Territorial projects in a decade

 Trying to imagine characteristics of territorial projects in 10 years reminds solving an equation with only two variables that are known: timeframe – in 10 years, and target group – humans, as any territorial project put in place anyhow implies the anthropocentric approach.

Yet in the equation there are many other variables, understanding which would help to understand the framework, the tools, the methods, the realities to come in the next decade. Here are the questions to be answered in order to understand the evolution of territorial projects:

~        What?

~        Where?

~        How?

 

What?

To answer this question means to reveal the goals of territorial projects of tomorrow. The goal of any project is bringing changes to the (potentially) problematic situations. What are the global issues, or better, realities of today that might persist ten years from now and which need to be addressed?

~        Globalization

~        Population growth

~        Population ageing

~        Urbanization

~        Health issues

~        Increasing importance of ICT, emergence of cyberspace

~        Security concerns (terrorism, crime)

~        Natural hazards vulnerability

~        Climate change

~        Poverty

~        Poor level of education

~        Many more

Of course all of these are time and place specific, meaning that this or that territory differs from any other by the degree in which it is influenced by any of these factors. But at large these are the main areas that would directly or indirectly be addressed in the territorial projects 10 years from now.

The population growth trends are very impressive: it increased from approximately 2,5 million in 1950 to about 7 billion in 2002. This situation is rather alarming in the view of a finite planet with finite resources vis à vis the need to not only fit the population in the territories, but also to feed it from the territories. Total World consumption expenditures rose from about 171 Billion in 1960 to approximately 44,000 billion in 2010 expressed in 2012 U.S. dollars, which means that both the resources and consumption will need to be wisely managed in the coming years.

As Thierry Paquot claims in his article “Urbanization planetaire avec ou sans villes?” by 2013 planet Earth will have finished the urbanization process (Paquot, 2012)[1]. Eight and a half billion people from 9 billion in total) from which 3 billion are poor, are going to live in urban settings. Urbanization in its turn evokes questions of quality of life in the overpopulated cities, even their livability. Cities with growing population experience multiple problems as they start to sprawl, the management of safety, traffic congestion, goods and services supply, infrastructure development, deterioration of environmental quality, medical care growing demand, increased time and money spent in transport, greenland development, landscape spoiling. At the same time alongside with the increase of population density a city experiences increased demand for housing, energy, transport, education, safety, employment.

Climate change developing at high speed last years will for sure question the resilience of humans, human habitat and activities to its consequences. Humans were not able to restrict the emissions of CO2 to safe 2˚ of temperature increase. In early 2013 the global level of CO2 trespassed the milestone level of 400 ppm. The last time so much greenhouse gas was in the air was several million years ago, when the Arctic was ice-free, savannah spread across the Sahara desert and sea level was up to 40 metres higher than today, reports Damian Carrington in the Guardian. Professor Bob Watson, former IPCC chair and UK government chief scientific adviser, said: “Passing 400ppm of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is indeed a landmark and the rate of increase is faster than ever and shows no sign of abating due to a lack of political committment to address the urgent issue of climate change – the world is now most likely committed to an increase in surface temperature of 3C-5C compared to pre-industrial times.” (Guardian, 2013)[2] There are already a lot of projects launched to study and evaluate the vulnerability of the territories to climate change, to understand which would be the conditions to which the inhabitants will need to adapt. One of such projects is, for example, the study of vulnerability of territory to climate change and rarefication of fossil energy sources launched in January, 2014 in communauté d’agglomération Plaine Commune. It’s very likely that in ten years the projects will continue to study the conditions of changing environment and based on already acquired knowledge perform the projects to adapt and meet the new requirements to the housing, infrastructure, etc .

 

Where?

As we have seen before the major changes are going on in urban settings because of the ever rapid urbanization. So most of the projects will take place in the most dynamic types of cities and namely in their most dynamic parts. The most dynamic would be the bidonvilles (or slums in the US, or favelas in Brasil) , megacities, global cities (i.e. New York), the rural-urban fringes (città diffusa in Italy or Zwischenstadt in Germany) and gentrification areas.

 

How?

The methodology of performing territorial projects is likely to change in the coming years due to the innovation and pursuit of increase of cost and time effectiveness. The challenge for projects management is to optimize the allocation of necessary inputs and integrate them to meet the predefined objectives, optimize the distribution of information. Any territorial project comprises several indispensable processes, initiation, planning and design, production and execution, monitoring and evaluation, feedback for better accomplishment of new projects. Most of the processes could be modified through better information supply with the help of ICTs.

