Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Back From the Dead

Well, I'm back from a several-months hiatus. I suppose an explanation is in order: I started grad school (again!) last September. My time management is not so hot, and I found that schoolwork was simply taking up a lot more time than I had anticipated. With the new semester starting next week, however, I'm optimistic that I can devote the time necessary to post regularly. I'm shooting for three posts per week (Monday / Wednesday / Friday). With any luck, the gods of urbanism (Jane Jacobs, can you hear me!?) will smile upon me and grant my wish.

So let's get back to the plan: cities! What are they? What does it mean to live in one? Will they still exist 50 years from now? Is suburban sprawl and endless force marching over all we urbanists love? Will a Democratic administration (cross your fingers!) be a more urban-friendly administration?

Whoa there. That's a bit much to cover in one entry. I will, however, speak briefly about question #3: Will cities still exist 50 years from now?

The long-term viability of cities has been a fascinating question as long as urban studies has existed. Admittedly, that's not a very long time. Even before urban studies was called urban studies, however, people have wondered whether cities--or, more properly, urban agglomerations--would always exist.

There are indeed interesting arguments suggesting that cities won't last: chief among them is the influence that information technology has in making it possible to distribute work geographically. In a word: telecommuting. The no-cities-in-the-future-ists tell us that telecom allows for the geographic decentralization of work. Everyone can just call / fax / email / vpn his way to work, and voila! The economy will tick along, only no one will really ever need to see coworkers face-to-face.

It's an interesting trend, but it's unclear whether telecom in the long run will really break up cities. The number of telecommuters remains small (as a percentage of American workers, anyway). The more significant impact telecom has had on the economy is that it has facilitated connections between countries. India, of course, is the obvious example: The stunning boom in telecom (brought about by American innovation, no less) led to explosive growth in IT-services delivered by India. I'm sure we're all familiar with that.

And, by the way, go check out India if you think cities are headed the way of the dodo. Every week the WSJ publishes another article about Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, or Delhi; those cities are ridiculously huge and getting bigger. Hell, even a 37-hp Tata can't stop that!


Blogger Ed Kohler said...

It's great to see you back. Time wise, I'd rather see quick hits on topics that interest you than gaps like the last one. Keep it coming.

11:58 PM  
Blogger bonnie said...

Maybe you can convince someone at the graduate level to give you credit for blogging? You never know! The U has been known to give credit for "life experience"!

2:18 AM  

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