Does Convenience Really 

Make Life Better?

Uber

Amazon Prime

iPhone

Netflix

Instagram

GoogleMaps

 

The list goes on and on. These are some of the brands I interact with daily. They’re great, right? They get me from point A to point B, they deliver stuff to my doorstep in 24 hours and they serve up my favorite TV shows – uninterrupted – at the click of a button.

 

Did I question their impact on my emotional wellbeing when I discovered them? As a millennial, it’s my duty to be ahead of the curve, right? But when I read this recent NY Times article, “Tyranny of Convenience” by Tim Wu, I realized something new.

 

In it, he explains, “In the developed nations of the 21st century, convenience — that is, more efficient and easier ways of doing personal tasks — has emerged as perhaps the most powerful force shaping our individual lives and our economies. Given the growth of convenience — as an ideal, as a value, as a way of life — it is worth asking what our fixation with it is doing to us and to our country.”

 

The power of convenience has certainly impacted our communities from a place making, urban planning and societal perspective: Starbucks is on every other street corner serving up instant gratification in a cup. Is that convenience always worth it?

 

In the article, he continues: “Convenience is all destination and no journey. But climbing a mountain is different from taking the tram to the top, even if you end up at the same place.”

 

For those of us who are in the placemaking business, it’s a reminder that the shape of a road – straight vs. winding – matters. And there are going to be times when seeking convenience at all costs actually may cost too much.

 

Here are a few more examples of convenience taking hold – good or bad depending on how you view the world:

 

Here’s How People Say Google Home And Alexa Impact Their Lives

 

Is Amazon Killing Jobs and Destroying Communities?

 

For Bike-Share Equity, Convenience Is Key

 

Four Trends Driving the Evolution of Grocery Stores

 

How are you living differently or designing/building your community around convenience? Where will we draw the line…or will we?

Deep thoughts by Kathryn Jones

Interested in our occasional opinion on real estate, design and placemaking?

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