robertogreco + infrastructure   277

Why The US Has No High-Speed Rail - YouTube
"China has the world’s fastest and largest high-speed rail network — more than 19,000 miles, the vast majority of which was built in the past decade.

Japan’s bullet trains can reach nearly 200 miles per hour and date to the 1960s. They have moved more than 9 billion people without a single passenger causality. casualty

France began service of the high-speed TGV train in 1981 and the rest of Europe quickly followed.

But the U.S. has no true high-speed trains, aside from sections of Amtrak’s Acela line in the Northeast Corridor. The Acela can reach 150 mph for only 34 miles of its 457-mile span. Its average speed between New York and Boston is about 65 mph.

California’s high-speed rail system is under construction, but whether it will ever get completed as intended is uncertain.

Watch the video to see why the U.S. continues to fail with high-speed trains, and some companies that are trying to fix that."
rails  trains  us  history  transportation  highspeedrail  2019  cars  lobbying  aviation  politics  policy  airlines  ideology  infrastructure  highspeed  rail 
15 days ago by robertogreco
A Message From the Future With Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - YouTube
"What if we actually pulled off a Green New Deal? What would the future look like? The Intercept presents a film narrated by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and illustrated by Molly Crabapple.

Set a couple of decades from now, the film is a flat-out rejection of the idea that a dystopian future is a forgone conclusion. Instead, it offers a thought experiment: What if we decided not to drive off the climate cliff? What if we chose to radically change course and save both our habitat and ourselves?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This film flips the script. It’s about how, in the nick of time, a critical mass of humanity in the largest economy on earth came to believe that we were actually worth saving. Because, as Ocasio-Cortez says in the film, our future has not been written yet and “we can be whatever we have the courage to see.”"

[See also:
https://theintercept.com/2019/04/17/green-new-deal-short-film-alexandria-ocasio-cortez/

"The question was: How do we tell the story of something that hasn’t happened yet?

We realized that the biggest obstacle to the kind of transformative change the Green New Deal envisions is overcoming the skepticism that humanity could ever pull off something at this scale and speed. That’s the message we’ve been hearing from the “serious” center for four months straight: that it’s too big, too ambitious, that our Twitter-addled brains are incapable of it, and that we are destined to just watch walruses fall to their deaths on Netflix until it’s too late.

This skepticism is understandable. The idea that societies could collectively decide to embrace rapid foundational changes to transportation, housing, energy, agriculture, forestry, and more — precisely what is needed to avert climate breakdown — is not something for which most of us have any living reference. We have grown up bombarded with the message that there is no alternative to the crappy system that is destabilizing the planet and hoarding vast wealth at the top. From most economists, we hear that we are fundamentally selfish, gratification-seeking units. From historians, we learn that social change has always been the work of singular great men.

Science fiction hasn’t been much help either. Almost every vision of the future that we get from best-selling novels and big-budget Hollywood films takes some kind of ecological and social apocalypse for granted. It’s almost as if we have collectively stopped believing that the future is going to happen, let alone that it could be better, in many ways, than the present.

The media debates that paint the Green New Deal as either impossibly impractical or a recipe for tyranny just reinforce the sense of futility. But here’s the good news: The old New Deal faced almost precisely the same kinds of opposition — and it didn’t stop it for a minute."]
alexandriaocasio-cortez  2019  mollycrabapple  greennewdeal  speculativefiction  politics  policy  future  climatechange  globalwarming  1988  us  oil  petroleum  fossilfuels  environment  sustainability  puertorico  crisis  change  food  transportation  economics  capitalism  inequality  medicareforall  livingwages  labor  work  infrastructure  trains  masstransit  publictransit  americorps  unions  indigenous  indigeneity  childcare  care  caring  teaching  domesticwork  universalrights  healthcare  humanism  humanity  avilewis  naomiklein  skepticism  imagination  newdeal  fdr  wpa  greatdepression  moonshots  art  artists  collectivism  society 
29 days ago by robertogreco
Future of Cities: Medellin, Colombia solves city slums - YouTube
"Medellin, Colombia offers a window into the future of cities. Once synonymous with the drug violence of Pablo Escobar's murderous cocaine cartel, Colombia's second largest city undergone a remarkable transformation. Medellín has done so largely by investing heavily in upgrading slums and connecting them to the city center. A centerpiece of this effort: innovative public transportation, such as a Metrocable gondola system that helps residents of informal communities get around town and enjoy all the benefits of a reinvented city.

In collaboration with Retro Report, learn more here: https://qz.com/is/what-happens-next-2/ "

[See also:
"Slums are growing around the world—but a city in Colombia has a solution"
https://qz.com/1381146/slums-are-growing-around-the-world-but-a-city-in-colombia-has-a-solution/ ]
medellin  medellín  colombia  cities  urban  urbanism  housing  poverty  2018  urbanplanning  justinmcguirk  slums  favelas  transportation  mobility  publictransit  urbanization  libraries  infrastructure  juliodávila  funding  policy  government  cablecars  economics  informal  education  schools  edésiofernandes  omarurán  janiceperlman  eugeniebirch 
9 weeks ago by robertogreco
How American Cities Got Their Libraries - CityLab
"A visual exploration of how a critical piece of social infrastructure came to be.

Editor’s note: This month, CityLab’s visual storyteller Ariel Aberg-Riger shares the story of how America’s public libraries came to be, and their uneven history of serving all who need them."
libraries  us  history  2019  society  socialinfrastructure  infrastructure 
12 weeks ago by robertogreco
The 'Future Book' Is Here, but It's Not What We Expected | WIRED
"THE FUTURE BOOK was meant to be interactive, moving, alive. Its pages were supposed to be lush with whirling doodads, responsive, hands-on. The old paperback Zork choose-your-own-adventures were just the start. The Future Book would change depending on where you were, how you were feeling. It would incorporate your very environment into its story—the name of the coffee shop you were sitting at, your best friend’s birthday. It would be sly, maybe a little creepy. Definitely programmable. Ulysses would extend indefinitely in any direction you wanted to explore; just tap and some unique, mega-mind-blowing sui generis path of Joycean machine-learned words would wend itself out before your very eyes.

Prognostications about how technology would affect the form of paper books have been with us for centuries. Each new medium was poised to deform or murder the book: newspapers, photography, radio, movies, television, videogames, the internet.

Some viewed the intersection of books and technology more positively: In 1945, Vannevar Bush wrote in The Atlantic: “Wholly new forms of encyclopedias will appear, ready made with a mesh of associative trails running through them, ready to be dropped into the memex and there amplified.”

Researcher Alan Kay created a cardboard prototype of a tablet-like device in 1968. He called it the "Dynabook," saying, “We created a new kind of medium for boosting human thought, for amplifying human intellectual endeavor. We thought it could be as significant as Gutenberg’s invention of the printing press 500 years ago.”

In the 1990s, Future Bookism hit a kind of beautiful fever pitch. We were so close. Brown University professor Robert Coover, in a 1992 New York Times op-ed titled “The End of Books,” wrote of the future of writing: “Fluidity, contingency, indeterminacy, plurality, discontinuity are the hypertext buzzwords of the day, and they seem to be fast becoming principles, in the same way that relativity not so long ago displaced the falling apple.” And then, more broadly: “The print medium is a doomed and outdated technology, a mere curiosity of bygone days destined soon to be consigned forever to those dusty unattended museums we now call libraries.”

Normal books? Bo-ring. Future Books? Awesome—indeterminate—and we were almost there! The Voyager Company built its "expanded books" platform on Hypercard, launching with three titles at MacWorld 1992. Microsoft launched Encarta on CD-ROM.

But … by the mid-2000s, there still were no real digital books. The Rocket eBook was too little, too early. Sony launched the eink-based Librie platform in 2004 to little uptake. Interactive CD-ROMs had dropped off the map. We had Wikipedia, blogs, and the internet, but the mythological Future Book—some electric slab that would somehow both be like and not like the quartos of yore—had yet to materialize. Peter Meirs, head of technology at Time, hedged his bets perfectly, proclaiming: “Ultimately, there will be some sort of device!”

And then there was. Several devices, actually. The iPhone launched in June 2007, the Kindle that November. Then, in 2010, the iPad arrived. High-resolution screens were suddenly in everyone’s hands and bags. And for a brief moment during the early 2010s, it seemed like it might finally be here: the glorious Future Book."



"Yet here’s the surprise: We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem."

[sections on self-publishing, crowdfunding, email newsletters, social media, audiobooks and podcasts, etc.]



"It turns out smartphones aren’t the best digital book reading devices (too many seductions, real-time travesties, notifications just behind the words), but they make excellent audiobook players, stowed away in pockets while commuting. Top-tier podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and Homecoming have normalized listening to audio or (nonfiction) booklike productions on smartphones."



"Last August, a box arrived on my doorstep that seemed to embody the apotheosis of contemporary publishing. The Voyager Golden Record: 40th Anniversary Edition was published via a crowdfunding campaign. The edition includes a book of images, three records, and a small poster packaged in an exquisite box set with supplementary online material. When I held it, I didn’t think about how futuristic it felt, nor did I lament the lack of digital paper or interactivity. I thought: What a strange miracle to be able to publish an object like this today. Something independently produced, complex and beautiful, with foil stamping and thick pages, full-color, in multiple volumes, made into a box set, with an accompanying record and other shimmering artifacts, for a weirdly niche audience, funded by geeks like me who are turned on by the romance of space.

We have arrived to the once imagined Future Book in piecemeal truths.

Moving images were often espoused to be a core part of our Future Book. While rarely found inside of an iBooks or Kindle book, they are here. If you want to learn the ukulele, you don’t search Amazon for a Kindle how-to book, you go to YouTube and binge on hours of lessons, stopping when you need to, rewinding as necessary, learning at your own pace.

Vannevar Bush's “Memex” essentially described Wikipedia built into a desk.

The "Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is an iPhone.

In The Book of Sand, Borges wrote of an infinite book: "It was then that the stranger told me: 'Study the page well. You will never see it again.'" Describing in many ways what it feels like to browse the internet or peek at Twitter.

Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong.

For a “book” is just the endpoint of a latticework of complex infrastructure, made increasingly accessible. Even if the endpoint stays stubbornly the same—either as an unchanging Kindle edition or simple paperback—the universe that produces, breathes life into, and supports books is changing in positive, inclusive ways, year by year. The Future Book is here and continues to evolve. You’re holding it. It’s exciting. It’s boring. It’s more important than it has ever been.

But temper some of those flight-of-fancy expectations. In many ways, it’s still a potato."
craigmod  ebooks  reading  howweread  2018  kindle  eink  print  publishing  selfpublishing  blurb  lulu  amazon  ibooks  apple  digital  bookfuturism  hypertext  hypercard  history  vannevarbush  borges  twitter  animation  video  newsletters  email  pdf  mobi  epub  infrastructure  systems  economics  goldenrecord  voyager  audio  audiobooks  smarthphones  connectivity  ereaders  podcasts  socialmedia  kevinkelly  benthompson  robinsloan  mailchimp  timbuktulabs  elenafavilli  francescacavallo  jackcheng  funding  kickstarter  crowdfunding  blogs  blogging  wikipedia  internet  web  online  writing  howwewrite  self-publishing  youtube 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Why the West Coast Is Suddenly Beating the East Coast on Transportation - The New York Times
"When Seattle’s King County Metro won the award in September, it was praised as “a system that is expanding and innovating to meet rising demand” — not to mention a program that offers lower fares for poor riders that has served as a model for New York and other cities. Transit ridership in Seattle is growing, and car use is down.

One key difference is the West Coast has the ballot measure, while New York State does not allow voters to directly approve measures like transit funding. In 2016, both Los Angeles County and the Seattle region approved measures to boost transportation funding. The Los Angeles proposal, known as Measure M, won nearly 70 percent of the vote, greenlighting $120 billion in spending by raising the sales tax.

“The ballot initiative allows them to proceed without the political angst you’d have in Albany,” said Jon Orcutt, a director at TransitCenter, a research group in New York. “It takes some pressure off politicians. The voters go out and do it, and that creates political cover.”

Los Angeles plans to build 100 new miles of rail — essentially doubling the Metro system, whose first rail line opened in 1990. There are now six lines and 93 stations. Huge machines recently began digging new tunnels for a Purple Line extension to the county’s Westside — part of a plan to attract younger people who are more likely to favor transit and worry about the environmental impact of cars.

“We had a political miracle,” Eric Garcetti, the mayor of Los Angeles, said in an interview. “A permanent 1-cent sales tax.”

Mr. Garcetti, a Democrat, hopes the new rail lines will boost transit ridership. The number of train and bus trips in Los Angeles has dropped in recent years, though he blamed that on low gas prices and national trends in declining transit ridership.

