No matter how mundane a city’s origins, urban concentrations can have magical consequences. So says the great urban economist Edward Glaeser.
He points out that the Romans settled on an island in the Seine because it was a good spot to protect themselves against unfriendly Gauls. Two thousand years later we have Paris, one of the greatest centres of cultural and economic innovation on the planet.
Here in Australia, our cities are mere infants compared to Paris but, like cities pretty much everywhere, ours face an immense array of challenges. We are among the most urbanised of nations with three out of every four Australians living in cities. And though we might be good at farming and mining, it is our cities that generate 80 per cent of our wealth.
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Stepping out for a fun night and a few drinks sure isn’t as simple as it used to be.
In case you hadn’t noticed, an increasing number of Australian bars and clubs are introducing security technology that would be more fittingly encountered in a Police state than a casual night out for a drink in one of Australia ‘s cities.
In a dystopian display of modern surveillance technologies overtaking common sense, nowadays if you feel inclined to venture out for a dance in one of Melbourne or Sydney ‘s bars or clubs, you can expect to have your ID scanned into a computer. And in extreme cases, be prepared to have your irises scanned as a pre-requisite for entry. Talk about a party killer!
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Each weekend, Australians everywhere take up the colours of sporting codes. Soccer. AFL. In the right season, cricket. It’s common to play out the match ahead of time. Who’s performing well. Who had a shocker last week. If we’re lucky enough to be part of the live action you can see small plays around the goal that set up for the mark.
Skirmishes off to the side that allow for the break away try. A late shuffle in the slips signalling something out wide. And as our eyeballs scan the field for the strategic moves of game play, we’re all doing something that serves as an analogy for the wider urban field of play.
We’re witnessing a set of strategic plays unfold. Canadian Ice Hockey star, Wayne Gretzky was quoted as saying; ‘A good hockey player plays where the puck is. A great hockey player plays where the puck is going to be.’ Glory on the sporting field is all about anticipating where that puck/ball/catch is coming next. Imagine if that was how we ran our cities?
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