Over the last 6 weeks I’ve spent much time ideating for a new app. I know that I want to make good use of the technical skills I’ve been developing over the last couple of years in augmented reality, digital illustration, applied machine learning and somehow bring it all together with my gamification research as well and my philosophical interests.

I began my ideation process looking at problems to solve and the one that presented me with the broadest scope for ideas was the issue of towns and even cities becoming deserted. This has been been a common theme in local newspapers here in France for a number of years now; huge commercial centers are continually build outside of town and more and more consumers choose to spend money online.

I have experienced this phenomenon first hand in several of my local towns. Town centers which were thriving on a Saturday afternoon just five or ten years ago are now almost deserted.

My initial thoughts about this problem were about who the solution would be for. Maybe the consumers who once populated the town centres are happy to buy online or visit out of town indoor shopping arcades, with free parking and everything under one roof. So, I initially approached this problem from the perspective of the town centre shopowners. I perceived the solution in terms of the relationship between consumers and traders. However, the closer I looked at the problem, the more I became aware that this is not purely about trade but more importantly its about the status of townlife, urbanism, heritage and citizenship and even philosophy itself.

If it interests me to wonder what a city is, it is because I think that the question is closely related with the other question that is implicit in the title of this essay: what is philosophy? There is a fundamental bond between philosophy and the city.

A philosophical idea of the city
https://www.publicspace.org/multimedia/-/post/a-philosophical-idea-of-the-city

This idea of the city bound to philosophy is fascinating. I discovered this field of study has been given a name: Metrosophy; which I believe was first coined by David Kishik in his 2015 piece for the New York Times titled “Metrosophy: Philosophy and the City

Perhaps the term metrosophy can better express this bond between the metropolitan and philosophical experiences. It is meant to help us see cities not only as hubs of economic activities but also as fountains of abstract meditations.

David Kishik 2015

So, this is an angle I’d really like to explore further in respect to the problem of the dwindling activity within town and city centres.

Further Reading:

Examples of Problems on the High Street from French News Articles

Supermarkets, e-commerce: why many stores are doomed to disappear
https://www.challenges.fr/services-et-distribution/la-verite-sur-les-fermetures-de-magasins-en-centre-ville_635929
Nantes : Town centre shops are suffering!
https://www.hitwest.com/news/nantes-les-commerces-du-centre-ville-souffrent-32793

Shops: yes, Grenoble city centre is suffering… just like the others!
https://www.lessor38.fr/commerces-y-a-t-il-un-probleme-en-centre-ville-20746.html
“Yes, shops are suffering in the city centre” of Besançon
https://www.estrepublicain.fr/edition-de-besancon/2019/03/29/oui-les-commerces-souffrent-dans-le-centre-ville
Trade: The deterioration of city centres is not inevitable.
https://dis-leur.fr/commerce-la-degradation-des-centres-villes-nest-pas-une-fatalite/

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