Mr. Garcetti makes a point of using the subway. He took the Red Line recently, from City Hall to MacArthur Park, to visit Langer’s for the city’s “best pastrami sandwich.” He is also deciding how best to regulate the electric scooters that have flooded Los Angeles."
losangeles  nyc  policy  politics  maintenance  repair  seattle  infrastructure  publictransit  transportation  subways  lightrail  cars  2019 
january 2019 by robertogreco
Making the Ordinary Visible: Interview with Yasar Adanali : Making Futures
"Yaşar Adanalı defines his work over the past decade as being that of a “part time academic researcher and part time activist”. He is one of the founders of the Center for Spatial Justice in Istanbul, an urban institute that focuses on issues of spatial justice in Istanbul and beyond. In this interview, he reflects upon “continuance” as a tool of engagement, the power of attending to the ordinary within the production of space, and the different types of public that this works seeks to address.

What led to the founding of the Center for Spatial for Justice and how does its work relate to the worlds of academia, activism and urbanism?

I’m interested in questions regarding spatial production in general and more specifically justice – the injustices that derive from spatial processes or the spatial aspect of social injustices. The Center for Spatial Justice takes the acronym MAD in Turkish – a MAD organisation against mad projects, that’s our founding moto. We bring together people from different disciplines such as architects, urban planners, artists, journalists, filmmakers, lawyers and geographers to produce work in relation to what’s going here: grassroots struggles in the city and in the countryside. The Center for Spatial Justice believes in the interconnectedness of urban and rural processes.

As educator and an activist, you work both within and outside an institutional setting. Have you been able to take the latter experience back into the academy and if so, what in particular? How do these two roles inform each other?

Since 2014 I have been teaching a masters design studio at TU Darmstadt. It’s a participatory planning course that both follows and supports a cooperative housing project in Düzce, Turkey, produced for and by the tenants who were badly affected by the 1999 earthquake. Over the course of the past five years, the master students have been developing a 4000 sq m housing project from scratch. The students from Darmstadt come to Istanbul as interns, working partly on the project. The result is a long-lasting relationship with the neighbourhoods in question and with the organisations we have been working with.

Apart from that, through MAD and Beyond Istanbul we develop summer and winter schools – non-academic experiences that similarly bridge the gap between the alternative universe and the mainstream universe. When you start to put critical questions into the minds of the students, these linger and they then take them back to the university, so their friends and professors also become exposed to that. We prefer to develop this approach outside of the university so that we are freed from bureaucracy and rigid structures but we keep it open to enrolled students and professors.

What are some particular strategies and methodologies that you adopt to engender this approach to urban practice? How do you involve local residents, for example?

That building of long-term relationships with communities is why we do a lot of walking. Our research questions are informed by the community and the site we arrive at – we do not predetermine hypotheses in advance. We remain in direct contact with different groups in the city and walk through these territories – with the neighbourhood association – not just once but every week. We listen to a lot of stories and record them. Oral histories are an important part of the ethnographic enquiry.

We also use mapping, a tool commonly used to exert power but that nature can be reversed. Through mapping we reclaim territories that have perhaps been “erased” – that is, transformed by injustice. We also map informal areas and then give those maps to the communities there because the way they appear on official plans often doesn’t reflect how things look on the ground. What looks like a carpark in the plan might be someone’s house; what’s represented as a commercial development might currently be a neighbourhood park or some other form of already existing social infrastructure.

In addition, we try to embed journalistic means within our academic interests, which is why we work with documentary journalists and photographers on each of our projects. We broadcast spatial justice news videos, in depth films that offer 8-10 minutes of reporting on a particular issue, giving it context and also pointing towards possible solutions. Solution journalism, which doesn’t just focus on crisis, is very important in the work we do.

As part of its work making spatial injustices visible, MAD publishes a wide range of materials. Which are the publics you try to communicate with through this?

Research has to be coupled with a conscious effort to communicate because you want to make change. We don’t want to make research for the sake of research or produce publications for the sake of publishing. We want to create those publics you allude to – and to influence them. We are addressing people involved in the discipline in its broadest sense: planners, architects, sociologists, activists, but perhaps most especially students who are interested in spatial issues, urban questions and environmental concerns. They are our main target. We want them to understand that their discipline has much more potential than what they are learning at university. I’m not saying the entire education system is wrong but there is much larger perspective beyond it and great potential for collaboration with other disciplines and engagement with different publics as well.

Another important public is the one directly involved with our work, i.e. the community that is being threatened by renewal projects. These groups are not only our public but also our patrons – we are obliged to be at their service and offer technical support, whether that’s recording a meeting with the mayor or analysing a plan together. Then there is the larger audience of broader society, who we hope to encourage to think of and engage with these issues of inequality and spatial justice.

I found an interesting quote on your webpage that says that the founding of MAD “is an invitation to understand the ordinary in an extraordinary global city context”. Can you talk a little about the urban context of Istanbul, Turkey and why the focus on the ordinary?

Everything about Istanbul is extraordinary: transformation, speed, scale. We are interested in making the ordinary visible because when we focus so much on the mega-projects, on the idea of the global city, then the rest of the city is made invisible. We look beyond the city centre – the façade – and beyond the mainstream, dominant discourse. This “ordinary” is the neighbourhood, nature and that which lies beyond the spectacle – other Turkish cities, for example. This approach can entail initiatives that range from historical urban gardening practices, working with informal neighbourhoods subject to eviction and relocation processes, or rural communities on the very eastern border currently threatened by new mine projects.

More specifically, today we live in an extraordinary state. The public arena is in a deep crisis and the democratic institutions and their processes do not really deserve our direct involvement right now. Having said that, there are different pockets within these systems, municipal authorities that operate differently, for example, and when we find these we work with them, but we remain realistic with regards to our limits. The “now” in Turkey has been lost in the sense that its relevance is not linked to the future beyond or to the next generation. That is a deep loss. But if you have the vision and the production means, if you set up a strong system, build the capacity first of yourself and then of the groups your work with, then when the right moment comes, all of these elements will flourish."
urban  urbanism  urbanplanning  cities  maps  mapping  neighborhoods  unschooling  deschooling  education  independence  lcproject  openstudioproject  justice  visibility  istanbul  turkey  ethnography  inquiry  erasure  injustice  infrastructure  socialinfrastructure  2018  rosariotalevi  speed  scale  transformation  walking  community  yasaradanali  space  placemaking  interconnectedness  interconnected  geography  interdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  socialjustice  architecture  design  film  law  legal  filmmaking  journalism  rural  engagement 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Future Is Made In China | MISC
"How Chinese Design and Values Are Driving Global Innovation

Like many other children who grew up in Canada with parents who did not, we felt the light embrace of a distant – yet distinctly present – country and culture. We learned what it was like to grow up in China through the stories of our parents and grandparents. The China our families remembered was one defined by a simple life but also underscored by a lack of basic infrastructure. There were no roads or bridges, they told us. Educated youths were sent to the countryside to pursue farm labor, where they would have the best chance of a secure livelihood.

Despite an awareness that things have changed since our parents were children, we have both found ourselves stuck in China’s past. Even when visiting several times in the last decade, we were always surprised and amazed by the country’s modernity each time we arrived. The advancements in technology and the country’s overall progress since the Open Door policy was introduced 40 years ago is even more startling from our parents’ perspective. Ever since then-leader Deng Xiaoping opened the country’s doors through the introduction of free market principles in 1978, China’s GDP has grown at a pace so rapid that the World Bank described it as “the fastest sustained expansion by a major economy in history.” Even more significant is that with GDP growth averaging 10% per year – three times the global average – an estimated 800 million people have been raised out of poverty.

Conversations within our social circles, as well as observations of China’s representation in Western popular media, have made it apparent to us that most people in North America share our original assumptions about modern life in the country our parents once called home. What they don’t realize is that China has been working tirelessly to catch up.

Watch, Learn, and Do It Better

The narrative that China is a “copycat” of the US, particularly in terms of its products and services, is a popular one in tech circles. In recent decades, however, this idea gained traction across the international community, and the Chinese government and its people decided they no longer wanted to be seen as imitators. They wanted to rid themselves of the misconception of China as “manufacturer to the world” – only executing others’ ideas, never originating new concepts themselves. This was the catalyst for a 2015 initiative known as Made in China 2025.

This initiative identifies 10 industries within which China aims to be globally competitive by 2025, ranging from robotics, to new materials (such as those used in solar cells), to new-energy vehicles. While these goals may sound familiar, particularly to Westerners, Made in China 2025 stands out because it clearly outlines how the country plans to grow in these industries. The project acts as an extremely public blueprint for shifting the nation from an industrial economy to a service-based economy driven by technology and innovation. As a country, China is unified by a holistic approach and a shared vision rooted in innovation and research, enabling the many public and private actors required for change to work toward a common goal. China’s long tradition of direct government intervention in the economy has enabled it to succeed rapidly and on a massive scale.

China’s tech industry continues to expand rapidly, though the recent trade tariffs introduced by President Trump’s administration highlight the unstable dynamic between China and the US. In addition, it appears that there is still a shroud of mystery surrounding China’s advancements as a leader in the global innovation space. In a recent Wired article, Kai-Fu Lee, former president of Google China and current CEO of venture capital firm Sinovation Ventures, said:

I think from a logical standpoint the time has come to copy from China … but in practice, it’s not. Chinese entrepreneurs know everything about what’s happening in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley people, a few of them know a lot about China; some of them know a little bit about China; most of them know nothing about China.

Rather than dismissing China or perceiving China’s advancement as a threat, it is time to acknowledge that in some areas, the country’s best-in-class technology has become an example to learn from.

Move Fast and Don’t Break Things

China is a blank canvas, largely due to a lack of legacy technology infrastructure combined with a uniquely enclosed innovation model despite substantial foreign investment. For China, following the common adage that spurs many companies in Silicon Valley – “move fast and break things” – would be a rash move with serious consequences. Freedom is a luxury that must be handled delicately, especially considering the sheer size of China’s population and its relatively nonexistent privacy laws. The following companies have managed to find this balance in their respective industries.

Payments: Alipay and WeChat Pay

At the forefront of the payments space are Alipay, operated by Alibaba’s fintech affiliate Ant Financial, and WeChat Pay, developed by Tencent. With Alibaba and Tencent both making the 2018 Top 10 Risers list in Kantar and WPP’s 2018 “BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands” report, the meteoric rise of mobile payments led by these two companies is proof of China’s remarkable ability to scale. The technology for quick response (QR) codes was originally developed in Japan in 1994 for the automotive industry and was later adapted by Alipay for use with mobile payments. China’s vast market and lack of credit and debit card use has expedited the expansion of mobile payments across the country. This, coupled with the centralized nature of Alibaba’s and Tencent’s ecosystems, quickly proliferated Alipay and WeChat Pay through ecommerce and social media, respectively. This meant that brick-and-mortar stores, from massive chains to the neighborhood food stall, had to follow suit or be left behind. And follow suit they did: Data from iResearch Consulting Group shows that mobile payments in China grew from 1.2 trillion yuan ($187B) in 2013 to 58.8 trillion yuan in 2016. In 2018, QR code settlements are expected to reach 165.9 trillion yuan: more than 90 times the size of the US mobile payments market, as reported by Forrester Research.

According to an article from Knowledge@Wharton, published by the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, over the past three years Alipay and WeChat Pay have enabled 98.3% of Chinese consumers – including those in rural areas – to shift directly from cash to smartphone. By contrast, only 5.6% of the surveyed population in the US have used mobile payments. Looking ahead, Alibaba and Tencent are hoping to take their expertise in QR technology and go-to-market strategy to begin scaling in developing countries where consumers have less access to credit cards and other traditional banking services. If innovation is the process of turning ideas into outcomes, China’s nearly cashless transaction model has definitively allowed it to emerge as an innovation economy.

Online-Offline Integration: Hema Fresh

As ecommerce continues to boom and brick-and-mortar retailers find themselves coming up against rising land and labor costs, the question of how to blend digital and physical commerce becomes increasingly important. Many believe that the ideal state for bringing these two worlds together will come in the form of an integrated process that provides consumers with a seamlessly engaging experience while enabling companies to optimize both digital and physical operations. This future seemed elusive until recently.

For most, an important shift occurred when Amazon announced its purchase of Whole Foods in 2017 and opened its first Amazon Go location in January of 2018. Unbeknownst to many, however, Alibaba was three years ahead of its North American competitor, debuting its first attempt at “new retail” in 2015 in the form of Hema Fresh. For a first attempt, Hema Fresh is impressive. By connecting product barcodes with a mobile app, Hema Fresh allows consumers to research products during their in-store shopping experience. Shoppers can trace a product’s origin, delivery, and nutritional information, and the app also recommends recipes and other relevant products. The data taken from these cashless transactions enables further personalization of the user’s recommendations. The physical aspect includes an eat-as-you-shop option, where shoppers can hand-pick fresh seafood and have it cooked on-site. The food is soon ready for shoppers to eat in Hema’s dining area. Facial recognition is also used at checkout. Meanwhile, Hema stores act as fulfillment centers for online shoppers, who can have their orders delivered within 30 minutes of placement.

There are now 25 Hema stores across China, and Alibaba has plans to more than double the store’s presence in 2018. In a press release for Alibaba, Hou Yi, CEO of Hema, said that he hopes that “as [the] model becomes more established, it can be shared with other traditional retailers to help them transform in the digital age.”

