Sunday, June 30, 2013

All those networks

The many Club of Rome-type "doomsday" forecasts have not done well.  There have been the similar outcomes for the peak-this-or-that forecasts. "Peak oil" (many titles like this at Amazon) looks sillier by the day as the shale revolution progresses. The Economist reports that even Vladimir Putin and his people have had to admit that shale gas is big ("Spooked by shale").

But "peak auto" has also been around for a while.  It has long been promoted by nostalgics who dream of a return to 19th-centruy cities and lifestyles.  In today's NY Times, Elisabeth Rosenthal writes about "The End of Car Culture ... Younger people are less likely than their predecessors to have licenses."

We know that many young (and not-so-young) do a lot of networking electronically.  That is not an unmixed blessing. But Rosenthal writes that, "President Obama's ambitious goals to curb the United States’ greenhouse gas emissions, unveiled last week, will get a fortuitous assist from an incipient shift in American behavior: recent studies suggest that Americans are buying fewer cars, driving less and getting fewer licenses as each year goes by."  Even the shale revolution provides a fortuitous, though seemingly unwelcome, assist.

But most of us are learning to manage (and trade off) many networks in our business as well as our social lives.  A mountain of formal literature by urban economists, urban geographers, urban planners and others evokes the journey-to-work as the basis for understanding the self-organization of cities.  But that was then.  Location patterns in cities and beyond will be better understood as the product of how all of us manage and trade off the many networks in our lives -- including electronic and conventional (and even including the occasional trip to the airport).