Data aggregation works for both the present day needs – to store the necessary info on the current project and for the future projects – to build knowledge upon best practices or possible failures. Moreover, in the near future the automated analysis of large sets of collected data from a concrete territory would allow to better forecast and project the trends into future, better understand the interrelations between actors, correlations between different types of events. Moreover, the recent progress of IBM made possible the creation of Watson computer (IBM, 2014)[3], whose competences extend to content analysis, natural language processing, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Machine learning seems especially appealing for the project management: it would give the possibility to process the data in jet speed manner, facilitate decision making, increase awareness of possible issues, model changes, find smarter solutions. In case of emergency, this kind of machine intelligence would be of greater help than humans’, humans being prone to emotions, stress and fatigue.

Most of the territorial projects are proceeding in conditions of incertitude, where not all the variables are being included into planning and decision making. Modelling software is already rather well developed (GIS, AutoCAD, SCAD, NetLogo, etc.) NetLogo, for example, can help model the macro effects of micro processes (create an agent-based social simulation). To translate it to the real use on a concrete territory, we could use the example an experiment held to understand the racial dynamics in a neighborhood. In 1969-1971 Thomas Shelling published articles on neighborhood racial preferences, demonstrating that the racial mixing worked and held the neighborhood inhabitants happy up to a certain point – when the concentration of minority race was close to 20% the majority race inhabitants tended to become unhappy with their neighborhood. This macro result was rather astonishing and could not be predicted from the micro behavioral inputs.(Shelling, 1978) [4] The interesting part is that the result of Shelling’s life work can now be achieved through the agent based social simulation and modelling in few moments.

Development of modelling software has an inherent potential: in coming years it will be able to comprise the growing number of variables, making models as close to the real situation as possible.

Communication systems (feedback and information through social media, search engines incl ie HR sm, remote access,)

Communication systems mean a lot in the increase of efficiency of territorial projects performance through different phases of the project.

One of the most powerful and developing trends is the remote control of processes. The surveillance of the project, the parts of work performed now can be deterritorialised, meaning they can be performed on other territory than that of the process. For example, massive open online courses (MOOC) like Coursera, OpenYale help to educate the personnel in a remote way. SIP telephony helps get cheaper calls with the possibility of exchange of videos and pictures, which is a good tool for remote work performance. IT may also help to manage the projects’ time and budget in a more efficient way. For example, doctors in medical centers in the UK no longer need to waste their highly paid time to keep the clinical record in text format. They voice record short notes and at the end of the working day send them by email to Indian typists, who type the information and send it back to the UK doctors in text format. Because of the difference in time zones and the low payments to the typists the clinical record is made faster, with more accuracy and cheaper (The Economic Times, 2012)[5]. The human resources social media like LinkedIn help to establish relations with and faster find the needed professional with matching skills wherever he or she might be located. For urban planners and designers, for example, to be able to correctly estimate the configuration of future developments it’s of major importance to acquire the information on the pedestrian flow through a certain road or street. Earlier it was done by a human counting the pedestrians, now it can be performed by special software which recognizes faces on the video recordings of surveillance cameras.  Moreover, social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc) helps to faster acquire the feedback from the inhabitants of the territory on the project that has been conceived or implemented. The participatory approach requires time and money consuming concertations and meetings, hiring specially educated animators, while online polls in social media, webinars, feedback, forums, poll web sites like Poll-maker could make the job faster, cheaper and easier, even though they of course can’t replace the live concertations held by experts.

This was a brief description of how ICT will possibly ameliorate the territorial projects. ICT is a very powerful tool, yet not the only. Territorial development and thus territorial projects are  multifaceted and require multidisciplinary approach, for example the inputs from geo and socio sciences, anthropology, feminist input, environmental psychology, law, political theory, public health and even artistic perspectives. Among other powerful methods that will shape the territorial projects over the coming years are also networking, participatory approaches, gamification of participatory and multi stakeholder processes, and many more emerging techniques.

[1] Paquot,T. (2012) Urbanisation planétaire avec et sans villes in «Quelles villes pour le 21e siècle ? », Infolio, pp. 407

[2]    The Guardian (2013) Global carbon dioxide in atmosphere passes milestone level Retrieved from http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/may/10/carbon-dioxide-highest-level-greenhouse-gas

[3] IBM (2014) Jeopardy! The IBM challenge Retrieved from http://researcher.ibm.com/researcher/view_project.php?id=2099

[4] Shelling, T. (1978) Micromotives and Macrobehaviour Retrieved from: http://opim.wharton.upenn.edu/~sok/teaching/age/s07/MicromotivesAndMacrobehavior.pdf

[5] The Economic Times (2012) More UK outsourcing for India Retrieved from: http://articles.economictimes.indiatimes.com/2012-05-13/news/31689733_1_outsourcing-move-medical-transcription-typing

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