tool.

There is a lot of to digest here, but it is well worth a read in order to situate these trends within an academic urbanist frame of reference. My take is that the role of communication is hugely important, but must be understood as an aspect of a broader web of economic and social relationships which together work to produce the space of the city. 

Download Schulman—car-as-smartphone-2

3 Responses to are smartphones changing the geography of our cities?

  1. Nate Wessel November 1, 2013 at 11:06 am #

    Brilliant article. Thanks for sharing this, Jarrett.
    The thought that stands out to me the most: “‘mobile privatization’ as a condition of modernity”…There’s definitely more than a grain of truth to this assumption but I wonder why. Why should we moderns want to live as so few people have before us? How long can our roving selective self-isolation last? Another century?
    The closing lines are simply terrifying. I don’t want to live in that world, at least while I still have a body.

  2. Aima September 15, 2015 at 2:17 am #

    such a informative article thanks for sharing.
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  3. David September 21, 2015 at 12:57 am #

    Yes because of our smart phone application.
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