The crass, ad-laden reinvention of central London

Outernet boasts of being “the world’s foremost bridge between the real world and the digital world”, a place where the metaverse meets meatspace, where virtual luxury trainers can be sold as NFTs alongside the real thing. There are plans for it to grow into a worldwide network of 10 connected hubs, with New York and Los Angeles next on the list. But it shows what happens when urban development is conceived in the same way as making a website or running a TV channel – “curating a brand neighbourhood,” as O’Ferrall puts it. Pings, clicks and content trump human experience, until advertising swallows the city whole.