I have just finished editing an interview I did with one of Integral City’s Advisors,  Will Varey, of Emergnc in December, 2010. It will be posted for readers’ listening pleasure on Meshcasts later today.

We had a most wide-ranging dialogue that explored cities as living systems. Will’s grounding in sustainability provided a “pingable” trampoline to explore the ecology of the city’s values, perspectives, experiences, cultures, healths and wellbeing.

We shared the discovery that a city is not just one simple location. Rather it is one location that is experienced differently by every person in the city, because each person has their own unique values, worldviews and perspectives. They may be influenced strongly by the family and ethnic culture to which they belong, but essentially, each citizen is walking around with their own distinctive inner map of the city. This is mind-boggling to consider. I imagine everyone’s  inner lives floating above and around and through each person like cartoon balloons. They are constantly bumping into each other, overlapping, dissolving, being assimilated, re-forming, shape-shifting. They are invisible fields of inform-ation that become accessible when we communicate. Is there any wonder we have such a need to communicate? Isn’t it a wonder that we can make meaning of these myriad versions of the city at all?

In fact Will pointed out a major dilemma of these multiple cities in one location is that they have to make use of one infrastructure – like a water system. The location and its outer infrastructure tend to be a singular reality on which the multiple inner cities must come to agreement on how to share. It is the job of policy developers and administrators to frame and manage such agreements. And when you paint the challenge that faces these (often faceless) managers, that they must make sense of multiple inner cities to operate a single outer city,  it ought to call forth from us a new respect for every city infrastructure manager (think water, waste, transportation, communications) who does their job well.

One of the great advantages of the Integral Model for the city, is that it helps to notice the patterns in the multiple cities that people experience and make sense of them in this one location. As you negotiate your city today, be curious about the multiple cities that surround you and appreciative of the one location (and its managers) that supports you (with a little help from its imported footprint of resources).