Farid Tabarki: "The 21st century is not only bottom-up but also horizontal"
published on 2/11/2015
Farid Tabarki responds to the text "How dreams, passions and needs of city dwellers can shape a city", arguing that knowledge is key.
A bigger contrast with last century is virtually impossible. Where the 20th century was top-down, the 21st is not only bottom-up but also horizontal: networks take the place of organisations, the power of the group is replaced by the power of your connections. The number is interesting, but even more important is the quality (how well can you relate to another?) and the diversity (how do you and your network improve the network of your connections?).
Most connections will be local, just like now, but the rest of the world is never more than 3 connections away. Hyperlocal and global will go hand in hand. For environmental organisations, which will be able to stop worrying about clean energy, there’s a good chance that in the future more money will be raised from such networks than from the government. From energy shortages we will go to food and space shortages, and environmental organisations will organise themselves around these themes. They could do this by advising all those districts making money by selling energy about how they can produce their own food locally. You have to do something with your money and investing in tomatoes from your own district will become an interesting option. Environmental organisations will roll up their sleeves, bring together local and global networks of people and organisations and work on realising their ideals.
Other institutions will have to roll up their sleeves as well. Knowledge is an important condition for taking initiative at any level. In order to gain knowledge we need transparency. The fact that they had insight in the costs of waste collection for the city, helped make it possible for citizens in England to unite and organize their own waste collection. Both England and the United States are radically transparent in a number of ways. Whether it’s government costs, crimes committed in a district or licenses granted by the local government, it can all be found on the Internet.
Knowledge is power, and citizens and corporations will become more powerful by transparency. It allows people to take action when they feel things can be done differently: cheaper, more humane, more sustainable or whatever cause they pursue. Our societies can no longer be caught in the web of 100-year-old institutional arrangements. We are consumers, citizens, entrepreneurs and much more. All these roles have taught us better. Let’s transform this attitude of “knowing it all” into action. Let the consumer, citizen, entrepreneur or employee take the wheel and start the engine. It’s in our common interest.
Farid Tabarki is founder of Studio Zeitgeist.
Top image: WastedLAB, a 'neighbourhood laboratory for plastic upcycling' in Amsterdam.