'We Live in Cities of the Cloud': Transformation of the Urban World in the On-Demand Age

On-demand technology has vastly transformed cities by changing everything from the way we shop and travel to how markets target and serve us.

1 minute read

January 9, 2020, 8:00 AM PST

By Camille Fink


Smartphone car

Kārlis Dambrāns / Flickr

Laura Bliss reflects on what on-demand technology has meant for cities and modern life over the last decade. "Our data as consumers and participants in daily life are not simply passively gathered: Consolidated, it has become the raw material for many of the products and services we buy."

But the reach of data collection extends far beyond just the consumer aspects of our lives. Smart technology tracks people as they move through physical space, public and private, and has raised a slew of questions about how urban spaces should be monitored and policed, notes Bliss.

"[Big data analytics] have also changed the significance of a basic element of what makes [these spaces] urban: dense proximity," says Bliss. Physical conglomeration is no longer a necessity to access goods and services, as companies such as Uber, Airbnb, and Amazon have aptly demonstrated.

And it is this transformation of the urban economy through technology that has been so profound, Bliss points out. "The 2010s were the decade the city became an App Store: an online marketplace where our choices were closely tracked, where that data became part of the products we were using, and where digital clusters of activity displaced real-world transactions."

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