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20 June 2008



The metaphors are flowing - chickens, plumbing, cities!

I am rather taken with the metaphor of the city because I am a pavement cafe person - people watching and serendipity are my favorite pastimes.

But the more I think about it, the harder it is to find the parallels between the internet and a city.

Coming from an inland country, with relatively new cities, it strikes me that there are cities and cities. Eventually a city becomes a hub where we gravitate quite often with vague expectations like Dick Whittington and his cat. In their early life though, they tend to spring up though around a natural resource that creates a gateway. London is at the end of a navigable river. Many great cities have harbors that allowed a port. Jo-burg is the center for the gold mines. Milton Keynes is the perennial curiosity because it seems 'artificial' - having no purpose. It isn't life at the end of a gateway.

And BTW a city is only a city with a cathedral - a bishop - most unlike the spirit of the internet.

Of course, a city might outlive the life of the natural resource, the Thames is no longer the major route into London. We might find the parallel with well established cities?

I think the answer might lie in purpose. A city needs a purpose and the internet has no purpose because it has no center.

Some one help me out of the cul-de-sac I have created for myself!

Roland Harwood

Hi Jim - glad my random musings provoked some further thought! I won't comment extensively as I've blogged about this theme a couple of times recently:


However I think your penultimate paragraph captures it nicely: "As a species, the Internet will greatly impact our intellectual and social evolution". My thesis (not new by any means) is that disruptive technologies have always profoundly changed the places in which we live (with the industrial revolution perhaps being the most significant example e.g. Manchester) and we are only just starting to figure out what impact the internet is having. However I would now go one step further and say that some of the funtions/activities that make/made cities great (and grow), such as pavement watching (!) are now moving online.

Jo - I agree the metaphors are (possibly too) liberally applied but my question would be what is the purpose of a city above any beyond economies of scale and productivity enhancements - that's not why I moved to London, though it might be what keeps me here.

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