Quantifying Our Cities, Ourselves

David Sasaki in Next City: “Over the past few years a merry band of geeks from around the world has given rise to the movement of the quantified self. The mission, as the geeks explain it, is “self knowledge through numbers.” Vanity Fair sarcastically calls them “weirder, hive minder weight watchers.”
The basic premise of the quantified self is perhaps best summed up by a popular slogan from business consultant Peter Drucker: “What gets measured gets managed.” If we aspire to run faster, then we must use a stopwatch to time our pace. If we want to lose weight, then we must buy a scale to measure our progress until we reach our goal. Modern self-trackers have the advantages of apps that make it possible to quantitatively analyze sleep, moods, finances, vital signs and even amino acids, all without consulting a single other person….
What if we were to apply the model of the quantified self to the development of our cities? It’s a question that appears to be gaining steam. Esther Dyson, an influential angel investor and technology analyst, has observed the emergence of a suite of applications that enable citizens and governments to monitor the “health” of their communities.
Civic Insight, for example, has partnered with New Orleans to enable citizens to monitor what the local government is doing to address blight. On Monday, the project was announced as one of eight winners of the 2013 Knight News Challenge, which means that the software will be expanding for use in other cities. Yelp has partnered with New York and San Francisco to make restaurant inspection data available on restaurant profile pages. (Boston, Philadelphia and Chicago have already committed to making their restaurant inspection data available using the same standard.) The Daily Brief allows residents of Baltimore, Bloomington and Boston to monitor all the 311 service requests made by citizens each day.”