Mobility: Didi Chuxing

Migration from rural areas in China has led to the ongoing expansion of urban populations over the past few decades, causing urban development to grow at breakneck speeds. Sprawling expressways and superblocks congested with cars now connect cities across the country. Didi Chuxing (“DiDi”), the world’s largest ride-sharing service, was founded with this simple frustration in mind. DiDi aims to “redefine the future of mobility” by leveraging big data and machine learning to help solve this problem, which is characteristic of many Chinese cities. While Uber and Lyft dominate ride-sharing in the US, the sheer scale and size of DiDi sets it apart. According to recent articles from Reuters and Wired, the service has 550 million users in over 400 cities in China, delivering… [more]
samanthalew  ronniepang  china  legacy  infrastructure  change  leapfrogging  2018  technology  design  didichuxing  mobile  phones  smartphones  alibaba  legacysystems  ecommerce  mobilepayments  wechat 
december 2018 by robertogreco
School strike for climate - save the world by changing the rules | Greta Thunberg | TEDxStockholm - YouTube
"Greta Thunberg realized at a young age the lapse in what several climate experts were saying and in the actions that were being taken in society. The difference was so drastic in her opinion that she decided to take matters into her own hands. Greta is a 15-year-old Stockholm native who lives at home with her parents and sister Beata. She’s a 9th grader in Stockholm who enjoys spending her spare time riding Icelandic horses, spending time with her families two dogs, Moses and Roxy. She love animals and has a passion for books and science. At a young age, she became interested in the environment and convinced her family to adopt a sustainable lifestyle. This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community."
gretathunberg  climatechange  2018  sustainability  youth  autism  aspergers  sweden  change  globalarming  activism  extinction  massextinction  equity  climatejustice  inequality  infrastructure  interconnected  crisis  flight  action  money  corruption  anthropocene  goodancestors  resistance  science  climatescience  hope 
december 2018 by robertogreco
Bay Area Disrupted: Fred Turner on Vimeo
"Interview with Fred Turner in his office at Stanford University.

http://bayareadisrupted.com/

https://fredturner.stanford.edu

Graphics: Magda Tu
Editing: Michael Krömer
Concept: Andreas Bick"
fredturner  counterculture  california  opensource  bayarea  google  softare  web  internet  history  sanfrancisco  anarchism  siliconvalley  creativity  freedom  individualism  libertarianism  2014  social  sociability  governance  myth  government  infrastructure  research  online  burningman  culture  style  ideology  philosophy  apolitical  individuality  apple  facebook  startups  precarity  informal  bureaucracy  prejudice  1960s  1970s  bias  racism  classism  exclusion  inclusivity  inclusion  communes  hippies  charism  cultofpersonality  whiteness  youth  ageism  inequality  poverty  technology  sharingeconomy  gigeconomy  capitalism  economics  neoliberalism  henryford  ford  empowerment  virtue  us  labor  ork  disruption  responsibility  citizenship  purpose  extraction  egalitarianism  society  edtech  military  1940s  1950s  collaboration  sharedconsciousness  lsd  music  computers  computing  utopia  tools  techculture  location  stanford  sociology  manufacturing  values  socialchange  communalism  technosolutionism  business  entrepreneurship  open  liberalism  commons  peerproduction  product 
december 2018 by robertogreco
The Ubiquitous Collectivism that Enables America’s Fierce Individualism
"Forbes recently released their 2019 “30 Under 30” list of “the brashest entrepreneurs across the United States and Canada” who are also under 30 years old. A persistent criticism of the list is that many of the people on it are there because of family or other social advantages. As Helen Rosner tweeted of last year’s list:
My take is: all 30 Under 30 lists should include disclosure of parental assets

In a piece for Vox, Aditi Juneja, creator of the Resistance Manual and who was on the 30 Under 30 list last year, writes that Forbes does ask finalists a few questions about their background and finances but also notes they don’t publish those results. Juneja goes on to assert that no one in America is entirely self-made:
Most of us receive government support, for one thing. When asked, 71 percent of Americans say that they are part of a household that has used one of the six most commonly known government benefits — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, food stamps, welfare, or unemployment benefits.

And many people who benefit from government largesse fail to realize it: Sixty percent of Americans who claim the mortgage-interest deduction, which applies to homeowners, say they have never used a government program. If you’ve driven on public roads, gone to public school, or used the postal service as part of your business — well, we all rely on collective infrastructure to get ahead.

And then she lists some of the ways in which she has specifically benefitted from things like government programs, having what sounds like a stable home environment, and her parents having sufficient income to save money for her higher education.
I went to public schools through eighth grade. My parents were able to save for some of my college costs through a plan that provides tax relief for those savings. I stayed on my parent’s health insurance until I was 26 under the Affordable Care Act. I have received the earned income tax credit, targeted at those with low or moderate income. I took out federal student loans to go to law school.

Juneja’s piece reminds me of this old post about how conservatives often gloss over all of the things that the government does for its citizens:
At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on the roads build by the local, state, and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality level determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issed by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

And also of mayor Pete Buttigieg’s idea of a more progressive definition of freedom:
Or think about the idea of family, in the context of everyday life. It’s one thing to talk about family values as a theme, or a wedge — but what’s it actually like to have a family? Your family does better if you get a fair wage, if there’s good public education, if there’s good health care when you need it. These things intuitively make sense, but we’re out of practice talking about them.

I also think we need to talk about a different kind of patriotism: a fidelity to American greatness in its truest sense. You think about this as a local official, of course, but a truly great country is made of great communities. What makes a country great isn’t chauvinism. It’s the kinds of lives you enable people to lead. I think about wastewater management as freedom. If a resident of our city doesn’t have to give it a second thought, she’s freer.

Lists like 30 Under 30 reinforce the idea of American individualism at the expense of the deep spirit & practice of collectivism that pervades daily American life. America’s fierce individuals need each other. Let’s celebrate and enable that."
kottke  us  individualism  collectivism  aditijuneja  resistance  culture  government  publicgood  helenrosner  petebuttigieg  politics  30under30  class  society  delusions  myths  entrepreneurship  privilege  infrastructure 
november 2018 by robertogreco
Open Infrastructure Map
"Open Infrastructure Map is a view of the world's hidden infrastructure mapped in the OpenStreetMap database.

By and large, this data isn't exposed on the main OSM map, so I built Open Infrastructure Map to visualise it.

If you want to edit the data and you're new to OSM, check out learnOSM.

If you already have some OSM experience and want to start tagging infrastructure things, take a look at the tagging guidelines for power and WikiProject Telecoms.

How is OIM made?
The following mess of tools and services make Open Infrastructure Map run:

• Postgres/PostGIS for data storage
• Imposm3 for filtering and importing the OSM data
• Tegola for vector tile rendering and serving
• The Mapbox GL JS web interface

Where's the code?
You can find some bits of OIM on the openinframap Github organisation. More to come, soon.

Who made this?
I'm Russ, and I like infrastructure. Please don't contact me about copyright claims or similar, these should properly be directed to OpenStreetMap."
maps  mapping  infrastructure  osm  openstreetmap 
october 2018 by robertogreco
James Bridle on New Dark Age: Technology and the End of the Future - YouTube
"As the world around us increases in technological complexity, our understanding of it diminishes. Underlying this trend is a single idea: the belief that our existence is understandable through computation, and more data is enough to help us build a better world.

In his brilliant new work, leading artist and writer James Bridle surveys the history of art, technology, and information systems, and reveals the dark clouds that gather over our dreams of the digital sublime."
quantification  computationalthinking  systems  modeling  bigdata  data  jamesbridle  2018  technology  software  systemsthinking  bias  ai  artificialintelligent  objectivity  inequality  equality  enlightenment  science  complexity  democracy  information  unschooling  deschooling  art  computation  computing  machinelearning  internet  email  web  online  colonialism  decolonization  infrastructure  power  imperialism  deportation  migration  chemtrails  folkliterature  storytelling  conspiracytheories  narrative  populism  politics  confusion  simplification  globalization  global  process  facts  problemsolving  violence  trust  authority  control  newdarkage  darkage  understanding  thinking  howwethink  collapse 
september 2018 by robertogreco
What It Would Take to Set American Kids Free | The New Yorker
"My trip coincided with the publication of “The Anti-Helicopter Parent’s Plea: Let Kids Play!” in the Times Magazine, a masterful bit of parental trolling whose comment section reached a symbolic two thousand and sixteen entries before it was closed. The dozens of adventure playgrounds in Tokyo offer, as a public amenity, what Mike Lanza (the “anti-helicopter parent” in question) says he created in his private Menlo Park, California, back yard: a challenging and unscheduled place for physical play that is largely free of parental supervision. Lanza is far from alone in believing that American children have a play problem. Take a look at Lenore Skenazy’s Free-Range Kids blog, which is peppered with reports of cops and child-protective services being called when parents leave their kids to play unsupervised. Lanza’s own book, “Playborhood,” describes the kids-can’t-play problem as both a social one and a spatial one. Without broader community support, such back-yard attempts at free play like his are doomed to become exercises in vanity. Look at them on the roof! My kids are more resilient than yours!

The overprogrammed, oversterilized, overprotected lives of (some of) America’s youth are the result of a nexus of changes to work life, home life, and street life that have made bringing up babies into a series of consumer choices, from unsubsidized day care forward. It is the public realm—where the Tokyo playgrounds operate—that needs to change for American children to have unstructured afternoons and weekends, for them to bike and walk between school and the playground, to see packs of kids get together without endless chains of parental texts. Kawasaki City, where Kodomo Yume Park is located, created its own Ordinance on the Rights of the Child, in 2001, which includes an article promising to make “secure and comfortable places for children.”

But independence requires infrastructure. Hanegi Playpark was founded in 1975 by Kenichi Omura, a landscape architect, and his wife Shoko Omura, an English teacher. They translated the key book on adventure play into Japanese and then travelled to Europe to meet with the woman who was their prime mover from the nineteen-fifties on: Lady Allen of Hurtwood. Lady Allen had seen the first such “junk playground” in Emdrup, outside Copenhagen, where it became a refuge for youth then under German occupation. She spent subsequent decades as a “propagandist for children’s play.” In Tokyo, a low crime rate and a society accustomed to community ownership of public space has created, around Hanegi and approximately thirteen other such parks, a city where there is more room for innocent error.

The road to Kodomo Yume Park (which means “children’s dream”) was narrow and winding, and there was no sidewalk for much of the way. And yet it was safe, because the tiny cars knew to look for pedestrians and cyclists, and drove at slower speeds. There were people in the houses and stores along the route, and few of the buildings were more than three or four stories tall, offering “eyes on the street” as well as adults who might be appealed to for help. The neighborhood, like the adventure playground, operated as a safety net, ready in case of trouble but not often deployed. A mother who was camped out at Yume Park with five children, the youngest a three-month-old, told me a story—hilarious for her—that would have been a nightmare for me. Her two-year-old, who had observed his five-year-old brother being sent to the corner to buy bread, decided he could do the same, and turned up at the shop with an empty wallet. I looked around at the protected bike lanes, the publicly funded playground workers, and the houses where people are home in the afternoon. Do I wish that my kids—who are five and nine**—**could roll on their own from school to the park, meet friends, and appear on the doorstep at 5 p.m., muddy, damp, and full of play? I do, but then I think of the Saturdays dominated by sports schedules, the windswept winter playgrounds, the kids hit by cars in crosswalks, with the light. It isn’t the idea of my kids holding a hammer or saw that scares me but the idea of trying to make community alone.

At the adventure playgrounds, the kids build the equipment they need under the hands-off supervision of play workers trained to facilitate but not to interfere. I’ve read the diary of the first play worker, John Bertelsen, who ran the adventure playground that Lady Allen visited at Emdrup. His account of the day-to-day in 1943 sounds quite similar to what I observed in 2016.
At 10:45 am today the playground opened . . . We began by moving all the building material in the open shed. Bricks, boards, fireposts and cement pillars were moved to the left alongside the entrance, where building and digging started right away. The work was done by children aged 4 to 17. It went on at full speed and all the workers were in high spirits; dust, sweat, warning shouts and a few scratches all created just the right atmosphere. The children’s play- and work-ground had opened, and they knew how to take full advantage of it.

The do-it-yourself rule is, to a certain extent, self-limiting, as towers built with simple tools are shorter than those ordered from catalogues. I saw plenty of children up on roofs—the rule was, if you can climb up without a ladder, relying on your own strength and ingenuity, it’s O.K. In a documentary on The Land, a Welsh adventure playground, a play worker describes the difference between risk and hazard: a risk you take on knowingly; a hazard is unexpected, like a nail sticking out of a board. The play workers are there to remove hazards and leave the risks.

