The title of my sabbatical proposal was Library as City and City as Library. I’ve been spending half a year considering how location-aware information queries have changed the nature of our relationship to place and how it influences new behaviours.
As I re-emerged myself into my reading after ALA, I almost immediately found an example of such a parallel in Adam Greenfield’s Introduction to A Smart Guide To Utopia.
Or consider a significant aspect of the way in which cities have been arranged over the last seven thousand years, which has to do with the the grouping of associated functions in highly recognizable districts. Thus the rug traders find themselves huddled in one particular street, the diamond merchants in another, and the radio-repair shops or piercing parlors in yet another.
When the music of an obscure drone/doom band or a title by a niche nineteenth-century Belgian author are things which no longer necessary have any physical instantiation to speak of and therefore need be no further to you than the nearest broadband connection, then there’s no requirement for the providers of specialised products and services to cluster in identifiable districts at all… The gross physical morphology of the city may not have changed, but the meaning we associate with its particular streets and stones have mutated profoundly.
As IKEA well knows, if you can communicate your inventory in a reliable way, you can place your stores outside of the core of the city and have your customers come to you. Extending this line of thinking, the success of Amazon, (the Wallmart of the Web) demonstrates that you don’t need to have a storefront at all to showcase products at this point.
In response, we now see a greater number of commercial outlets that are wrapped up in event-based experiences: foodtrucks and pop-up restaurants. We see comedy events being hosted in AirB&B rented apartments. Hidden speakeasies hide behind hidden entrances to separate those who know and those who wander by.
Collections no longer have to be organized by subject.