How will life in cities be different in the next decade

There is a lot of talk about green initiatives, sustainable energy use, and clean cities. They are featured in numerous publications, and I find them fairly interesting. It’s good to know that there are people out there who are concerned and have the skills to do something about it. Here is a quote from┬áJake Barton, Founder, Principal, Local Projects when asked about how life in cities will be different in the next decade:

“The physical city won’t change much, but our experience will be so hyperoptimized by the convergence of data-, mobile- and location-aware services, that our daily lives will be transformed. But how will being optimised really feel?” (Wired Magazine 01/2012 p 49).

This got me to thinking about all the photo sharing apps on the market today and in the future. Our phones can locate anything we do with our mobile devices, and the surge towards optimization is only escalating. What role do these apps play in the current climate, and how could they help us in the future?

Today, applications such as Instagram and Flickr play a great role in socially connecting each and every one of us. Just google “the best photo sharing apps” and you get my point. Google Earth is another fascinating place to discover the world (note: not to be confused with Google Maps). Images are being used more effectively than ever to map our surroundings, our preferences, and our social habits. So far, they seem harmless and are used mostly for fun and games, which is a good thing, because it encourages all of us to really use the cameras we have and take lots of pictures. But how could we harness this energy for photography and geo-location to do good in the world? Profound, sustainable good.

Some applications claim that by placing images on their platform, there is a sense of community and the experience is shared. People can post images of problematic areas, and others can take action based on that input. Crowd sourcing through imagery is a very effective tool to unite otherwise separated entities. Other sectors on the web have already figured this out. Sites like Quora, which unite very smart people to discuss and ask questions, are a fresh perspective to the world of blogs, microblogs and forums. There are certain rules and guidelines and the site is self-regulating. If your contribution isn’t serious, you’re out. There is a healthy sense of caring and respect.

Quora wasn’t built for fun and games. It was made to sincerely contribute to the world of knowledge, much like Wikipedia. Photography has the same potential. If our future is optimized, in the way that Jake Barton describes, there is a tremendous opportunity for intelligent image services, where the important stuff isn’t drowned out by the silly stuff.

Some brands, like CNN, are already using Instagram to invite their audience to photograph their local community from a certain perspective (http://socialfresh.com/brands-on-instagram/). Communities on Flickr are assembling vast galleries of the best images around a topic they are passionate about. Depending on the question or theme, the results can be quite stunning. Ordinary people can contribute through a very efficient and easy process. If we want to build better living spaces, we have to establish what is already good, and what is essentially bad. There are many ways in which we could discover these things through intelligent use of image applications. It’s a free tool for ethnographers, researchers, designers, influencers and decision makers.

My suggestion would be, for anyone interested, to study what image application are available, and tailoring them for their own purposes whenever faced with a complicated problem, process, or situation. We will see an evolution of apps that continue to become a standard part of our behavior, apps that deeply touch human nature, and where the combined input results in surprising and life changing changes.