All said and done what matters is the perception we have of our city. Perception is based on facts but it is subjective. Looking at the same fact two persons may derive quite different perceptions. One of the aspects that most influence perception is the presentation. In an object it is its design and the way we interact with it. In a city it is its architecture, its services and the way information is rendered and presented along with the way citizens can interact with it.
The perceptive infrastructure can be seen as the ensamble of software/tools/devices that let each citizen look at the city, its services, its processes. Differently from the past, and thanks to modern technologies for displaying information and interacting with it we have increased the possibility of interacting with citizens at a global and personal level. The Municipality has a strong interest in making sure that the perceptive infrastructure is up to the task of creating a seamless connection between the city and its citizens.
It actually goes two ways. Technology has dramatically increased the possibility for a Municipality to “perceive” the mood and feeling of the citizenship and hence this can steer its actions.
This is an area where we have just started to scratch the potential of new technologies and where a cooperation among architects, sociologists, designers, engineers is most needed. Research in nanotech (for turning any surface into a display), in material science (to enhance the characteristics of the urban landscape surfaces changing their appearance and making them interactive) and progress in artificial intelligence (increasing the awareness and responsiveness of a city and of its building blocks) are likely to change our perception of cities over the longer term (see Stanford University report: Artificial Intelligence and Life in 2030).