As a typical generation Y-er, I will not go into deep detail and back my every word with a mass of links to authoritative sources. I will try with simple words to explain what do we need from urban planning and how our generation sees it. Let’s remember what is in our heads – heads of the people, who aró gradually reaching middle age, are occupied with questions about meanings, and what is more important, will be responsible for urban development in the nearest future.
Classic generation Y-ers, wherever we are living, have basic Maslow needs met, and cannot imagine their life without internet and social networking. We are not preoccupied with post-war rehabilitation, building cities, or sending man into space. We like to play games on our smartphones and measure our connection with a place with a number of check-ins on Foursquare. No need for heroes and ”strong leaders”. We need novators - original, bright, enthralling.
We are a walking contradiction. Some of us think that in art and culture everything that could be possibly done – was done, and anything new is just repetition. However, all of this doesn’t lower our expectations – moreover, they are on a grander scale than ever. Job – only the best, city to live in – only the most dynamic, intersting and comfortable. Because everyone deserves it, because everyone is unique. But with this seeming egoism we care about environment, questions of tolerance and ethical treatment of animals.
Our generation is an astonishing, strange mess of individualists. Individuality is no longer created from scratch, it is no longer fought for. We have no need to prove we have the right to be different, on the contrary – it is almost impossible to stand out of the diverse crowd. Identity nowadays is applied, like a number of tags, from an overwhelmed information field, where city is just another tag. The key challenge is finding yourself, identifying yourself. From vertical development we shift to horizontal development.
Patriotizm becomes a complex phenomenon. Settling down for a long time becomes a hard task for generation Y-ers. And there is no such task – tormented by the unbearable lightness of being, caused by mobility and an increasing independence of your workplace from your place of living, they can change cities as often as they change their hobbies.
What to do with us? Going back to our topic, we see it is divided into two key questions. First can be formulated as “What solutions of urban planning are needed for this generation?” And the second – as “What is urban planning for generation Y?”
Let’s look at the first one. What picture do we see in Russian cities? What is there to do for young people? Can you feel at home outside of your house – in the street, in public places? Not often. Even the opposite – most of the time you want to stay inside and less time in the street, especially on public transport, which sometimes causes horror. We do not choose a city where in your spare time you can only take a bus to the mall or to the movies, but where on your way from work on your bicycle you can ride through the park to meet up with friends, checking twitter via wi-fi. Not finding use for our spare time, we grow irritated.
Luring a person out into the city by creating a comfortable environment is a goal pursued with uneven success by many municipalities. However, only comfortable environment is not enough. And what happens when it is created? We face a problem of their tendency to get tired quickly and a constant need for new experiences. Can we sit in one place? In the west attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder has become almost a standard diagnosis. What decisions are applicable in a situation when people who you are designing a city for, will leave, on average, in 3-4 years?
With all undisputed importance of questions of urban planning, only its influence alone is not enough. We need to go deeper, and this leads us to the second part of the question - the place of generation “Y” in urban planning.
What do we want for the city and from the city? Firstly, we sincerely want development. Even more, we are ready to change something, we are ready to participate in managing this development. The opportunity to feel significant is one of our main values – we don’t want to be just a part of a mechanism. The bigger the scale of an object we are working on - the better.
Objective reality gets in the way, though. Municipalities that are far from their citizens. Urbanites who have no idea of how the authorities are solving city problems, no mention - take strategic decisions. Town planning laws, which serves unclear purposes. All of this puts us in an information vacuum. Creates an entry barrier, which is not easily overcome.
At the same time, authorities also understand that to take into account population’s interests, including generation Y, we need a social request for change to arise. At the same time, they understand there are almost no more or less systematic methods or channels for such change requests to be manifested. Protest movements, guerilla activism are all consequences of the system’s imperfection, which doesn’t let them sound themselves in a proper form.
We do not need to search for solutions for long – in the time when we shift to post-information society technology is what drives the change, in this case – the Internet, social networks, web 3.0. Modern technology gives us opportunity, if not to change the system, but first - to reveal the requests and hidden meanings, which are rooted in the heads of generation Y, and, second, to show them how the city is structured and how it works. To lower the barrier.
The spectrum of opportunities which can be fulfilled is wide. From perfecting the public hearing procedure and public participation in design of town planning documents in general, and to the improving of certain city services. It is possible to predict transport flows and design public transportation systems, to predict social infrastructure capacity, identify ideas for designing public spaces, etc.
Work with investors and developers – with openness of town planning documents, information about land parcels and their statuses, limitations on land use and a possibility to submit an investment application online gets a new perspective. Moreover, we get an opportunity to connect investors, business plan creators, and land owners, stimulating investment activity, including in small business.
The idea is not new, and such projects, including purely crowdsourced, are implemented in different areas – as private and independent (Ðîñßìà, ÐîñÆÊÕ, Angry citizen, The Village: Ïàðêîâêè), as well as in government sector by local authorities (Moscow portal doroga.mos.ru, Tyumen general plan portal tyumenmap.itpgrad.ru) and federal government: in Open government project, and by Agency of strategic initiatives (roadmaps discussions launched together with Witology).
In our case a bright example of integrating generation “Y” into town planning is Crowdsourced Moscow concept, created in Strelka Institute in 2011. Utopical in nature, it is though, a good example of how our generation treats urban planning. This is how, in our view, everything should be organized, and how, if not totally, but partially, everything will be organized in future, when a city becomes our means to express ourselves.
The vital element is gamification of the whole participation process. We do not just leave faceless papers on the tables in municipal departments - we see real alternatives of development and with our likes decide where the city goes next. Decide by ourselves or by delegating our votes to a politician - votes which can as easily be discarded. No unnecessary formalities - everything is made so that the process is interesting, accessible, even addictable. So you could express yourself and find yourself in the most real of the surroundings - in the city.
Potential of crowdsourcing in territorial planning and urban development is huge. The key point here is a process of “possessing” a city. The feeling of real participation differs dramatically from using a ready space, and inside of us - the still young generation, stimulates something more important than the freedom of consumer - responsibility. It is harder to lose your connection with a city that you took part creating.
We, and I include myself, believe in the impossible, that idea is not that separated from reality - in the end, it depends on us. We are dreamers, and even allowing us to dream is, by itself, a lot.