Rebooting the city: complaints choirs to mindful maps

2 min readSep 29, 2023


The “Deleted City” project below reminds me that however many technology bubbles the economy creates, however many digital landfills of retweets and blog comments pile up in the internet cloud, we’ll be left with the handmade communities and the social “bricks and mortar” that embodied the behaviours that digital technology reminded us we’d lost without being dependent on the tools themselves.

As Clay Shirky once said “transformation in society doesn’t happen when it adopts new tools, it happens when it adopts new behaviours

But we rarely reflect on this, as we create videos, craft presentations or curate conversations. When the next technology shift happens (and it will be in Iowa, trust me!), let’s not try and pretend that Youtube won’t follow VHS into the graveyard of fashion. At least we can turn cassette tapes into jewellery and hack VHSes into pinball machines, we can’t wear our tweets?

So how can we best use the behaviours and techniques that digital technology have given us without needing to rely on its infrastructure?

Will the “human microphone” used in the occupations be the next generation’s amplifier or retweet?

Will the “complaints choirs” spreading across the world be the next generation’s user-generated feedback or comment form?

Will the “mindful map” be the next generation’s “open air” data visualisation?

What all of these have in common is that they put digital techniques out into the open air and in contact with the senses that technology finds so difficult to recognise or value. We’re all impatient for the benefits of the cloud, but why wait when we’ve got open air?

Open air is spacious enough that everything is possible — it’s a blank canvas. But it’s small enough that making “open air innovation” has to be at the scale of humans or even an object to respect and value the space it’s in, whether that’s a market or a bus. It’s making the micro feel like it can grow wings, by shaping whispers and glances of solutions to big challenges — it’s our way of “micro-making” a more creative future!




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese