Modern cities require inhabitants to actively participate in their surroundings. Navigating a city by walking, biking, driving or using public transportation, depends on constant visual, auditory, and tactile cues. New technologies, smart phones in particular, are quickly adding new difficulties to this reality as people become more engaged with their virtual surroundings.
Attempting to fight massive behavioral changes in the population is counterproductive and almost always unsuccessful. One approach is to wait for improvements in technology that creates products that are less obtrusive in our daily interactions. The early stages of this can be seen in newer wearable technologies like Google Glass, and in self-driving automobiles. Already GPS navigation, weather and emergenct alerts, and live transit information have created signficant benefits for users and have mostly improved city life.
Another approach that I believe should be undertaken by government officials and technologists is to alter the infrastucture and mold the modern city to acommodate these behavioral changes. This could be achieved using novel and relatively cost effective approaches like installing NFC systems at traffic intersections that trigger virtual notifications to stop or cross. Similar alert systems could be incorporated into cars, subway stations, or tourist destinations.
Admittedly, it is difficult to encourage what is widely seen as a negative trend in social behavior, but it is a behavior of which almost everyone has been guilty. I would contend that building cities adapted to behavioral trends will benefit not only those disengaging from their surroundings, but those still paying attention.