1 – Covid-19, or infrastructure in the limelight
By definition, infrastructure is the invisible foundation on which our day-to-day activities rest. In times of crisis and with the fear of product scarcity hanging over the cities, this discreetness no longer has its place. As the difficulties in sourcing medical equipment or, in contrast, the good performance of food supply chains have demonstrated, the crisis has exposed failures as well as successes. Optimistically seen, the current pandemic is providing an opportunity for a thorough review of our most fundamental networks. For many, this is the dream opportunity to redirect our infrastructures in the face of ecological emergencies or growing inequalities. Green deals, fighting technological fractures, or renovating health infrastructure: is there hope for a major upgrade?
2 – An increasingly (geo)political infrastructure?
Donald Trump has called for a $2 trillion investment plan for infrastructure. China is expected to direct its stimulus plans towards developing and maintaining buildings and infrastructure for mobility and telecommunications. For countries, infrastructure is both an internal catalyst and a weapon of foreign policy. Today, it is China that is deploying the most ambitious strategy in this regard, with the ambition of taking away from the US weakened global leadership.
3 – An anti-urban pandemic?
In an article published under a deliberately provocative headline, The New York Times describes Coronavirus as a harbinger of the death of cities. Central to collective living, the urban way of life and the hyperconnection characteristic of it will, it asserts, be undermined by the crisis. In a thoroughly argued response, OUPblog calls attention to the historical versatility of cities. The very rare examples of abandoned cities should not obscure the memory of how Carthage resurrected, as did San Francisco in 1906 and Hiroshima in 1945. The authors conclude optimistically, quoting Kipling’s words: “the cities rise again”. In their view, it is not so much a matter of planned resilience (almost always ineffective), as of an “ultimate faith in the human project”, embodied by cities.
The city will survive coronavirus (Oxford University Press)
4 – Mapping, the infrastructure of crisis information
Under closer scrutiny than ever, and more limited than ever, travel in the time of the Coronavirus has profoundly changed our cartography of the world. With lockdown the operative word of the day, the major digital tools such as Google Maps are adapting their services and now pointing users to drive-up or click & collect services. “Home-made” maps are becoming touching and specialised testimonials to the changes taking place in a world where life is being transformed. Geolocalised data tracking the progress of the pandemic have become daily dashboards for millions of people. From large-scale initiatives to small scribbled drawings, the rapid development of cartography reminds us – echoing Zola’s words in The Downfall – that to win a war, you must know your territory:
“How idiotic it all is! How can one fight in a country one knows nothing whatever about?’” The colonel made a vague, despairing gesture. He knew very well that maps of Germany had been distributed to all the officers as soon as war ever was declared, whereas not one of them had a map of France in his possession.”
Your Maps of Life Under Lockdown (Citylab)
COVID-19 GIS Hub (ESRI)