In her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs recorded her observations on city building from Greenwich Village in New York City. Notably, she identified four conditions as the basis for vibrant cities:
- Districts should serve more than two functions
- City blocks must be small with dense intersections
- Buildings should be diverse in age and form
- Districts need sufficient density
These ideas inspired an entire generation of urban planners. However, as intuitive as her explanations were, they remained largely unproven. Seeking to verify these ideas, researchers from Italy have devised new research methods that use social media and mobile phones to measure Jacobs’ assertions. By tracking social media activity the researchers can determine the vitality of an urban area. This has given us new insight into what makes a city work, but there are many questions left to explore. Using the methods new technology provides what other questions can we investigate?