The Informational City

In Understanding Amsterdam, Manuel Castells discusses the change of urban structure in response to the advancement information technology, claiming that “the coming of a technological revolution centered on information technologies, the formation of a global economy, the transition to a new society, that […] replaces the industrial society as the framework of social institutions.”

Seattle is probably a good example of a city currently undergoing that shift. As a city that began with the goal of becoming a great trading port, and rose to that status through an economy focused on lumber and shipbuilding, it has become a place where people “come for the jobs at cutting-edge companies such as Microsoft and Amgen” and thus the best-educated city in the United States.

As Castells outlines, this change has significant consequences on the urban structure of a city. Corporations such as Microsoft are well suited creating their own world in the suburbs, given that they need relatively little face-to-face business interaction with entities in Seattle. At the same time, many of the well-paid employees at these companies are moving downtown, leading to the rapid development of condos, coffeeshops, and restaurants.

If this shift to an “informational city” is in fact reshaping the urban and suburban areas of our cities to serve the wants and needs of the upper middle class, our society needs to answer the question of how it will serve those who aren’t educated and/or rich.