The story of how
Google + the City can become
#FriendswithBenefits

Licensing Public Space in the "Attention Economy"

Why “presence” in public spaces should generate
financial returns for the city, and how Google can help…

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LICENSING PUBLIC SPACE
IN THE ATTENTION ECONOMY

city

The ad-based business model of most tech companies rests on the convenient assumption that the value generated by their users happens in a “vacuum”. But users are real people, and before being present in the digital space of tech platforms, they are always actually present somewhere in the physical space of the real world…

ASSUMPTION

Human activity (i.e. value) happens in the vacuum of digital space...

REALITY

Because users are real people, they are always in physical space first!

THINK ABOUT MINING...Gold = Resource with Potential Value

In order to extract valuable resources from the earth, mining companies need a temporary license from the state, to which they pay royalties in the process…


THINK ABOUT TOLL ROADS...Access = Financial Compensation reinvested in Road Maintenance

In order to access the road, drivers are charged a fee for this resource, which is reinvested back to recoup the cost of the road’s construction and maintenance..


SO THINK ABOUT PUBLIC SPACE...Access to presence = Resource with Potential ValueFinancial Compensation reinvested in Space Maintenance


If users are the new resource and raw material of the information economy, what if the value generated by their activity (data + attention) within the bounds of public space was proprietary (#mining), and part of its profits were reinvested back into its spatial point of origin (#toll roads)?


Google

Google’s profitable ad-exchange enables real-time bidding on the attention of audiences bought and sold in 100 milliseconds per transaction. The data it collects from its users enables Google to connect the right person with the right message, at the right time...



But as “the future is mobile”, the “right space” also represents a crucial component of this match-making process, and could increasingly underpin the success of Google’s predictive algorithm...

To continue improving its products, it is in Google’s interest to extend onto the physical space of cities, a process it has already begun... Under a new mutually beneficial partnership, could Google realign part of its powerful infrastructure to benefit the city more directly?


Proposal:

A three-stage Speculative Expansion Strategy for Google in physical space, starting with the co-creation of a new type of “public license” within its existing digital infrastructure, and through which the “access to users’ presence” in public spaces could be generating financial returns for the city...

FUTURE 1 — LICENSE

Google creates a new partnership with the city, and grants it access to new mechanisms for financial revenue (but under Google’s terms). This process helps it build public goodwill and political capital, but also lays down the foundation for more dependency...


FUTURE 2 — GOOGLE MAPS PLATFORM

Google simplifies the bureaucratic process, aggregates more urban stakeholders within its new platform and provides them with new mechanisms for value creation. This process helps it to become a standard for future planning, citizen mobilization and event-hosting efforts...


FUTURE 3 — GOOGLE URBANISM

Google becomes the go-to partner for the Smart City, displacing all other competitors because of its focus on “human behavior” rather than infrastructure. This helps it to establish a monopoly over both the physical and digital realms, leading the next generation of global tech conglomerates...