[Jane] Jacobs’s perspective was that urban life happens at street level, and that access to a wide range of other people on the sidewalks of a city allow for an emergent culture that is unpredictable and messy, vital and communal. On the other hand, [Robert] Moses’s idea of progress involved sweeping away the mess and unpredictability, creating regimented highways and high-rises that would allow for urban life to be planned, and therefore improved. In many ways the contrast is also about scale — for Jacobs, the city should work at the scale and speed of the pedestrian, whereas Moses believed a modern city should reflect the scale and speed of the automobile.
Today, most urban planning theory has evolved to reflect Jacobs’s thinking, as Moses’s initiatives failed on many levels — far from ushering in the utopia he imagined, his housing projects became even worse than the slums he sought to remedy, and his highways destroyed neighborhoods and disenfranchised those without automobiles.
The current conversations about what our digital ecosystems should be and who they are for almost exactly mirrors these tensions.
Alexis Lloyd on.
This is about platform-based social media versus indie/open web communities, though while we’re on the subject of comparing online to offline spaces, it’s also worth remembering Robert Moses was pretty demonstrably racist, and his urban planning reflected that.