Chris Woebken
NYC Foresight,  2013
collaboration with Daniel Goddemeyer

As an experiment we setup a fictitious NYC Department that caters to the potential impacts of the 'digitization' of public space. Current technologies that digitize our cities such as the omnipresence of networked objects and their created ‘data trails’, the ‘always on’ expectations and the accessibility and transparency of generally available data will influence the urban environment in ways that are yet unprecedented and unforeseen.

The Project Aim:
NYC Foresight aims to explore possible future impacts of this digitization on the urban everyday, and to explore a way of designing that acknowledges peoples’ complexities, fears and contradictions. By exploring this friction between digital advancements and fictional realities NYC Foresight highlights potential needs and proposes services for citizens that help to drive discussions around the predominant infra-structurally driven digital urban platforms by highlighting these very human needs. The project aims to establish a long needed, reflective, sensible and foremost citizen centered point of view to add to the current discussion around the future development of “smart” cities and showcases parallel urban technological futures and their implications.

Main questions we aimed to explore throughout the project:
• How does ubiquitous digital technology change how we interact with one another and cities?
• What kind of responsibilities does a city have to not only provide unlimited connectivity but also cater to the ramifications and ‘side effects’ of digital technology?
• What role does anonymity and privacy play in an increasingly open and transparent world?
• What does it mean that we will be the last generation with an imperfect and untraceable 'data past'?

NYC Foresight is a hypothetical department of the City of New York to explore the impacts and effects of ubiquitous technology, data collection and connectivity on our interactions with one another and our daily routine in cities. “Our belief is that cities of the future not only have to connect their citizens but also have the responsibility to protect and preserve their citizens digital health and well being by catering to the impacts of the increasing digitization of our cities.

Responsible cities of today also have to take into account the weaknesses, anxieties and privacy of their citizens to achieve a balanced digital health.” - NYC Foresight Chief Officer

By intercepting and regulating the digital layer of New York City it protects it's citizens digital health and well-being in the future to come. Through a licensing system for it's citizens and businesses NYC Foresight establishes regulated ways of disguise, dislocation and data trail manipulations to preserve small pockets of anonymity in the age of ubiquitous exposure, tracking and objectivity. These licenses cater to the citizens anxieties, fears and superstitions in regards to the impending digitization of their city and it's urban space. The future of writing is the future of writing down everything. We will be the last generation whose life will not have been on record. Personal technology has been tracking our every move for some time already and selective memory is a biological concept from which databases do not suffer. The impending perfect data trail will track, collect and analyze our every actions and behaviors. NYC Foresights tries to combat the pressure of constant transparency by providing regulated data trail tweaks that allow for the small vices and mishaps to co-exist with the perfect future data trail.

NYC Foresight's Services and licenses

'GPS Detour' License
NYC Foresight’s GPS detour program caters to our small vices and mishaps and enables small, regulated spaces of dislocation. The NYC Foresight Detour License gives approved business and licensees the ability to detour the GPS signal of their premises to a near by location in a category of their choice.

'Gridlock Excuse' License
The impending constant tracking of our location will provide ultra transparency of our movements and expose the perfect locational trail. The 'Gridlock Excuse' License caters to the small mishaps and delays that may occur in life by enabling approved Cab Drivers to offer a 'Gridlock Excuse' Option to their customers. For a small extra fee, this option detours the GPS signal in the next traffic jam to have a believable excuse for being late again.

'Adopt-A-Silent-Bench' Program
Become a Silence Philanthropist! Donate a silent bench at a location of your choice to disable cell phone connectivity around the immediate area of the bench and provide spaces for solitude, reflection and quiet.