Journalism about adventure play tends to emphasize the danger, but these spaces actually need to be seen as exceptionally porous community centers, in which lots of social activities, for parents and children, occur. “Risky play” is a way for children to test their own limits, and because the parks are embedded in residential communities they can do so at their own pace. Hitoshi Shimamura, who runs the organization Tokyo Play, told me that he has sessions to teach parents to use the tools, because their fear derived from their own lack of experience. Kids also need time to ease into the freedom and figure out which activity most appeals to them. If adventure play were to become permanent in New York, it would do better as a permanent fixture in a neighborhood than as a weekend destination. At a temporary adventure playground set up by Play:Ground on Governors Island this summer, a sign on the fence read, “Your children are fine without advice and suggestions,” though legally, children under six had to be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The “adventure” can be with water, with tools, with real fire, or just with pretend kitchen equipment, allowing the parks to appeal to a broad array of children, and over a longer period of time. What this means, in practice, is a range of activity during days, weeks, or even years. In the morning, adventure playgrounds become settings for an urban version of a forest preschool, where small children learn the basics of getting along outdoors. In the afternoon, they become a place for older kids to let off steam between school and homework; many communities in Tokyo play a public chime at five in the afternoon—a mass call that is it time to go home. On the weekends, Yume Park might ring with the hammers of children, but for teen-agers there are other options: a recording studio with padded walls; a wooden shed piled with bike parts for the taking; a quiet, shaded place for conversation. Bertelsen wrote in his diary,
Occasionally, complaints have been made that the playground does not possess a smart enough appearance, and that children cannot possibly be happy playing about in such a jumble. To this I should only like to say that, at times, the children can shape and mould [sic] the playground in such a way that it is a monument to their efforts and a source of aesthetic pleasure to the adult eye; at other times it can appear, to the adult eye, like a pigsty. However, children’s play is not what the adults see, but what the child himself experiences.

One of my favorite moments in Tokyo occurred late one afternoon at a smaller adventure playground, Komazawa Harappa, a long sliver of space in a tight residential neighborhood, masked from the street by a simple hedge. Three kids fanned the flames in a fire pit; a baby padded about a dirty pool dressed in a diaper; two small boys, hammering on a house, had remembered to take their shoes off on the porch. But not everyone felt the need to be busy. Two teen-age girls had climbed up on the roof of the play workers’ house, via a self-built platform of poles and planks, and seemed deep in conversation. Suddenly, they began to sing, their clear voices ringing out over the open space."
alexandralange  children  unschooling  deschooling  community  2016  infrastructure  parks  playgrounds  adventureplaygrounds  risk  risktaking  hazards  japan  parenting  openstudioproject  messiness  johnbertelsen  kenishiomura  ladyallen  emdrup  copenhagen  tokyo  kodomoyumepark  srg  urban  urbanism  play  lenoreskenazy  hanegiplaypark  tools  dirt  order  rules  mikelanza  supervision  safety  independence  us  shokoomura  diy  risklyplay  lcproject  tcsnmt  sfsh 
september 2018 by robertogreco
Scratching the Surface — 86. Anab Jain
"Anab Jain is a designer, futurist, filmmaker and educator. As Co-founder and Director of Superflux, she hopes to realise the vision of the Studio as a new kind of design practice, responsive to the challenges and opportunities of the twenty-first century. She also teaches at the University Applied Arts in Vienna and gave a TED Talk last year on design’s role in imagining new futures. In this episode, Anab and I talk about Superflux’s blend of client and speculative work, her background in filmmaking, and pushing up against disciplinary boundaries."
anabjain  jarrettfuller  2018  jamescscott  simonedebeauvoir  superfluc  speculativefiction  speculativedesign  design  andreitarkovsky  film  filmmaking  education  teaching  transdisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  jean-lucgodard  criticaldesign  designeducation  kellereasterling  infrastructure  lcproject  openstudioproject  camerontonkinwise  scratchingthesurface 
august 2018 by robertogreco
.freethought
"freethought aims to blur the boundaries between thought, creativity, and critique and meld them into a trans-language practice, working with and as artists and knowledge producers in a new way. Making radical combinations of critical work and practice in the arts freethought strives to place these new models in unexpected contexts."



"WHO WE ARE
freethought is a collective working in public research and in curating concepts of urgency.

Irit Rogoff, Stefano Harney, Adrian Heathfield, Massimiliano Mollona, Louis Moreno and Nora Sternfeld formed freethought in 2011. Traversing disciplines, blending influences, and borrowing forms freethought experiments with new combinations of criticism and practice in the arts.

For 2016 Bergen Assembly, freethought focused on its continuing collective interest: Infrastructure. By looking at many different understandings of this keyword – from legacies of colonial and early capitalist systems of governance to current conditions of the financialization of the cultural field to the subversive possibilities of thinking and working with infrastructures as sites of affect and contradiction – infrastructure emerged as the invisible force of manifest culture today. This large-scale investigation reworked the term away from the language of planners and technocrats to put to creative and critical use within the cultural sphere.

Throughout 2015-16 freethought led a programme of public seminars, invited guest lectures and independent research in Bergen with the intention of developing a collective body of research and insights. This research, an interrogation of infrastructure on a local and global scale of ecology, finance, administration, labour, communication, hospitality, and the basic act of assembling culminated in a programme of exhibitions, discursive platforms, publications and artistic commissions opening for the Bergen Assembly in September 2016.

Previous projects have included freethought for FORMER WEST: Documents, Constellations, Prospects, Haus der Kulturen der Welt in Berlin, 2013, and freethought I: Economy of crisis workshop, Steirischer Herbst Festival, Graz, 2012.

BIOGRAPHY

Stefano Harney
CURATOR

Adrian Heathfield
WRITER/CURATOR

Massimiliano (Mao) Mollona
WRITER/FILMMAKER
ANTHROPOLOGIST

Louis Moreno
URBANIST/THEORIST

Irit Rogoff
WRITER/TEACHER/
CURATOR/ORGANISER

Nora Stenfeld
EDUCATOR/CURATOR"

[via: http://scratchingthesurface.fm/post/176253243375/85-mindy-seu ]
stefanoharney  adrianheathfield  massimilianomollona  louismoreno  iritrogoff  norastenfeld  interdisciplinary  transdisciplinary  infrastructure  capitalism  decolonization  colonialism  ecology  finance  administration  labor  communication  hospitality  anthropology  urban  urbanism  curation  education 
july 2018 by robertogreco
ASCE's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card | GPA: D+
"Every four years, the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Report Card for America’s Infrastructure depicts the condition and performance of American infrastructure in the familiar form of a school report card—assigning letter grades based on the physical condition and needed investments for improvement."



"Key Solutions

Our nation’s infrastructure problems are solvable if we have leadership and commit to making good ideas a reality. Raising the grades on our infrastructure will require that we seek and adopt a wide range of solutions.

Investment
We can no longer afford to defer investment in our nation’s critical infrastructure systems.

Leadership & Planning
Smart investment will only be possible with leadership, planning, and a clear vision for our nation’s infrastructure.

Preparing for the Future
We have to utilize new approaches, materials, and technologies to ensure our infrastructure is more resilient."

[via: https://twitter.com/debcha/status/1014908306559766528 ]
asce  us  infrastructure  via:debcha 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Making art of New York's urban ruins | Miru Kim - YouTube
"At the 2008 EG Conference, artist Miru Kim talks about her work. Kim explores industrial ruins underneath New York and then photographs herself in them, nude -- to bring these massive, dangerous, hidden spaces into sharp focus."
mirukim  nyc  art  body  bodies  rats  animals  subways  photography  mta  cities  urban  urbanism  morethanhuman  multispecies  infrastructure  2008  urbanexploration  exploration  speculativefiction  decay 
may 2018 by robertogreco
Why are Democrats so afraid of taxes?
"Tax hikes on the rich to fund child care, universal health care, higher education, and a green infrastructure bank would immensely benefit both the college-educated and non-college folks who are seeing their standard of living threatened by the GOP. According to Global Strategy Group polling, 85 percent of working-class whites and 80 percent of college-educated whites support higher taxes on the one percent.

Class politics do not threaten the Democratic Party — they may be the only way to save it. But all camps in the Democratic Party are grasping at different parts of the problem. Many strategists on the Hillary Clinton-end of things have rightfully noted that a shift in college-educated white support for Democrats is a positive harbinger for the party. But they have seemingly failed to grasp that the Bernie Sanders wing has a point: these voters can be won over on classic tax and spend social democracy. In 2016, only three percent of college-educated white Clinton voters made more than $250,000 a year, according to the Cooperative Congressional Election Study from that year. Far from worrying about taxes, these voters are increasingly worried about proving health care and child care for their children. Most have seen their retirement security erode and worry about whether their children can afford college. Instead of trying to appeal to a mushy center that doesn’t really exist, Democrats should embrace high taxes, particularly on the rich, to fund social services. The public is ready."
democrats  taxes  policy  208  economics  healthcare  childcare  inequality  banking  finance  richardrorty  hillaryclinton  berniesanders  spencerpiston  class  infrastructure  climatechange  publicgoods  materialism  psychology  emptiness  capitalism 
january 2018 by robertogreco
After Tax Cuts Derailed the ‘California Dream,’ Can the State Get Back on Track? | The California Dream | The California Report | KQED News
"In essence, Proposition 13 became the first shot across the bow in a series of referendums some dubbed “racial propositions” that reached their apogee with Proposition 187, the famous 1994 measure that sought to cut off nearly all public services, including education, to undocumented immigrants.

That was followed by voter-approved measures to ban affirmative action, eliminate bilingual education and expand a prison system marred by racial disproportionality in its sentencing and rates of incarceration.

That Prop 13 itself was a sort of generational warfare with overtones of race was clear in its structure. Since the assessment didn’t increase more than 2 percent unless property changed hands, incumbent homeowners (who were older and whiter) wouldn’t see their tax burden change much as long as they didn’t sell. Meanwhile, new homeowners (more likely to be younger, minority and eventually immigrant) would have to pay higher tax rates and thus bear a disproportionate share of the costs of local services.

And that wasn’t the only bias against the future. The requirement for a supermajority to pass legislation to raise taxes effectively constrained the ability of future state governments to pour in the sort of money that had built the state’s famed transportation, water and university systems.

The Consequences

The immediate damage from Prop 13, however, was masked. When local property tax revenues quickly fell by about 60 percent, the state government stepped in to fill the gaps.

But over time, the damaging effects of Proposition 13 in terms of education spending and income inequality became increasingly apparent. In the 1960s, California ranked among the top 10 states in terms of per-pupil spending. By 2014, its ranking had plunged to as low as 46. And while California’s level of income inequality was in the middle of the pack nationally in 1969, it is now the fourth most unequal state in the country.

While Proposition 13 was the not the only culprit behind these trends, it didn’t help. About half of the total residential property tax relief provided by Prop 13 went to homeowners with incomes in excess of US$120,000 a year – or about 15 percent of all households.

And because the property tax was no longer a growing source of revenue for local governments, cities and counties had more reason to chase sales taxes with retail development and less incentive to promote housing, helping to set in motion the severe housing shortage that wracks the state today.

The final irony is that Prop 13 – a measure promoted by those in favor of smaller government – pushed authority and decision-making to the state capitol, which became the main source to bail out local municipalities.

Efforts to Change It

So why has Proposition 13 not been overturned?

Its political appeal remains, particularly to older residents who vote and to businesses worried about any increase in taxes. Efforts to keep the protections for residential homeowners but allow commercial and industrial property to be assessed at market rates – a so-called “split roll” – have failed or stalled and currently command the thinnest possible majority in public polling.

So while the split role remains a goal for some reformers, many concerned about the effects of Prop 13 have simply tried to raise taxes elsewhere to offset the lost revenue. California voters approved a temporary “millionaire’s tax” in 2012 and its long-term extension in 2016. And more than two-thirds of voting taxpayers in Los Angeles County approved sales tax hikes in 2008 and 2016 that will generate $160 billion over the next 40 years for transportation investments ranging from rail expansion to highway improvement to new bike paths.

But such tinkering does not solve the fundamental problems with Prop 13 that I’ve noted above. Addressing those will require a new set of conversations about optimal tax policy and how to address legitimate concerns such as how to protect older homeowners with a fixed income from the potential end of Prop 13.

California – and the Country – at a Crossroads

Unfortunately, the same demographic shifts, economic anxieties and political polarization that spurred Prop 13 have since gone national. The president’s plan to “Make America Great Again” similarly involves slashing taxes while underinvesting in education and social services – the kinds of investments that actually made America great in the 20th century.

California has the opportunity to show the nation how to get this right and invest in our future and our collective dreams rather than shortchange them. And a growing number of voices, including local governments, unions and political groups, are calling for reform.

The ConversationSo while the discussion about Prop 13 might seem to be about a few obscure tax rules, it is highly symbolic: At stake is the future of the state and, indeed, the nation. A day of reckoning for a measure that seems increasingly out of date may soon be upon us."
proposition13  california  law  education  finance  racism  race  2017  generations  infrastructure  cities  municipalities  inequality  manuelpastor  taxes  government 
november 2017 by robertogreco
I Tried, and Failed, to Find Out Where My Electricity Comes From
"The electric grid, as essential as it is, resists simplification. I can know and appreciate how electricity allows me to turn on the lights in my house with ease, but I can’t confirm how it got there."

[via: https://twitter.com/jbushnell/status/933012873198129153 ]
mimionuhoha  2016  electricity  infrastructure  bighere  energy  classideas 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Bioregional Animism Questions
"Years ago, came across a post on a website which had questions related to how knowledgeable one was to their local region. (The list was called “Bioregional Quiz: Re-Indigenize Yourself Project“ for anyone interested.) The website is long gone now, but I kept the questions to help remind me of things I wanted to learn more and more about over time.

Decided to share them as they might be of interest to or useful to some folks.

(Note: some questions I’ve added to the list over the years and the questions are not in the original order they were found in.)

A. What primary geological events and processes influenced the landforms of your bioregion?
B. What biotic and/or geological features define your bioregion?
C. Where does your drinking water come from?
D. What is the dimension of your watershed?
E. What creek or river defines your watershed?
F. What and where is the largest wilderness area(s) in your bioregion?
G. Have there been any successful land or water restoration projects where you live?
H. What are your soil conditions?
I. What kind of rocks and minerals are in the land below you?
J. What are the greatest threats to your bioregion’s ecosystem?
K. Where does your trash end up?
L. Where does your sewage end up?
M. What is the power source for your electricity?
N. What animal and/or plant species have become extinct in the area?
O. What animal and/or plant species have become endangered in the area?
P. Name a local environmentalist group.
Q. Name some local invasive species (plant and/or animal . (Humans do not count!)
R. Name some plants and animals that live in and near your home? (Example: Insects, birds small mammals, etc.)
S. Name some local plants and animals that live just outside urban centers?
T. Name five species of trees in your area that you can identify.
U. Name five migratory birds that pass your area and when they arrive and leave.
V. Name five local edible plants and when to forage them.
W. Is your area home to any native herbs?
X. Name of the first wildflowers that blooms in spring where you live.
Y. How well can you predict the weather based on cloud formation and pressure?
Z. What direction do storms generally come in?
AA. At the peak of summer and height of winter, when and where does the sun set?
AB. Can you roughly keep track of the Moon’s phase without having to look it up?
AC. What places in your area are the best for stargazing?
AD. Over time, what groups of people have lived the area?
AE. What were/are the subsistence practices for the area’s indigenous persons?
AF. In the past century, what was the primary land use in your bioregion?
AG. When and where is your closest farmer’s market?
AH. How many human people live next door to you?
AI. What are their names?
AJ. What places are special personally to you in your area?"

[via: https://twitter.com/jbushnell/status/933026978982187008 ]
via:jbushnell  ecology  infrastructure  nature  bighere  local  bioregionalism  ecosystem  interconnected  classideas  sustainability  animism  interconnectedness  interconnectivity 
november 2017 by robertogreco
Gratitude for Invisible Systems - The Atlantic
"Before asking the question of how technology can affect democracy, I’m going to ask: What is democracy for?

In a developed, post-industrial country at the start of the twenty-first century, one of the main functions of a democratic political system is to help us collectively manage living in a complex, global society. Our daily lives take place in a network of technological, socio-technical, and social systems that we barely notice, except when things go wrong.

To start with, there are the infrastructural systems that fill out the bottom of Maslow’s pyramid of needs: clean water on tap, the ability to flush away disease-causing waste, natural gas for warmth and food preparation, and raw energy in the form of electricity, for heat and light, to replace physical labor, and to power cooling and electronics. Moving up Maslow’s pyramid, these systems underpin communication, community and self-actualization: connections to the rest of the world in the form of telecommunications and postal mail, physical links in the form of roads and a subway that link to rail, airports, and more.

While they’re far from perfect, these systems work well enough that mostly we don’t think about them. When they do fail, especially as a result of lack of care or maintenance (like interstate highway bridge collapses or the ongoing water crisis in Flint, Michigan), we recognize it as the profound and shocking betrayal that it is.

Besides these physical networks, there are a host of other systems that exist primarily to contribute to the common good by taking on responsibility for safety, access and planning. I don’t have to know where my breakfast eggs came from to know they’re safe to eat, because of the United States Department of Agriculture. When I fill a prescription, the pills I’m given will be efficacious, thanks to the Food and Drug Administration. The Center for Disease Control tracks and responds to outbreaks before they become epidemics. I’ve been known to get on a plane and fall asleep before takeoff; my security is because the Federal Aviation Authority regulates air traffic. And these are just a handful of ways these systems affect my daily life.

When we think about caring for our neighbors, we think about local churches, and charities—systems embedded in our communities. But I see these technological systems as one of the main ways that we take care of each other at scale. It’s how Americans care for all three hundred million of our neighbors, rich or poor, spread over four million square miles, embedded in global supply chains.

What’s more, we can collectively fund systems that even the richest, most self-sufficient people couldn’t create for themselves, and we use them to serve the common good. When I look at my phone to decide if I need an umbrella, the little blue dot that says where I am is thanks to the network of Global Positioning System satellites operated by the United States Air Force, and the weather is the result of a $5.1 billion federal investment in forecasting, for an estimated $31.5 billion dollars of benefit in saving lives, properties, and crops (and letting me know I should wear a raincoat).

If I were to make a suggestion for how technology could be used to improve our democracy, I would want to make these systems more visible, understandable, and valued by the general public. Perhaps a place to start is with the system that is the ultimate commons—our shared planet. One way that we can interact with it is through citizen science projects: collecting data about our local environment to help build a larger understanding of of anthropogenic climate change. The late scientist and activist Ursula Franklin wrote “Central to any new order that can shape and direct technology and human destiny will be a renewed emphasis on the concept of justice.” If we want to use technology to make democracy better, we can start with the systems that we use to make it more just."
democracy  government  debchachra  2017  infrastructure  systemsthinking  visibility  invisibility  climatechange  technology  ursulafranklin  justice 
may 2017 by robertogreco
crap futures — Back to nature
"We live on a remote island - mountainous, mid-Atlantic, still heavily forested and pretty wild - and for that reason nature sometimes sneaks into our otherwise technology-centred work. It is hard not to think local when you live in a place like this. We’re neither farmers nor pioneers - except in the sense that resident aliens on this island are few - but lately our reading has got us thinking about ancient paths and rural places. We’ll discuss the paths today and save most of the farm talk for a future post.

Paths v roads

In his 1969 essay ‘A Native Hill’, Wendell Berry - the American writer, farmer, activist, and ‘modern Thoreau’ - makes a useful distinction between paths and roads:
The difference between a path and a road is not only the obvious one. A path is little more than a habit that comes with knowledge of a place. It is a sort of ritual of familiarity. As a form, it is a form of contact with a known landscape. It is not destructive. It is the perfect adaptation, through experience and familiarity, of movement to place; it obeys the natural contours; such obstacles as it meets it goes around. A road, on the other hand … embodies a resistance against the landscape. Its reason is not simply the necessity for movement, but haste. Its wish is to avoid contact with the landscape. … It is destructive, seeking to remove or destroy all obstacles in its way.


Aside from conversation as usual, the reason we are talking about Berry is the arrival of a new film, Look & See, and a new collection of his writing, The World-Ending Fire, edited by Paul Kingsnorth of Dark Mountain Project fame. Berry and Kingsnorth, along with the economist Kate Raworth, were on BBC Radio 4’s Start the Week recently chatting about the coming apocalypse and how it might best be avoided. It is a fascinating interview: you can actually hear Berry’s rocking chair creaking and the crows cawing outside the window of his house in Port Royal, Kentucky.

The normally optimistic Berry agrees somewhat crankily to read ‘the poem that you asked me to read’ on the programme. ‘Sabbaths 1989’ describes roads to the future as going nowhere: ‘roads strung everywhere with humming wire. / Nowhere is there an end except in smoke. / This is the world that we have set on fire.’ Berry admits that this poem is about as gloomy as he gets (‘blessed are / The dead who died before this time began’). For the most part his writing is constructive: forming a sensual response to cold, atomised modernity; advocating for conviviality, community, the commonweal.

Paul Kingsnorth talks compellingly in the same programme about transforming protest into action, although in truth no one walks the walk like Berry. Kingsnorth says: ‘We’re all complicit in the things we oppose’ - and never were truer words spoken, from our iPhones to our energy use. In terms of design practice, there are worse goals than reducing our level of complicity in environmental harm and empty consumerism. Like Berry, Kingsnorth talks about paths and roads. He asks: ‘Why should we destroy an ancient forest to cut twelve minutes off a car journey from London to Southampton? Is that a good deal?’

It’s a fair question. It also illustrates perfectly what Berry was describing in the passage that started this post: the difference between paths that blend and coexist with the local landscape, preserving the knowledge and history of the land, and roads that cut straight through it. These roads are like a destructive and ill-fitting grid imposed from the centre onto the periphery, without attention to the local terrain or ecology or ways of doing things - both literally (in the case of energy) and figuratively.

Another book we read recently, Holloway, describes ancient paths - specifically the ‘holloways’ of South Dorset - in similar terms:
They are landmarks that speak of habit rather than of suddenness. Like creases in the hand, or the wear on the stone sill of a doorstep or stair, they are the result of repeated human actions. Their age chastens without crushing. They relate to other old paths & tracks in the landscape - ways that still connect place to place & person to person.


Holloways are paths sunk deep into the landscape and into the local history. Roads, in contrast, skip over the local - collapsing time as they move us from one place to the next without, as it were, touching the ground. They alienate us in our comfort.

Here in Madeira there are endless footpaths broken through the woods. Still more unique are the levadas, the irrigation channels that run for more than two thousand kilometres back and forth across the island, having been brought to Portugal from antecedents in Moorish aqueduct systems and adapted to the specific terrain and agricultural needs of Madeira starting in the sixteenth century.

Both the pathways through the ancient laurel forests and the centuries-old levadas (which, though engineered, were cut by hand and still follow the contours and logic of the landscape) contrast with the highways and tunnels that represent a newer feat of human engineering since the 1970s. During his controversial though undeniably successful reign from 1978 to 2015 - he was elected President of Madeira a remarkable ten times - Alberto João Jardim oversaw a massive infrastructure program that completely transformed the island. Places that used to be virtually unreachable became accessible by a short drive. His legacy, in part, is a culture of automobile dependency that is second to none. The American highway system inspired by Norman Bel Geddes’ (and General Motors’) Futurama exhibit at the 1939 New York World’s Fair almost pales in comparison to Jardim’s vision for the rapid modernisation of Madeira.

But when you walk the diesel-scented streets of the capital, or you drive through the holes bored deep into and out of towering volcanic mountains to reach the airport - and even when you think back in history and imagine those first settlers sitting in their ships as half the island’s forest burned, watching the dense smoke of the fires they lit to make Madeira favourable to human habitation - it’s hard not to think what a catastrophically invasive species are human beings.

Bespoke is a word we use a lot. In our vocabulary bespoke is not about luxury or excess - as it has been co-opted by consumer capitalism to suggest. Instead it is about tailored solutions, fitted to the contours of a particular body or landscape. Wendell Berry insists on the role of aesthetics and proportionality in his approach to environmentalism: the goal is not hillsides covered in rows of ugly solar panels, but an integrated and deep and loving relationship with the land. This insistence on aesthetics relates to the ‘reconfiguring’ principles that inform our newest work. The gravity batteries we’ve been building are an alternative not only to the imposed, top-down infrastructure of the grid, but also to the massive scale of such solutions and our desire to work with the terrain rather than against it.

Naomi Klein talked about renewable energy in these terms in an interview a couple of years ago:
If you go back and look at the way fossil fuels were marketed in the 1700s, when coal was first commercialized with the Watt steam engine, the great promise of coal was that it liberated humans from nature … And that was, it turns out, a lie. We never transcended nature, and that I think is what is so challenging about climate change, not just to capitalism but to our core civilizational myth. Because this is nature going, ‘You thought you were in charge? Actually all that coal you’ve been burning all these years has been building up in the atmosphere and trapping heat, and now comes the response.’ … Renewable energy puts us back in dialog with nature. We have to think about when the wind blows, we have to think about where the sun shines, we cannot pretend that place and space don’t matter. We are back in the world.


In a future post we will talk about the related subject of sustainable agriculture. But speaking of food - the time has come for our toast and coffee.
2017  crapfutures  wendellberry  paths  roads  madeira  bespoke  tailoring  audiencesofone  naomiklein  sustainability  earth  normanbelgeddes  albertojoãojardim  levadas  infrastructure  permanence  capitalism  energy  technology  technosolutionsism  1969  obstacles  destruction  habits  knowledge  place  placemaking  experience  familiarity  experientialeducation  kateraworth  paulkingsnorth  darkmountainproject  modernity  modernism  holloways  nature  landscape  cars  transportation  consumerism  consumercapitalism  reconfiguration  domination  atmosphere  environment  dialog  conviviality  community  commonweal  invasivespecies  excess  humans  futurama  ecology  canon  experientiallearning 
may 2017 by robertogreco
BBC Radio 4 - FutureProofing, The Future of the Future
"Does the accelerating pace of technology change the way we think about the future?

It's said that science fiction writers now spend more time telling stories about today than about tomorrow, because the potential of existing technology to change our world is so rich that there is no need to imagine the future - it's already here. Does this mean the future is dead? Or that we are experiencing a profound shift in our understanding of what the future means to us, how it arrives, and what forces will shape it?

Presenters Timandra Harkness and Leo Johnson explore how our evolving understanding of time and the potential of technological change are transforming the way we think about the future."
future  2017  mattnovak  sciencefiction  scifi  timandraharkness  leojohnson  time  technology  learning  howwelive  change  1960s  1950s  alexanerrose  prediction  bigdata  stability  flexibility  adaptability  astroteller  googlex  longnow  longnowfoundation  uncertainty  notknowing  simulation  generativedesign  dubai  museumofthefuture  agency  lawrenceorsini  implants  douglascoupland  belllabs  infrastructure  extremepresent  sfsh  classideas  present  past  history  connectivity  internet  web  online  futurism  futures  smartphones  tv  television  refrigeration  seancarroll 
may 2017 by robertogreco
The Complacent Class (Episode 1/5) - YouTube
[See also: http://learn.mruniversity.com/everyday-economics/tyler-cowen-on-american-culture-and-innovation/ ]

"Restlessness has long been seen as a signature trait of what it means to be American. We've been willing to cross great distances, take big risks, and adapt to change in way that has produced a dynamic economy. From Ben Franklin to Steve Jobs, innovation has been firmly rooted in American DNA.

What if that's no longer true?

Let’s take a journey back to the 19th century – specifically, the Chicago World’s Fair of 1893. At that massive event, people got to do things like ride a ferris wheel, go on a moving sidewalk, see a dishwasher, see electric light, or even try modern chewing gum for the very first time. More than a third of the entire U.S. population at that time attended. And remember, this was 1893 when travel was much more difficult and costly.

Fairs that shortly followed Chicago included new inventions and novelties the telephone, x-ray machine, hot dogs, and ice cream cones.

These earlier years of American innovation were filled with rapid improvement in a huge array of industries. Railroads, electricity, telephones, radio, reliable clean water, television, cars, airplanes, vaccines and antibiotics, nuclear power – the list goes on – all came from this era.

After about the 1970s, innovation on this scale slowed down. Computers and communication have been the focus. What we’ve seen more recently has been mostly incremental improvements, with the large exception of smart phones.

This means that we’ve experienced a ton of changes in our virtual world, but surprisingly few in our physical world. For example, travel hasn’t much improved and, in some cases, has even slowed down. The planes we’re primarily using? They were designed half a century ago.

Since the 1960s, our culture has gotten less restless, too. It’s become more bureaucratic. The sixties and seventies ushered in a wave of protests and civil disobedience. But today, people hire protests planners and file for permits. The demands for change are tamer compared to their mid-century counterparts.

This might not sound so bad. We’ve entered a golden age for many of our favorite entertainment options. Americans are generally better off than ever before. But the U.S. economy is less dynamic. We’re stagnating. We’re complacent. What does mean for our economic and cultural future?"

[The New Era of Segregation (Episode 2/5)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hNlA_Zz1_bM

Do you live in a “bubble?” There’s a good chance that the answer is, at least in part, a resounding “Yes.”

In our algorithm-driven world, digital servants cater to our individual preferences like never before. This has caused many improvements to our daily lives. For example, instead of gathering the kids together for a frustrating Blockbuster trip to pick out a VHS for family movie night, you can simply scroll through kid-friendly titles on Netflix that have been narrowed down based on your family’s previous viewing history. Not so bad.

But this algorithmic matching isn’t limited to entertainment choices. We’re also getting matched to spouses of a similar education level and earning potential. More productive workers are able to get easily matched to more productive firms. On the individual level, this is all very good. Our digital servants are helping us find better matches and improving our lives.

What about at the macro level? All of this matching can also produce more segregation – but on a much broader level than just racial segregation. People with similar income and education levels, and who do similar types of work, are more likely to cluster into their own little bubbles. This matching has consequences, and they’re not all virtual.

Power couples and highly productive workers are concentrating in metropolises like New York City and San Francisco. With many high earners, lots of housing demand, and strict building codes, rents in these types of cities are skyrocketing. People with lower incomes simply can no longer afford the cost of living, so they leave. New people with lower incomes also aren’t coming in, so we end up with a type of self-reinforcing segregation.

If you think back to the 2016 U.S. election, you’ll remember that most political commentators, who tend to reside in trendy large cities, were completely shocked by the rise of Donald Trump. What part did our new segregation play in their inability to understand what was happening in middle America?

In terms of racial segregation, there are worrying trends. The variety and level of racism of we’ve seen in the past may be on the decline, but the data show less residential racial mixing among whites and minorities.

Why does this matter? For a dynamic economy, mixing a wide variety of people in everyday life is crucial for the development of ideas and upward mobility. If matching is preventing mixing, we have to start making intentional changes to improve socio-economic integration and bring dynamism back into the American economy."]
safety  control  life  us  innovation  change  invention  risk  risktaking  stasis  travel  transportation  dynamism  stagnation  economics  crisis  restlessness  tylercowen  fiterbubbles  segregation  protest  communication  disobedience  compliance  civildisobedience  infrastructure  complacency  2017  algorithms  socialmobility  inequality  race  class  filterbubbles  incomeinequality  isolation  cities  urban  urbanism 
march 2017 by robertogreco
California Today: A Chronicler of the State, in His Own Words - The New York Times
"Here are just a few highlights from Mr. Starr’s prose and interviews:

On recurring natural disasters (Los Angeles Times, Oct. 31, 1993)
Southern California has used technology to materialize an imagined society of garden cities and suburbs. Now and then, it must pay a price for its reordering of the environment.

On diversity (San Diego Union-Tribune, Sept. 10, 2000):
Is there any people on the planet, any language, any religion not represented in California this very morning? ... This diversity, then, is the persistent DNA code of California.

On California’s rising Latino population (New York Times, March 31, 2001):
The Anglo hegemony was only an intermittent phase in California’s arc of identity, extending from the arrival of the Spanish.

On the Central Valley (“Coast of Dreams,” 2004):
Mesopotamia, the rice fields of China, the Po Valley: the Central Valley stood in a long line of irrigation cultures which had, in turn, given birth to civilization itself.

On California at the millennium (“California: A History,” 2005):
California had long since become one of the prisms through which the American people, for better and for worse, could glimpse their future.

On the drought (The New York Times, April 4, 2005):
Mother Nature didn’t intend for 40 million people to live here.

On the Golden Gate Bridge (“Golden Gate,” 2010):
Like the Parthenon, the Golden Gate Bridge seems Platonic in its perfection, as if the harmonies and resolutions of creation as understood by mathematics and abstract thought have been effortlessly materialized through engineering design.
"
kevinstarr  california  diversity  socal  demographics  technology  history  identity  2017  2010  2005  2004  2001  2000  1993  drought  environment  goldengatebridge  engineering  infrastructure  mesopotamia  irrigation  civilization  society  latinos  future 
january 2017 by robertogreco
The Future of Cities – Medium
[video (embedded): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xOOWk5yCMMs ]

"Organic Filmmaking and City Re-Imagining

What does “the future of cities” mean? To much of the developing world, it might be as simple as aspiring to having your own toilet, rather than sharing one with over 100 people. To a family in Detroit, it could mean having non-toxic drinking water. For planners and mayors, it’s about a lot of things — sustainability, economy, inclusivity, and resilience. Most of us can hope we can spend a little less time on our commutes to work and a little more time with our families. For a rich white dude up in a 50th floor penthouse, “the future of cities” might mean zipping around in a flying car while a robot jerks you off and a drone delivers your pizza. For many companies, the future of cities is simply about business and money, presented to us as buzzwords like “smart city” and “the city of tomorrow.”

I started shooting the “The Future of a Cities” as a collaboration with the The Nantucket Project, but it really took shape when hundreds of people around the world responded to a scrappy video I made asking for help.

Folks of all ages, from over 75 countries, volunteered their time, thoughts, work, and footage so that I could expand the scope of the piece and connect with more people in more cities. This strategy saved me time and money, but it also clarified the video’s purpose, which inspired me to put more energy into the project in order to get it right. I was reading Jan Gehl, Jane Jacobs, Edward Glaeser, etc. and getting excited about their ideas — after seeing what mattered to the people I met in person and watching contributions from those I didn’t, the video gained focus and perspective.

If I hired a production services outfit to help me film Mumbai, it would actually be a point of professional pride for the employees to deliver the Mumbai they think I want to see. If some young filmmakers offer to show me around their city and shoot with me for a day, we’re operating on another level, and a very different portrait of a city emerges. In the first scenario, my local collaborators get paid and I do my best to squeeze as much work out of the time period paid for as possible. In the second, the crew accepts more responsibility but gains ownership, hopefully leaving the experience feeling more empowered.

Architect and former mayor of Curitiba Jaime Lerner famously said “if you want creativity, take a zero off your budget. If you want sustainability, take off two zeros.” It’s been my experience that this sustainability often goes hand-in-hand with humanity, and part of what I love about working with less resources and money is that it forces you to treat people like human beings. Asking someone to work with less support or equipment, or to contribute more time for less money, requires a mutual understanding between two people. If each person can empathize for the other, it’s been my experience that we’ll feel it in the work — both in the process and on screen.

Organic filmmaking requires you to keep your crew small and your footprint light. You start filming with one idea in mind, but the idea changes each day as elements you could never have anticipated inform the bigger picture. You make adjustments and pursue new storylines. You edit a few scenes, see what’s working and what’s not, then write new scenes. Shoot those, cut them in, then go back and write more. Each part of the process talks to the other. The movie teaches itself to be a better movie. Because organic is complicated, it can be tricky to defend and difficult to scale up, but because it’s cheap and low-resource, it’s easier to experiment. Learning about the self-organizing, living cities that I did on this project informed how we made the video. And looking at poorly planned urban projects reminded me of the broken yet prevailing model for making independent film in the U.S., where so many films are bound to fail — often in a way a filmmaker doesn’t recover from — before they even begin.

Jane Jacobs said that “cities have the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only when, they are created by everybody.” I’ve worked on videos for companies, for the guy in the penthouse, for nobody in particular, in the developing world, with rich people and poor people, for me, for my friends, and for artists. I’m so thankful for everybody who allowed me to make this film the way we did, and I hope the parallels between filmmaking and city building — where the stakes are so much higher — aren’t lost on anyone trying to make their city a better place. We should all be involved. The most sustainable future is a future that includes us all.

“The Future of Cities” Reading List

(There’s a longer list I discovered recently from Planetizen HERE but these are the ones I got into on this project — I’m excited to read many more)

The Death and Life of American Cities by Jane Jacobs
The Triumph of the City: How Our Greatest Invention Makes Us Richer, Smarter, Greener, Healthier, and Happier by Edward Glaeser
Cities for People and Life Between Buildings by Jan Gehl
The Well-Tempered City: What Modern Science, Ancient Civilizations, and Human Nature Teach Us About the Future of Urban Life by Jonathan Rose(just came out — incredible)
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America, One Step at a Time by Jeff Speck
The City of Tomorrow: Sensors, Networks, Hackers, and the Future of Urban Life by Carlo Ratti and Matthew Claudel
Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design by Charles Montgomery
Dream Cities: Seven Urban Ideas That Shape the World by Wade Graham
Connectography: Mapping The Future of Global Civilization by Parag Khanna
Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas
Low Life and The Other Paris by Luc Sante
A History of Future Cities by Daniel Brook
Streetfight: Handbook for the Urban Revolution by Janette Sadik-Khan and Seth Solomonow
Tactical Urbanism: Short-term Action for Long-Term Change by Mike Lydon & Anthony Garcia
Living In The Endless City, edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic

