Your latest book update

A couple of quick notes regarding progress on The City Is Here For You To Use, for those still faithfully awaiting its appearance:

– First and most important point: there is progress, but life keeps intervening in ways that have made it difficult for me to pick up an easy writing rhythm.

The block of time in Tokyo I had arranged so I could lay low and finish the book was interrupted by some unexpected health issues. We came home to a renovated apartment that, while surpassingly lovely, took much longer to complete than we’d expected, resulting in four months in various sublets, spare bedrooms, hotels, and AirBnB situations. And as if none of that was daunting enough, I started a company somewhere in there.

As usual, none of this is meant by way of excuse, just context. There was a good long while that we weren’t waking up in our own bed, or anything like it, and I found it just as exactly disruptive to my writerly needs for consistency, stability and routine as you’d imagine. It’s beginning to feel, though, like that phase of our lives is blessedly receding in the rearview mirror, for everything that implies about the establishment of new rhythms and the space to think and write they create.

– After three years of wrestling with the material, I’ve finally found an organizing principle that feels appropriate to the content. The book is now organized as a stack of “layers,” rather than conventional chapters, and I encourage readers to understand these exactly as you would Photoshop or Illustrator layers: reorder them, turn them on or off as relevant, lock them in place when they produce the result you’re comfortable with. The layer on responsive buildings isn’t germane to you? Switch it off, ignore it. Want to bundle the layer on data visualization with the material on city-as-fabric-of-networked-resources? Go ahead and do so.

It’s a little gimmicky, but the layers conceit satisfies my need to draw connections between as many facets of the networked city as possible, without suggesting that any one of them is necessarily a privileged lens of interpretation. That I have a preferred read is pretty strongly implied by the layers’ ordering, at least when presented as a physical artifact, and you’re of course more than welcome to read them in that order. (The arguments I’m trying to make will certainly cohere best that way.) But if I’ve gotten it right, each layer will both stand on its own and build on all the others.

We shall see. By which I mean: you’ll let me know if I’ve blown it.

– Thanks so much for (publishers) your kind inquiries or (friends) offers to introduce me to acquisition editors and the like. I’m both flattered and humbled by your interest in and support for the title. Given what an awful experience it was to work with my previous publishers, however, I still think the book will be better served by publishing it under the Do projects aegis.

– If you want a sneak peak at some of the book’s spinal arguments, you could do worse than to read this. The post, long as it is, constitutes just about a third of what was originally supposed to be Layer 0; for the purposes of publishing it on Urbanscale, I trimmed almost everything technical out of it, but it’ll still give you a good taste of the book’s conception of connected urban resources.

As the title implies, I want to get past all the “smart city” rhetoric, and start talking about cities that help us make smarter decisions. The distinction is so much more than semantic…but if you’re reading this, it’s almost certain that you’re already inclined to agree. So we talk about resources of various sorts, and the technical, legal and practical circumstances under which people can mobilize those resources for their own ends. And while I imagine that those parties will certainly have a role to play, as I frequently enough note, this is not the futuropolis/futuretopia that e.g. Cisco and IBM and Oracle want to build for you; it’s a place we’re going to have to build ourselves.

I’ll leave it there for now. As usual, drop me a line, leave a comment, or ping me on Twitter if you’ve got thoughts on the subject — you know I look forward to hearing them.

6 responses to “Your latest book update”

  1. Rahul says :

    Still here. Still faithful. Still waiting.

    An idea: ‘Do a Cottam’. Invite all your knowledgeable friends together for a solid book-storm where your ideas, thought, confusion etc are ironed out somewhat? I guess most of what you’re going to write about is buried somewhere deep inside, right? I propose an Inception into Adam Greenfield’s sub-conscious. :)

  2. Claus says :

    That is good news. And I hope my shoutout was taken as encouragement, if any was needed.
    I think the layers idea sounds exactly right for this kind of thing, seeing as it will always be a network – or maybe just a patchwork – of interlocking and lightly related ideas.
    I always thought something like layers were implied by the series of scales of urban phenomena that you had in the material you and Slavin did when teaching some of this material.

  3. Jason Koning says :

    Hey Adam,
    Great news – I pre-ordered just after your presentation at WebStock (Wellington, New Zealand) in 2010 (which I enjoyed immensely).
    Quick question – how does one follow your thoughts/progress on Twitter (seeing as your Tweets are protected).
    Anyway, good luck with the final phases.

  4. AG says :

    Thanks, Jason. As ever, you can find me at @agpublic.

  5. steve collins says :

    yes i am still waiting, having so enjoyed the last one. the apartment is astounding, glad to see you made some money ;) layers is a great idea – i might find my own uses for it…

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