1 Mar
Event time in Zürich, Switzerland (CET)
Wed, 1 Mar 2023
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East to West : Exploring decentralization across cultures

Our world has largely operated in a centralized fashion since time immemorial. The government provides excellent examples of centralized order: from the emperors in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Rome, to the Kings and Queens of Europe and Asia, to the Presidents and Prime Ministers of the 20th Century, power has been centralized. It then quickly translated to other systems like Education, Science, Healthcare, Economy, Industry, and Infrastructure. There was no question that authority and decision-making power were held by those above the public in station.


But today we see an emergence of decentralized forms of governance and are in a pivotal moment of technology. The tech world is successful in that through a number of initiatives. The Internet being the biggest example. We could trace its influence in systems of Blockchain, social media, infrastructure, real estate & transportation, etc. There is a major shift in mindset and an increased need to disperse power & function from a center area of concentration. How this dispersal of function happens in tech is through incentivized volunteers.


The session starts with a personal story. I am a designer in my 30s who moved to the US in my 20s. I brought with me lived experiences & learned nuances of culture, ethnicity, politics, and diversity. A city that is a melting pot of rich diaspora defines the fabric of that city. Living in several cities in India and now in New York, has made me increasingly sensitive to how people from different backgrounds access public spaces differently. How similar infrastructure, transportation systems, urban planning, space utilization, services, and products are adopted and used differently across these cultures. While the form of decentralization differs from market to market, the patterns of what makes these systems are simple: producers and consumers creating new micro-economies and strategies of empowerment.


What if every single individual was empowered to contribute to a broader network? What if each participant could fully leverage the network, with the same access and opportunities as every other stakeholder? What would that look like?


By taking a deep dive into the patterns that contribute to making a “decentralized urban landscape”, we would be applying the lens of design & culture to create a replicable framework for decentralization that one can implement in their own solutions.

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