“The Future of Cities” Select Interviewees:
David Hertz & Sky Source
Vicky Chan & Avoid Obvious Architects
Carlo Ratti: Director, MIT Senseable City Lab Founding Partner, Carlo Ratti Associati
Edward Glaeser: Fred and Eleanor Glimp Professor of Economics, Harvard University Author of The Triumph of the City
Helle Søholt: Founding Parner & CEO, Gehl Architects
Ricky Burdett: Director, LSE Cities/Urban Age
Lauren Lockwood, Chief Digital Officer, City of Boston
Pablo Viejo: Smart Cities Expert & CTO V&V Innovations, Singapore
Matias Echanove & Urbz, Mumbai
Janette Sadik-Khan: Author, Advisor, & Former NYC DOT Commissioner
Abess Makki: CEO, City Insight
Dr. Parag Khanna: Author of Connectography
Stan Gale: CEO of Gale International, Developer of Songdo IBD
Dr. Jockin Arputham: President, Slum Dwellers International
Morton Kabell: Mayor for Technical & Environmental Affairs, Copenhagen
cities  urban  urbanplanning  urbanism  bikes  biking  cars  singapore  nyc  losangeles  janejacobs  jangehl  edwardglaeser  mumbai  tokyo  regulation  jaimelerner  curitiba  nantucketproject  carloratti  vickchan  davidhertz  hellesøholt  rickyburdett  laurenlockwood  pabloviejo  matiasechanove  urbz  janettesadik-khan  abessmakki  paragkhanna  stangale  jockinarputham  slumdwellersinternational  slums  mortonkabell  urbanization  future  planning  oscarboyson  mikelydon  anthonygarcia  danielbrook  lucsante  remkoolhaas  dayansudjic  rickyburdettsethsolomonow  wadegraham  charlesmontgomery  matthewclaudeljeffspeck  jonathanrose  transportation  publictransit  transit  housing  construction  development  local  small  grassroots  technology  internet  web  online  communications  infrastructure  services  copenhagen  sidewalks  pedestrians  sharing  filmmaking  film  video  taipei  seoul  santiago  aukland  songdo  sydney  london  nairobi  venice  shenzhen  2016  sustainability  environment  population  detroit  making  manufacturing  buildings  economics  commutes  commuting 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Six maps that show the anatomy of America’s vast infrastructure - Washington Post
"The maps you are about to see show the massive scope of America’s infrastructure using data from OpenStreetMap and various government sources. They provide a glimpse into where that half-trillion dollars may be invested."
maps  mapping  infrastructure  us  visualization  2016  electricgrid  electricity  energy  coal  naturalgas  hydropower  wind  windenergy  bridges  pipelines  rail  railroads  airports  ports  waterways  osm  openstreetmap 
december 2016 by robertogreco
Intensification without representation – a recipe for collapse | Lebenskünstler
"Inspired by M. Jahi Chappell (title above), Ivan Illich (relationship of energy consumption, social/economic inequality, and specialization) and Joseph Tainter (quote below). Needless to say the arts are subject to the same law of declining marginal returns. Also note that there is immense energy consumption involved in administrators maintaining the social coercion necessary for institutional buy in from the administered."
randallszott  participatorydemocracy  democracy  infrastructure  specialization  technocracy  technology  inequality  community  representation  hierarchy  horizontality  mjahichappell  ivanillich  josephtainter  energy  energyconsumption  socialcoercion  coercion  administration  management  leadership 
june 2016 by robertogreco
Innovation is overvalued. Maintenance often matters more | Aeon Essays
"Capitalism excels at innovation but is failing at maintenance, and for most lives it is maintenance that matters more"



"At the turn of the millennium, in the world of business and technology, innovation had transformed into an erotic fetish. Armies of young tech wizards aspired to become disrupters. The ambition to disrupt in pursuit of innovation transcended politics, enlisting liberals and conservatives alike. Conservative politicians could gut government and cut taxes in the name of spurring entrepreneurship, while liberals could create new programmes aimed at fostering research. The idea was vague enough to do nearly anything in its name without feeling the slightest conflict, just as long as you repeated the mantra: INNOVATION!! ENTREPRENEURSHIP!!

A few years later, however, one could detect tremors of dissent. In a biting essay titled ‘Innovation is the New Black’, Michael Bierut, writing in Design Observer in 2005, lamented the ‘mania for innovation, or at least for endlessly repeating the word “innovation”’. Soon, even business publications began to raise the question of inherent worth. In 2006, The Economist noted that Chinese officials had made innovation into a ‘national buzzword’, even as it smugly reported that China’s educational system ‘stresses conformity and does little to foster independent thinking’, and that the Communist Party’s new catchphrases ‘mostly end up fizzling out in puddles of rhetoric’. Later that year, Businessweek warned: ‘Innovation is in grave danger of becoming the latest overused buzzword. We’re doing our part at Businessweek.’ Again in Businessweek, on the last day of 2008, the design critic Bruce Nussbaum returned to the theme, declaring that innovation ‘died in 2008, killed off by overuse, misuse, narrowness, incrementalism and failure to evolve… In the end, “Innovation” proved to be weak as both a tactic and strategy in the face of economic and social turmoil.’

In 2012, even the Wall Street Journal got into innovation-bashing act, noting ‘the Term Has Begun to Lose Meaning’. At the time, it counted ‘more than 250 books with “innovation” in the title… published in the last three months’. A professional innovation consultant it interviewed advised his clients to ban the word at their companies. He said it was just a ‘word to hide the lack of substance’."



"Nixon, wrong about so many things, also was wrong to point to household appliances as self-evident indicators of American progress. Ironically, Cowan’s work first met with scepticism among male scholars working in the history of technology, whose focus was a male pantheon of inventors: Bell, Morse, Edison, Tesla, Diesel, Shockley, and so on. A renewed focus on maintenance and repair also has implications beyond the gender politics that More Work for Mother brought to light. When they set innovation-obsession to the side, scholars can confront various kinds of low-wage labour performed by many African-Americans, Latinos, and other racial and ethnic minorities. From this perspective, recent struggles over increasing the minimum wage, including for fast food workers, can be seen as arguments for the dignity of being a maintainer.

We organised a conference to bring the work of the maintainers into clearer focus. More than 40 scholars answered a call for papers asking, ‘What is at stake if we move scholarship away from innovation and toward maintenance?’ Historians, social scientists, economists, business scholars, artists, and activists responded. They all want to talk about technology outside of innovation’s shadow.

One important topic of conversation is the danger of moving too triumphantly from innovation to maintenance. There is no point in keeping the practice of hero-worship that merely changes the cast of heroes without confronting some of the deeper problems underlying the innovation obsession. One of the most significant problems is the male-dominated culture of technology, manifest in recent embarrassments such as the flagrant misogyny in the ‘#GamerGate’ row a couple of years ago, as well as the persistent pay gap between men and women doing the same work.

There is an urgent need to reckon more squarely and honestly with our machines and ourselves. Ultimately, emphasising maintenance involves moving from buzzwords to values, and from means to ends. In formal economic terms, ‘innovation’ involves the diffusion of new things and practices. The term is completely agnostic about whether these things and practices are good. Crack cocaine, for example, was a highly innovative product in the 1980s, which involved a great deal of entrepreneurship (called ‘dealing’) and generated lots of revenue. Innovation! Entrepreneurship! Perhaps this point is cynical, but it draws our attention to a perverse reality: contemporary discourse treats innovation as a positive value in itself, when it is not.

Entire societies have come to talk about innovation as if it were an inherently desirable value, like love, fraternity, courage, beauty, dignity, or responsibility. Innovation-speak worships at the altar of change, but it rarely asks who benefits, to what end? A focus on maintenance provides opportunities to ask questions about what we really want out of technologies. What do we really care about? What kind of society do we want to live in? Will this help get us there? We must shift from means, including the technologies that underpin our everyday actions, to ends, including the many kinds of social beneficence and improvement that technology can offer. Our increasingly unequal and fearful world would be grateful."
leevinsel  andrewrussell  maintenance  infrastructure  innovation  technology  2016  capitalism  repair  growth  robertgordon  siliconvalley  creativeclass  economics  claytonchristensen  entrepreneurship  business  michaelbierut  inequality  love  fraternity  courage  beauty  dignity  responsibility  change  society  maintainers  labor  care  repairing  themaintainers 
april 2016 by robertogreco
The Maintainers: A Conference
"Many groups and individuals today celebrate “innovation.” The notion is influential not only in engineering and business, but also in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. For example, “innovation” has become a staple of analysis in popular histories – such as Walter Isaacson’s recent book, The Innovators: How a Group of Hackers, Geniuses, and Geeks Created the Digital Revolution.

This conference takes a different approach, one whose conceptual starting point was a playful proposal for a counter-volume to Isaacson’s that could be titled The Maintainers: How a Group of Bureaucrats, Standards Engineers, and Introverts Made Technologies That Kind of Work Most of the Time. Conference participants come from a variety of fields, including academic historians and social scientists, as well as artists, activists, and engineers. All share an interest in the concepts of maintenance, infrastructure, repair, and the myriad forms of labor and expertise that sustain our human-built world.

Presentations will cover a wide variety of technologies and practices, including software, spaceflight, trolleys, meteorology, digital archives, and the politics of funding for infrastructure. The conference keynote speaker will be Ruth Schwartz Cowan, Professor Emerita in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and author of several books, including the pathbreaking More Work for Mother: The Ironies of Household Technologies from the Hearth to the Microwave.

The call for papers is now closed."

[via: "Trading "innovation" for maintenance, repair + care:"
https://twitter.com/shannonmattern/status/719327821777223680

pointing to: https://twitter.com/lubar/status/719323080573730816 ]

[Matt Thomas was there.]
maintenance  infrastructure  repair  care  2016  innovation  repairing  themaintainers  maintainers 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Fluid technologies: The Bush Pump, the LifeStraw® and microworlds of humanitarian design
"Over the past decade, many ingenious, small-scale gadgets have appeared in response to problems of disaster and extreme poverty. Focusing on the LifeStraw®, a water filtration device invented by the company Vestergaard Frandsen, I situate this wave of humanitarian design relative to Marianne de Laet and Annemarie Mol’s classic article on the Zimbabwe Bush Pump. The LifeStraw shares the Bush Pump’s principle of technical minimalism, as well as its ethical desire to improve the lives of communities. Unlike the pump, however, the straw defines itself through rather than against market logic, accepting the premise that one can ‘do well while doing good’. Moreover, it does not share the assumed framework of de Laet and Mol’s Zimbabwean socio-technical landscape: a postcolonial state happily en route to national self-definition. Nonetheless, it clearly embodies moral affect, if in the idiom of humanitarian concern rather than development. My aim is to open up three interrelated lines of inquiry for discussion. First, I consider aspects of a postcolonial condition at the micro-level of immediate needs, including assumptions about nation-state politics and markets. Second, I emphasize science and technology in the form of infrastructure, the material frontline of norms. Third, I return reflexively to love, and the complicated allure of engagement in academic work."

[via: https://twitter.com/justinpickard/status/717938576311197696 ]
peterredfield  humanitariandesign  designimperialism  2015  infrastructure  waterfiltration  postcolonialdevelopment 
april 2016 by robertogreco
James Meek · Robin Hood in a Time of Austerity · LRB 18 February 2016
"How like the Middle Ages, if it were so. Behind the twisted rhetoric of a hardworking majority oppressed by a welfare-mad government, a modern version of the medieval world has been constructed, one where the real poor are taxed more heavily than the rich; where most of those who are not rich are burdened by an onerous roster of fees and monopolies levied by remote, unaccountable private landlords; and where many of us live out our lives shackled to an endless chain of private debt.

Since the Thatcher revolution in 1979, British governments have boasted of how they’ve lowered taxes. And they have, except for one section of society: the poorest 20 per cent. In 1977, the least well-off fifth of households paid 37 per cent of their gross income in direct taxes (like income tax) and indirect taxes (like VAT), against 38 per cent for the richest fifth. In 2014, the tax take from the poorest group had gone up to 37.8 per cent, while the taxes paid by the richest had gone down to less than 35 per cent.

Not only does this understate the extent of tax cuts for the top 1 per cent; it shows only part of the burden borne by the least well off. Piketty writes that ‘modern redistribution does not consist in transferring income from the rich to the poor, at least not in so explicit a way. It consists rather in financing public services and replacement incomes that are more or less equal for everyone, especially in the areas of health, education and pensions.’ This is a very cautious definition of the modern social state. Health, education and social security make up the lion’s share of public spending, but they’re intimately linked to a wider set of networks that includes energy, water and transport and, some would argue, should include housing. What these networks have in common is that society has decided they’re essential, and therefore should be universal – that is, we think everyone should have access to them, all the time. The significance of this is that, on the one hand, society takes on itself the obligation to give its poorest members access to these networks, which they wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford; and, on the other, payment to use these networks, if it isn’t funded out of general taxation, becomes in itself a tax, particularly when that network is a monopoly. In Britain, many of these universal networks, such as electricity and water, have been privatised, often twice – once to put them on the stock market, once to put them into the hands of overseas owners. Bills for these services have increased faster than inflation, and take little account of people’s ability to pay. It is the poorest, then, who as well as paying the heaviest combination of indirect and direct taxation bear the brunt of such hybrid public-private taxes as the water tax and the electricity tax.

Other universal networks, such as health and education, haven’t been privatised, but have been through another process that makes them ripe for the introduction of flat fees for usage in future. This process really got going under Labour, and it is a sign of the liberal left’s failure to recognise what it has done that there isn’t a name for it. One word to describe it might be ‘autonomisation’ – the process by which state-run bodies continue to be funded by the state but are run autonomously on a non-profit basis. So state secondary schools become academies, NHS hospitals become NHS foundation trusts, and council estates are transferred to housing associations. The British state is in a condition of rolling abdication, leaving behind a partly privatised, partly autonomised set of universal networks, increasingly run by absentee landlords in the form of global companies and overseas corporate investors, that is disproportionately funded by the poorest payers of taxes, fees and duties, many of whom are also deep in debt.

