The City as Social Media
Have we forgotten how to navigate the city without a definitive destination and an efficient route all planned out by our smart phones? How is this unwillingness to experience disorientation—to negotiate the city on its own terms—changing our urban landscapes and our relationships to each other? In “Public Space and the Skills of Citizenship,” architectural historian Elihu Rubin talks about the importance of the “urban drift”: allowing ourselves to get lost and to let the unexpected facets of the city and its inhabitants be our social media.
“I think that those skills of being able to be lost, of being able to have encounters, are important social skills—even survival skills—but also skills of citizenship, where we begin to acknowledge other people and their rights to urban space. The urban drift is a part of the arts of citizenship—asserting your own right to be on a sidewalk and the rights of others, where their presence is as much media as you need because it really is quite rich. Today, we actually handicap our ability to adapt by our reliance on all of these additional mechanisms. But cultivating a tolerance for the unexpected is its own reward.” —Elihu Rubin