From the Smart City Project
The following fantasy was written for the City Council and the Cable Advisory Committee in a effort to help them understand what we saw as the near future in the best of all possible worlds. The cable franchise was written to enbable this fantasy and was the the best hope for putting them into practice. Times have changed, but the chance to make San Antonio a smart city remains.
THE ELECTRIC CITY AND THE BLUE SKY
Pleas McNeel, October, 1988
In the not so distant future. On a happy day.
The San Antonio area is a contributing participant to mainstream American culture. The region is wired by friendly cable companies. Civic minded media professionals are working closely with community groups. The region is alive with creativity.
Electronic democracy is working.A group of southsiders are at the zoning commission, discussing the proper placement of a series of community vegetable gardens in the Salado creek watershed. They are watching a computer generated three dimensional map. It is zoomed in on the terrain in question and is showing the effects of a fifty year flood. The map is in the Regional Data Base. Many interested citizens are watching on cable channel 5.
Over at the Guadalupe Theater, they are getting ready for a dress rehearsal for tomorrow nights premier. The acting company and video crew are polishing the blocking of the play, written by a carpenter from the neighborhood. The play will be cable cast in San Antonio and distributed to major southwest markets by satellite. A producer in California will be watching. He has some money and is looking for a fresh Hispanic property.
At the Barbara Jordan Center, an anxious group of Eastsiders, worried about funding for the elderly, are gathered to meet with their council person and state representative. The politicians and a panel of community experts are seated at a table and lit for TV. The Congressperson, in Washington, is on a big screen relayed by satellite. The live audience at the Center will ask questions as will the homebound, who will be on the phones. When the zoning meeting is over this meeting will be carried on channel 5.
Near Boerne, a man stands under a tree punching up the location of the nearest restaurant on his bicycle. The little 3D map on his screen is in the Regional Data Bank and being accessed through his mobile phone. He'll soon be switching over to Austin, as he is on his way across the south on vacation.
In a suburban garage, a rock band is polishing a video. They checked out the broadcast quality video gear from the Access center. The keyboard player has a sophisticated graphics computer with a genlock. The video looks great. They can feel the excitement! They know they've got a hit.
There is lots of activity at the sports complex. The satellite crews are tuning their gear for the world championship this weekend. The video vans from the networks arrive tomorrow.
South of town, on a large parklike "film ranch," you can hear the sound and saws and hammering coming from a sound stage. A couple of dozen highly skilled craftspeople are building interior sets for a high budget feature film about life in early Texas. At sunset they will shoot the Payayan village scene down by the river.
At the Majestic Theater, the stars from the a local telenovela production are putting on a benefit to aid people caught in a Central American mudslide. The telenovela, set in San Antonio, is an international hit, and the production company hopes to raise a lot of money for the victims. The show will feature the actors, the symphony and local pop stars in concert. They will hook up live from the theater through the cable to the uplink and then by satellite to the entire television watching, Spanish speaking world.
Up the street at the Aztec Theater, students from the Arts High School are opening a rock dance drama with computerized graphics and video. It is being taped by the students for a contest run by a pay cable channel. Their album is already a regional hit on the radio.
A man punches up a personalized summary of the days events, in text and video, on his home computer. He is watching preselected video culled from the cable during the day and making a hard copy of data comparing his tax evaluation with those of his neighbors.
At the Access Center, a civic group is having a production meeting. They are worried about drugs in their neighborhood and are preparing a community education program to show on the cable.
At a local recording studio, a locally produced movie sound track is being satellite delivered to the production company in Los Angeles. When they finish they will have some extra time on the bird so they will up load three hot cuts off a local recording to a couple of dozen radio stations in major markets across the country.
At the Empire Theater, a local group of writers and actors are taping a 13 part comedy "mini-series" in front of a live audience. The series started life as a radio play on the community radio station, got some local backing and now has a distribution deal with a major network.
As the ol' Texas moon rises over the city, the community radio is broadcasting the weekly music and comedy jam held by a non profit entertainment association live from a local night club. As they listen to the show, checking out the new talent, the local media people get ready for bed, bills paid, looking forward to tomorrow.
Tom Brereton's Additions, October 12, 1988
A graduate student at the university is doing research for her thesis on the politics of city budgetmaking. She has dialed up the City Clerk's computerized records, and is downloading copies of the minutes of City Council meetings at which the last three general obligation bond issues were discussed.
In the next study carrel, another student is researching social service need in the city's newly annexed areas. He has dialed into the Planning Departments census data base, and is copying data on demographic patterns and estimates of disposable income per household.
Unknown to this student, at the same moment a market researcher in an office on the 28th floor of a downtown bank building is accessing the same data base for a different purpose. He is combining the income estimates with population growth projections, to evaluate the market for a new franchise outlet.
In a suburban home, the president of the local homeowners association is checking the agenda for an upcoming meeting of the Zoning Commission. She has dialed it up on her son's personal computer, while he is taping that rock dance drama at the Aztec. When she has found the case in her neighborhood, with a few keystrokes she will have a copy of the developers application, the staff commendation, and a map of existing land uses in the surround area.
Meanwhile, the retired Colonel who lives next door is pursuing the regional union library catalog for books containing photographs of World War II combat aircraft. He is an enthusiastic model airplane builder, and he is striving for absolute authenticity in his latest model of a British Spitfire. He intends to enter his creation in the regional contest sponsored by the club he belongs to.