I use Urban Planning methods for conflict stabilization and post-war reconstruction. This focus demands that I also maintain an ongoing understanding of trends in contemporary warfare, whereas I seek to create an urban environment goes beyond physical reconstruction, but also facilitates the psychological healing of afflicted populations.
Lately I have been investigating how to apply concepts from service and interface design to conflict and post-conflict environments. Service and UI design both are rooted in understanding user approaches and psychological impulses to craft a satisfying user experience in retail or online. If we can craft a retail experience to facilitate greater customer satisfaction, such as how Apple uses of free-floating associates who can provide sell you an iphone at the display table, then we can apply the same steps and research methods to shape urban environments to maximize the urban experience of the citizens. Likewise I believe we can use these steps to create opportunities for pacification, identity construction, and community healing.
But today while researching concepts in service and UI design from Carnegie Mellon University (famous for robotics), a new concept came to mind. As drone warfare continues to escalate in use and force, the conflict cities of the future may have little evidence of human destruction. Those initiating the war may be thousands of miles away, yet the perpetrators of war in the eyes of the local community, will become more abstract.
I'm not claiming the future will look like the battlefields of Terminator 2 or The Matrix, but rather I have a few new questions:
Can we facilitate community healing after destruction waged by technology?
Does the identity of the perpetrator matter when reshaping a conflicted landscape to manage memory?
Does the use of high-tech, non-human weapons of war negate our ability to learn from war or overcome the resulting trauma?
Mitchell Sutika Sipus is an urban planner specialized in conflict cities, complex environments, and yet-to-emerge markets. He is an advisor to the Mayor of Mogadishu on urban planning and reconstruction. He is also a Fulbright Scholar and a member of the faculty at the American University of Afghanistan.
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