More on Social Media and Mobile Communication on Urban Design

by trenzpruca

English: Infographic on how Social Media are b...

English: Infographic on how Social Media are being used, and how everything is changed by them. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Previously in this blog and others I discussed some of my thoughts on how social media and  mobile communication potentially affect the physical aspects of how we live (here and here ). I focused not so much on what these technologies do to make our jobs and social lives better, but how this better life affects the physical and economic choices we make in response.

In the previous posts I explored whether the surprising decrease in per capita vehical miles driven could in part be traced to modern communication technologies and if so what it may imply.

Recently I came across another surprising statistic and wrote up a private letter to some close friends containing snarky speculation about the possible influence of modern communication technology on the trend and again its implication for community design and economic growth.

For those offended by some of my comments, I apologize. They were written to amuse the target audience. Nevertheless, the impact of these technologies on the particular community could be profound and its applicability to other economic and social communities potentially both revolutionary and disturbing.

This chart is fascinating to me. Some commentators have suggested that the decline in church building may represent a fall off in church membership or religious commitment. Others see current economic uncertainty affecting church finances. I suspect something a bit more complex may have influenced this particular decline especially over the past few years when the slide accelerated.

The sale of religious belief over the past few years, I suspect, to some extent has migrated from church pew to the airways and now to the internet. It may become more profitable for ambitious divines to take their ministry out of the stationary pulpit and move it to wherever a believer may be at the time; home, car, work. Now through the wonder of mobile communication, social media and the internet they can be reached from anywhere at any time by the Word of their choice. In addition, no longer need anyone sit silently in a pew while the sermon washes over them since they now can participate as well; comment on the message, share enlightenment with other believers, contribute to the ministry’s missionary work or political lobbying activity through Pay-Pal.

A Different Church Building

A Different Church Building (Photo credit: justshootingmemories)

This is just another example of the many ways new communication technologies may affect society, community and physical development. Will a new community need a building in which to worship or will God dispense his grace electronically? If a building is still desired, does it have to be big or just plush? Does it require soaring ceilings, stained class windows and gleaming organs, or just a chair, a modem, i-tunes and a wandering u-tube crew.

Will fewer churches be built, office buildings constructed, shops opened, parking lots needed? Will city halls and governmental buildings be necessary? If so, what will new communities look like? What happens to already existing structures? What happens to the economy if we build fewer churches, offices, stores, parking lots, governmental buildings than we did in the past? What will all those people who built things now do to make a living? Will we live closer together or farther apart?

What will the society be like were fewer people get their religion in churches, work in office buildings, shop in stores and drive about? What will we do with all that time we do not spend going to and from those places? We certainly will fill up the time. That is what people do. One thing we know we will not do with all that time; improve ourselves. That we never seem to get around to do.

None of these changes need to be universal or even particularly large in order to have a major effect on society. If say just five percent fewer churches, office buildings, stores and the like are built than what past experience dictated would occur in similar populations how great an impact would that be? What happens to jobs and profits? Is this what is already happening now? Could it be that the whole foundation of economics is wrong? That neither demand creating supply or supply creating demand is anything more than a temporary phenomena generated by technological change?