“People should be indifferent to difference”
In his magnum opus “The Open Society and its Enemies,” Austrian refugee philosopher Karl Popper lashed out at totalitarianism while supporting openness and piecemeal development.
Sociologist Richard Sennett applies the principles to social ties in cities and the effects of urban living on individuals through his book “Building and Dwelling.”
Toward that end, Sennett delves into such cities ranging from ancient Athens to today’s Shanghai. He examines the relationship between how cities are constructed and how folks live in them.
Along the way, the renowned public intellectual, who taught at the London School of Economics and New York University, says that “people ought to become indifferent to difference.”
“We can propose forms, and if necessary, we can confront people who are not living in an open way. But urbanism’s problem has been more a self-destructive emphasis on control and order,” he wrote.
“Live one among many enables richness of meaning than clarity of meaning. That is the ethics of an open city.”
Now it is understandable why the book’s subtitle is “Ethics for the City.”
Is Korea’s Songdo smart enough?
Interestingly, Sennett talks about South Korea’s smart city Songdo, which has the control city called “cockpit,” as its planners wanted to steer the city the way people would pilot an aircraft.
The author points out that such cockpit control embodies the prescriptive model of a smart city, which Sennett believes ends up reducing diversity and openness.
As a result, he concludes that “Songdo is not smart at all.”
“Prescription is meant to foresee, in advance, how the city will function, to lay out its workings precisely in space and built from,” he said.
“Smart cities of the Songdo type fear chance. As one of my assistants put it, the smart city lightened the experience of place.”