20 March 2013

Book: A History of Future Cities

Be the first to share
putting people first
by experientia

A History of Future Cities
by Daniel Brook
W. W. Norton & Company
2013 – 480 pages
[Amazon link]

The new book A History of Future Cities looks at the attempts of places like Dubai, Shanghai, and Mumbai to create Western-looking areas in an attempt to create a sense of modernity.

Abstract

A pioneering exploration of four cities where East meets West and past becomes future: St. Petersburg, Shanghai, Mumbai, and Dubai.

Every month, five million people move from the past to the future. Pouring into developing-world “instant cities” like Dubai and Shenzhen, these urban newcomers confront a modern world cobbled together from fragments of a West they have never seen. Do these fantastical boomtowns, where blueprints spring to life overnight on virgin land, represent the dawning of a brave new world? Or is their vaunted newness a mirage?

In a captivating blend of history and reportage, Daniel Brook travels to a series of major metropolitan hubs that were once themselves instant cities— St. Petersburg, Shanghai, and Mumbai—to watch their “dress rehearsals for the twenty-first century.” Understanding today’s emerging global order, he argues, requires comprehending the West’s profound and conflicted influence on developing-world cities over the centuries.

In 1703, Tsar Peter the Great personally oversaw the construction of a new Russian capital, a “window on the West” carefully modeled on Amsterdam, that he believed would wrench Russia into the modern world. In the nineteenth century, Shanghai became the fastest-growing city on earth as it mushroomed into an English-speaking, Western-looking metropolis that just happened to be in the Far East. Meanwhile, Bombay, the cosmopolitan hub of the British Raj, morphed into a tropical London at the hands of its pith-helmeted imperialists.

Juxtaposing the stories of the architects and authoritarians, the artists and revolutionaries who seized the reins to transform each of these precociously modern places into avatars of the global future, Brook demonstrates that the drive for modernization was initially conflated with wholesale Westernization. He shows, too, the ambiguous legacy of that emulation—the birth (and rebirth) of Chinese capitalism in Shanghai, the origins of Bollywood in Bombay’s American-style movie palaces, the combustible mix of revolutionary culture and politics that rocked the Russian capital—and how it may be transcended today.

A fascinating, vivid look from the past out toward the horizon, A History of Future Cities is both a crucial reminder of globalization’s long march and an inspiring look into the possibilities of our Asian Century.

Fast Company review

The four are as much “ideas” as places, he argues–Eastern cities in agrarian backwaters that copied the West architecturally in hopes of borrowing their modernity. To whatever extent they’ve succeeded, they point the way forward for the next urban billion.

Be the first to share
Related Article
28 February 2015
[Book] Netnography Redefined
Netnography Redefined by Robert V Kozinets (York University, Canada) Sage Publications, 288 pages July 2015 Social media and the internet are rich, fertile sources of data for social researchers, though online data offer both opportunities and challenges. In this …
Related Article
28 February 2015
[Book] Doing Sensory Ethnography
Doing Sensory Ethnography by Sarah Pink Sage Publications Paperback, 232 pages Second edition, February 2015 Between 2010 – 2014, a team of UK anthropologists, engineers and designers worked towards a deeper understanding of how energy and media consumption fit in …
Related Article
22 February 2015
The Emergence of Law and Behavioural Science: A European Perspective
The Emergence of Law and Behavioural Science: A European Perspective by Anne-Lise Sibony (Université de Liège) and Alberto Alemanno (HEC Paris; NYU School of Law) February 16, 2015 Introductory chapter to the forthcoming book: Nudge and the Law: …
Related Article
24 January 2015
[Book] Beyond Design Ethnography
Beyond Design Ethnography: How Designers Practice Ethnographic Research Edited by Prof. Nicolas Nova along with Lysianne Léchot-Hirt of HEAD–Genève (CH), and Fabienne Kilchör and Sebastien Fasel (Emphase.ch) Head-Genève, January 2015 What do designers mean when they say they’re …
Related Article
18 January 2015
[Book] Inventing the Muslim Cool
At Experientia we believe in the importance of understanding cultural differences, no matter how wide they might be. There is not much qualitative research, it seems, that aims at understanding the lived experience of Muslim …
Related Article
3 December 2014
Ericsson’s new ConsumerLab report about the smart citizen
Last month, Ericsson published its latest ConsumerLab report, entitled "Smart Citizens: How the internet facilitates smart choices in city life." The study covers 9 cities worldwide-Beijing, Delhi, London, New York, Paris, Rome, São Paulo, Stockholm and …
Related Article
20 November 2014
[Book] Design for Policy
Design for Policy Edited by Christian Bason, Chief Executive, Danish Design Centre Series: Design for Social Responsibility Hardcover: 250 pages Publisher: Gower Pub Co; December 28, 2014 Design for Policy is the first publication to chart the emergence of collaborative …
Related Article
30 October 2014
Graphic novel explains our role in the world of Big Data
Big Data powers the modern world. What do we gain from Big Data? What do we lose? Al Jazeera America examines the role of technology and the implications of sharing personal information in the network’s …

We are an international experience design consultancy helping companies and organisations to innovate their products, services and processes by putting people and their experiences first.

1 January 2015
Happy Playful New Year
21 December 2014
Experientia’s Twitter feed live

Experientia has now its own Twitter feed. Four months of Putting People First posts and other links have already been uploaded. If you followed Experientia on Twitter through the feed of its CEO, Mark Vanderbeeken, make sure to now also follow the company (but don’t unfollow Mark, who will keep on tweeting away). And while […]

19 December 2014
Putting People First blog redesigned

Experientia’s Putting People First blog has been redesigned. It is now entirely responsive, allows for easier browsing, searching, and filtering, and features larger images on the posts. The entire history of posts remains accessible as before. We are still tweaking things and welcome any feedback.

27 November 2014
Why the world needs anthropologists – an update

Why the world needs anthropologists – Coming out of the ivory tower Location: Padua, Italy, Centro Culturale Altinate/San Gaetano Date and time: Friday, 5 December 2014, 13:00 – 18:00 Padua, Italy, 5 December 2014 – The second edition of the international symposium of applied anthropologists attempts to erase the boundary between ‘pure’ and ‘applied’ anthropology, […]

30 October 2014
The BancoSmart ATM by Experientia for UniCredit selected for ADI Design Index

Last year Experientia designed the interface of an ATM of UniCredit, a major Italian bank. The interface is now rolled out across the bank’s ATMs in Italy, to great satisfaction of the bank and the customers alike, since interaction speed is much faster and error rates went down dramatically. Last year UniCredit and Experientia also […]

29 October 2014
Experientia at EPIC: UX transforming a financial institution

In September 2014 Experientia gave a presentation on working as UX professionals with financial institutions at the EPIC conference in New York. The paper is now available on the EPIC site in HTML and PDF versions (free registration req’d). Abstract Application of a user-centered approach rooted in ethnographic methodologies facilitates a major European bank’s transition […]

See all articles