Brave New City | Finding Your Way

An urban navigation system based on a profoundly simple idea.

One of the more celebrated urban signage systems of recent years is the ambitious Legible London project, which helps pedestrians navigate the city. But these days, most people already carry a complete way finding system with them. By using services like Google Maps, social networking, or review sites like Yelp, if you have a smartphone you can basically find whatever you need whenever you want it. And soon, it seems that half the world will be walking around with glasses that project all of this information in front of your face.

But there’s another way finding system (also in London) that’s been around a lot longer: “the Knowledge” is the training course all taxi drivers must pass before they can start working. As a result, every driver knows where everything is located, whether their GPS is on or not. But in this age of crowdsourcing, why rely on such traditional authority figures for information? We need a constantly updated, decentralized, totally accessible wireless delivery system that shares location-specific information with anybody who needs it.

The thing is, cities are full of human beings. Human beings know things. And they will tell you about those things (and more) if you ask them. So rather than developing some new system of signs to clutter the streets or some new software that only those who can afford it have access to, we propose a public service campaign to remind and encourage people to access the information that’s already all around them. If you need to know something, why not just ask around? These days, just talking to each other might be the most disruptive solution of all.

See the other Brave New City articles here.

Recent Viewpoints