Brisbane City Council announced the provision of free wifi in parks around the city, including in the northern suburbs of Fitzgibbon, Chermside and Sandgate. Excellent news – and deep gratitude to Council for doing this – but isn’t the broadband rollout happening in Aspley? And while I recognise that wifi and broadband are different things, it occurs to me that some joined up thinking about access to and use of digital technologies makes some sense. NBN rollout is based on a cost recovery model targeting private homes and use (one of the most persistent issues of suburban environments is the ‘privatopia’ mindset and the retreat from the social and public), while free wifi in parks is potentially about communities, shared activity, sociability and multipurposing parks. Great opportunties abound for augmented reality and reconnecting communities which have been divided by land use planning.It could have been good to some of that playing out in Aspley even though there aren’t any major parks in the area.
No brainer uses of free wifi can include access to music and ebooks, gaming, geocaching, locative gaming, orienteering, historical or cultural walks, engaging visitors and the like. There’s bound to be uses for pop up or mobile businesses like ice cream and coffee sellers. So, as an initiative it can also support active and healthy lifestyles. As well, I suspect there are potential implications for planning. If more people are drawn into parks and are able to live more of their lives in those spaces, then perhaps that privatopia isn’t such a mainstay of the suburban environment. Changing patterns of uses and behaviour ultimately need to inform the way planning and regulation happen. It can also mean opportunities to put that cognitive surplus to work in a place based way, e.g. collaborate online to make suggestions for improving parks and facilities to adapt them for those changes and uses.