By Rob Shields
Mobile technologies are continually changing the way we experience, engage with and move around the city. While acts like getting a taxi with Uber and navigating with Waze or Google Maps are shaping our mobility, video conferencing apps such as Skype reconfigure relationships globally by facilitating interaction from a distance. Together these types of technologies are challenging the boundaries that once contained everything we thought of as “local,” from politics to business to community. Rather than focusing on fixed entities and stable, bounded territories, the “mobility turn” in planning theory examines the contextual quality of social action, the dynamic aspects of institutions and the changing nature of regulations.
Municipal professionals have neither experience nor models for how these changing “mobilities” impact long-term investments proposed for city infrastructure. Shifting boundaries and scales of everyday relationships will mean that it will be difficult to understand what rules apply in a given site or situation. At this point, only one thing is certain: the established boundaries and reach of municipalities will continue to expand in years to come. And as these infrastructures and flows of mobilities continue to develop – from transport to information to energy – access to them will have significant ethical implications that planners and elected officials need to understand today in order to ensure that cities remain accessible and equitable for all citizens.
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