The personas build on the team's working knowledge of London's changing citizens, whether through ongoing neighbourhood engagement or work on smart technologies in the city. They were also developed to reflect key urban trends. Participants at the x.Future.Innovation.Cities workshop registered their ideas on challenges and opportunities facing cities, particularly London, ahead of the workshop.
We used these suggestions, along with early drafts of the personas, to articulate eight urban trends that are likely to continue into 2023:
1. More globally than city wide connected communities:
The trend towards decentralised control of city communities reaches the point where connections to other culturally-similar international cities are often stronger than to a culture of 'Londoners'. Migrants will retain functional links with country of origin. Increased use of virtual currencies such as Bitcoin for international transactions and 'sending money home' as banks increase charges for international remittance.
2. Neighbourhoods become more important:
People will identify less with London but more with the local areas they live in, socialising and spending more time in their neighbourhoods. More people will work from home, social enterprises and not-for-profit organisations, and local food growing will thrive. Neighbourhood-level city governance will be stronger than today. Neighbourhood-owned providers for increasing number of services, including education, communication, healthcare and energy supply.
3. Collaborative production as well as consumption:
Collaborative consumption is today in the form of city-wide bicycle rental schemes or clothes swap schemes. By 2023, consumers will to modify and make their own products. Whether this is building apps and websites or modifying homes with smart materials and sensor technology, there is a widespread DIY culture.
4. Active aging population:
Increasing numbers and proportion of self-sufficient aging urban citizens, including affluent and poorer people. Weaker state safety net for frail and older people. Rise in popularity of 'have a go hackers', elderly but highly tech-savvy citizens involved in Anonymous style protests and stunts from the comfort of their own homes, around issues of particular interest to them, on both community (anti-social behaviour, transport issues) and national (healthcare, fuel prices) scales.
5. Flexible working:
Move towards zero hour contracts for young people. Rise in popularity of casual labour auction sites, where users bid against each other for contracts and rights-free, sub minimum wage manufacturing and service sector jobs. Increasing numbers managing personal ventures as well as stable income jobs. Working from home increases for some segments of the work force; while a need to be even more mobile and geographically flexible becomes the norm for others.
6. Fragile energy supply and environment:
Rising food prices following series of climate change related crop failures in southern Europe and Africa leads to boom in community-led in vegetable growing programmes. Illegal squatting of derelict buildings and unused office space to create vertical, solar powered hydroponic farms. Increased use of unregulated GM strains for greater yields. Cannabis growing gangs start to move into production of rarer, high value fruit and spices. At the same time, the eco-conscious consumer becomes the norm, driven by a drive to decrease their lifetime carbon footprint. New buildings use materials that act as carbon sinks, absorbing atmospheric carbon.
7. Inequality causing skills and housing divides:
Rising geo-economic urban divide, lack of opportunity and skills training for some and lack of affordable housing. These are in part long-term implications of reducing in welfare spending. State support still required to maintain home ownership. Transport to centre becomes prohibitively expensive for some. Rise of 'week camps' - impromptu urban camping sites for low paid workers that need to avoid commuting charges. Health and crime fears around these used to push for legitimate 'Residential Free Trade Zones' by developers and politicians, where micro-migrant works would waive tenants' rights in exchange for cheap accommodation.
8. Increasing collection and use of personal data:
Servers holding supermarket purchase or health insurance data are regularly hacked, leading some to remove their data from these repositories. Instead they use high-security and expensive databases to keep their personal data, only sharing it when high rewards are offered. Despite increasing collection of physiological data - skin response, heart rate and blood pressure - more and more people opt out of sharing this data with national health services due to privacy worries.
9. Socially divisive access to communication technologies:
Explosion of 'dead zones' - spaces where mobile and wifi communication is blocked by activist-organised jamming technology. This happens at the same time as the rise of building, neighbourhood and even city-scale decentralised peer-to-peer networks. Both viewed by some as 'digital gentrification' as they often get in the way of lower-paid workers' access to data services. Adoption of wiki technologies by vulnerable minorities and criminal gangs for real-time monitoring of police activity and movements.
You can see which trend each persona reflects at the bottom of their profile page.