From Thurii to Quayside: Creating Inclusive Blended Spaces in Digital Communities
26 Pages Posted: 27 Nov 2020
Date Written: October 4, 2020
The modern-day digital community provides an opportunity to follow the unifying threads of governance, physical spaces, and technologies, as played out through the deployment of local software-based sensors and gateways. As we will see, the now-defunct Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto highlights the challenges, and limitations, of developing such a comprehensive system of interfaces, in the absence of sufficiently inclusive and holistic mechanisms to govern their use.
In this article, we will look briefly at two planned cities – the ancient Greek city of Thurii, and the modern cityscape of Quayside in Toronto, Canada—as exemplifying the different layers of control that can and should work well together in communities of trust. One proposed takeaway is the desirability of planning digital communities that invite active human participation in the blended spaces between the self and world, the private and public, and the physical and virtual.
For the Quayside cityscape, the article focuses on two particular layers. First, we will explore inclusive governance, which spans from civic data trusts to urban trusts. That exploration includes consideration of the knowledge commons, and by extension the ancient Greek agora, as useful framing references.
Second, we will dig into inclusive interfaces, using as an exemplar the evolving and still-incomplete work of the Sidewalk Labs’ design engineering team, the Digital Transparency in the Public Realm (DTPR) project. More human-agential versions of these interfaces exemplify what are introduced here as edgetech systems, as opposed to the cloudtech systems that dominate the Web today. The article establishes edgetech as incorporating three key elements: (1) the edge-to-all (e2a) design principle, (2) multiple end user-facing modalities of data, computation, and interfaces, and (3) a mix of edge-pushing and edge-pulling functionalities that empower the end user.
Finally, the article observes how the personal digital fiduciary, paired with a Personal AI, could help the individual successfully navigate the inclusive new blends of physical and virtual spaces in their digital communities. Certain government policies are identified that would enable these more participatory governance and edgetech opportunities.
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