There is a cynical view which says that as long as the majority of the population feel they’re doing all right, a democratically elected government is safe to squeeze the poor and pamper the rich. But cynicism is a risky thing to rely on when a government is simultaneously cutting spending and shedding control of the universal networks on which its entire population relies. As Hobsbawm writes in Bandits, ‘concentration of power in the modern territorial state is what eventually eliminated rural banditry, endemic or epidemic. At the end of the 20th century it looks as though this situation might be coming to an end, and the consequences of this regression of state power cannot yet be foreseen.’ We’re a long way from the return of the literal outlaw to Nottinghamshire. But we need to remember the insight given our ancestors when they saw through the illusion of the Robin Hood myth, when they saw that the strongbox of silver coins wasn’t just money stolen from each of them individually, but power robbed from them collectively, and that they needed to wield that power collectively as much as they needed their money back. For sure, freedom to choose is a grand thing, and the market will try to help you exercise it. With a bit of money in the bank, a middle-class family might choose to send their child to private school, provided by the market; but that same family can’t choose to build and maintain a universal education network by itself, and the market won’t provide it. With money, you can choose to buy a car, and the market will provide it; but you can’t choose, all by yourself, to build and maintain a universal road network, and the market won’t provide it. To make and keep universal networks requires the authority of the state, an authority that has been absent; and it’s hard to see where that authority might come from if the people don’t find a way to assert their kingship."
2016  jamesmeek  capitalism  politics  policy  welfare  poor  class  rich  wealthdistribution  inequality  taxes  taxation  health  education  thomaspiketty  neoliberalism  autonomization  housing  uk  finance  davidcameron  margaretthatcher  ronaldreagan  stephenharper  us  canada  australia  marcorubio  georgeosborne  power  money  economics  labor  erichobsbawm  government  markets  universalnetworks  infrastructure  via:anabjain 
april 2016 by robertogreco
Networks Land
[via: https://twitter.com/lifewinning/status/714446710827847680 ]

"Hello!

This website is a collection of educational activities and material explaining how the internet works, at levels that generally don’t get thoroughly covered in introductions to the internet. The activities are designed to mostly take place offline using physical objects, field trips, and games.

Who is this for?

Technically, this material is for anyone who doesn’t totally understand how the internet works, but that kind of just means almost everyone in the world (including us!). We developed this material for audiences between 11 and 14, focusing on that age range for the following reasons:

• if it worked with that age range it could probably scale up
• we wanted to work with students just young enough to be unfamiliar with a world before the internet, but just old enough to be capable of considering more complex critical questions
• middle schoolers are just the absolute best. (except when they’re the absolute worst.)

That being said, while we had a totally great time workshopping these activities with students, a lot of the material on this site is for the educators who might use this material. That’s why in addition to the actual descriptions of the activities, we have reference sections that go into further detail than the activities themselves.

How did we develop this material?

This project is the result of a Knight Prototype Fund grant received in summer 2015. We workshopped this material in workshops coordinated with the Point Arena Technology Center in Point Arena, CA, at the Radical Networks conference in New York, and with the afterschool program LeAP at MS 51 in Brooklyn, New York.

The original name of our grant was Network Geography 101. We’re not really sure Networks Land is a better name, but, well, the domain was available. Naming things is tricky. We welcome better suggestions.

And why exactly are you doing this?

In the United States, there’s a growing understanding that internet access is a basic necessity for living in a modern society. It’s where jobs are sought, where bills are paid, where relationships form, where content is consumed, and where memes are rendered dank.

With this in mind, more and more organizations and institutions have embarked on campaigns and development of curricula for “digital literacy” or “code literacy”, tools and resources to get the newly online comfortable and savvy with the network.

For the most part, these initiatives focus on the experience of the web–what a browser is, how to search for information, how to make an email address. Sometimes digital literacy education gets into maintaining security and privacy with living online, and sometimes it’s an on-ramp for teaching people how to code.

This is all well and good for making people feel comfortable manipulating interfaces on a screen (and yes, that’s the majority of what coding education looks like too, fight me), but very rarely does digital literacy education get into what’s happening behind and beyond the screen. Where does that information loaded from Google actually live? How does it travel from that location to my computer? Who owns all this stuff?

There is something missing between digital literacy and code literacy. That something is mostly made of objects.

While the wireless signals that connect a user to the internet may be imperceptible to the human eye, the cables, antennas, data centers, and other physical objects that make up the internet aren’t. They are, however, easy to ignore and increasingly obscured in explaining how the internet works. Similarly, the mechanisms of governance and ownership of the network aren’t entirely hidden from public view, but they are often relegated as “impractical” knowledge much like the physical infrastructure. Understanding ICANN or where “the cloud” lives won’t help you navigate a website or learn to write code.

This attitude is a problem. When neither a computer scientist nor an eleven-year-old can coherently articulate how, on a tangible level, data travels through the internet or who owns the top-level domain my website uses, that’s a problem. When the internet is understood only through its screen components, it’s reduced to a dystopic interface for absorbing content and involuntarily feeding advertising engines.

“With every receding seam, from cable to code, comes a techno-political risk. Without edges we cannot know where we are and nor through whom we speak.”

(Julian Oliver, “Stealth Infrastructure”)

The point is, the internet is an increasingly crucial component of how people throughout the world live their lives. Understanding the systems and infrastructure that make the internet function, from the levels of protocol, physical objects, and governance isn’t necessarily going to make a generation of better programmers and it isn’t going to make anyone better at using a browser. But you don’t need to be a plumber to appreciate understanding how the sewer system works, and you don’t need to be in Congress to benefit from understanding how government works. Understanding systems and infrastructural elements is a useful part of being an informed human being and a useful thing to know when trying to figure out if and how those systems could change or are changing.

Who Worked On This?

This material was developed by Ingrid Burrington and Surya Mattu, who both live in New York and do weird things at Data and Society Research Institute. We had some amazing design assistance from Disk Cactus, an excellent studio of excellent humans based in Oakland, CA.

This website lives on Github."
classideas  internet  curriculum  education  infrastructure  immaterials  ingridburrington  suryamattu 
march 2016 by robertogreco
What Happened to the Great Urban Design Projects? - The New York Times
"— Dave Eggers, “This Bridge Will Not Be Gray”

This new book, a collaboration between Eggers and the artist Tucker Nichols, who created the deceptively simple paper cutout illustrations, is a love letter to infrastructure. Eggers’s proclamation that the Golden Gate is beloved because it’s outrageous and weird may fly in the face of just about everyone’s attitude about infrastructure, but it also gets at exactly what we should be feeling about bridges and tunnels.

Awe.

American infrastructure is deferred home maintenance on a massive scale. We just keep putting it off until something major — and often catastrophic — happens, and then it ends up costing twice as much as it would have had we taken care of it proactively. This is a bad strategy — yet it’s the strategy that seems to define United States infrastructure.

There is no awe. There are issues of structural integrity. There are mind-blowing cost overruns. Accidents. Sinkholes. Problems with bolts.

The first design proposed for the Golden Gate was, writes Eggers, “the strangest, most awkward and plain old ugly bridge anyone had every seen ... people compared it to an upside-down rat trap.” (Here is what it looked like.) The public demanded something better — and they got it.

A century later, we’ve lost our collective faith in the power of great projects like the Golden Gate, not to mention our trust in the government to fix a pothole on time and on budget, let alone create an inspiring bridge. How can we restore that faith in possibility?

Let’s take some inspiration from Atlanta — yes, Atlanta! — which is putting the finishing touches on the Atlanta BeltLine, one of the largest, most wide-ranging urban redevelopment programs currently underway in the United States.

The BeltLine is a 22-mile loop of old railroads encircling downtown Atlanta that connects 45 neighborhoods. The project repurposes this historic rail corridor as a new transit greenway, featuring streetcars that connect to existing rail and 11 miles and counting of trails for running, walking and biking. Mostly underutilized industrial properties surround it. These are now becoming perfect sites for new mixed-use, dense projects, including 5,600 units of affordable housing.

The Atlanta BeltLine began as a master’s thesis project. (I don’t know about you, but my master’s thesis project is in a cardboard box in the garage.)



"Yet engineers, planners and policy makers tend to focus on wonky stuff like percentage of parkland per person. They’re awash in acronyms like V.M.T. (vehicle miles traveled), too reliant on planning terms like modeshare that don’t resonate with the general public. These things may be useful in measuring the metrics of a city, but they sure don’t get to the reasons people want to live there. You don’t move to one city because it has 35 percent more parkland per person than another city. You move there because you fall in love with it, or with someone there, or you get a job there, or your family is from there. We need to address metrics, but the bigger goal is to make cities that we love.

Los Angeles, a seemingly even more unlikely candidate to bring awe to infrastructure, is nevertheless doing it, with a dazzlingly ambitious transportation plan (the city’s mayor, Eric Garcetti, has even publicly crooned for road improvements), and also by rediscovering the long-neglected (and abused, frankly) river it was built around. Now, the once largely paved-over 51-mile L.A. River, like the BeltLine, has taken on this mantle of the future again.

Elon Musk’s fanciful Hyperloop may never be built, but let’s give him credit for capturing our collective imaginations. (For a look at other examples of bold, courageous and unusual infrastructure that do, see the slide show.) We can take a lesson from Musk and from Gravel, too, that infrastructure shouldn’t be viewed as an obstacle or a headache but something to behold. That it’s part of something bigger. “People don’t love the physical thing of the BeltLine,” says Gravel. “They love that it’s changing the city. It allows us to look beyond the shortcomings of the city and look ahead to the future and be excited about that.”

In an age of cost overruns, project delays, safety risks and the other, seemingly infinite obstacles to infrastructure, this all might sound awfully reductive, even naïve. But keeping our eye on what’s possible is certainly as important as fixating on what isn’t."
2016  atlanta  planning  metrics  urbanplanning  allisonarieff  daveeggers  infrastructure  goldengatebridge  history  ryangravel  atlantabeltline  beltline  transportation  housing  funding  politics  policy  losangeles  elonmusk  hyperloop  lariver  losangelesriver 
february 2016 by robertogreco
crap futures — constraint no. 2: legacies of the past
"We are locked into paths determined by decisions or choices made in previous eras, when the world was a much different place. For various reasons these legacies stubbornly persist through time, constraining future possibilities and blinkering us from alternative ways of thinking.

Here, sketched as usual on a napkin over coffee and toast, are some thoughts on legacies of the past that exercise power over our future.

Infrastructure. Take energy, for example. Tesla’s invention of alternating current became the dominant system - rather than Edison’s direct current - essentially because it allowed electricity generated at power stations to be capable of travelling large distances. Tesla’s system has, for the most part, been adopted across the world - an enormous network of stations, cables, pylons, and transformers, with electrical power arriving in our homes through sockets in the wall. This pervasive system dictates or influences almost everything energy related, and in highly complex ways: from the development of new energy generation methods (and figuring out how to feed that energy into the grid) to the design of any electrical product.

Another example is transportation. As Crap Futures has discovered, it is hard to get around this volcanic and vertiginous island without a car. There are no trains, it is too hilly to ride a bike, buses are slow and infrequent, and meanwhile over the past few decades the regional government - one particular government with a 37-year reign - poured millions into building a complex network of roads and tunnels. People used to get to other parts of the island by boat; now (and for the foreseeable future) it is by private car. This is an example of recent infrastructure that a) perpetuated and was dictated by dominant ideas of how transportation infrastructure should be done, and b) will further constrain possibilities for the island into the future.

Laws and insurance. There is a problematic time-slip between the existence of laws and insurance and the real-life behaviour of humans. Laws and insurance are for the most part reactive: insurance policies, for example, are based on amassed data that informs the broker of risk levels, and this system therefore needs history to work. So when you try to insert a new product or concept - a self-driving car or delivery drone - into everyday life, the insurance system pushes back. Insurance companies don’t want to gamble on an unknown future; they want to look at the future through historical data, which is by nature a conservative lens.

Laws, insurance, and historical infrastructure often work together to curb radical change. This partly explains why many of the now technologically realisable dreams of the past, from jetpacks to flying cars, are unlikely to become an everyday reality in that imagined form - more likely they will adapt and conform to existing systems and rules.
"No great idea in its beginning can ever be within the law. How can it be within the law? The law is stationary. The law is fixed. The law is a chariot wheel which binds us all regardless of conditions or place or time." — Emma Goldman, Anarchism and Other Essays (1910)

It is true that laws sometimes outstay their welcome or impede progress. The slow pace at which laws change becomes more and more apparent as the pace of innovation increases. But there are positive as well as negative constraints, and laws often constrain us for good (which of course is their supposed function). At best, they check our impulses, give us a cooling off period, prevent us from tearing everything down at a whim.

So the law can be a force for good. But then of course - good, bad, or ineffectual - there are always those who find ways to circumvent the law. Jonathan Swift wrote: ‘Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.’ With their shock-and-awe tactics, companies like Uber manage to overcome traditional legal barriers by moving faster than local laws or simply being big enough to shrug off serious legal challenges.

Technology is evolutionary. (See Heilbroner’s quote in the future nudge post.) Comparisons between natural and technological evolution have been a regular phenomenon since as far back Darwin’s On the Origin of Species (1859). Darwin’s revolutionary work inspired philosophers, writers, and anthropologists - Marx and Engels, Samuel Butler, Augustus Pitt-Rivers - to suggest that technological artefacts evolve in a manner similar to natural organisms. This essentially means that technological development is unidirectional, and that radical new possibilities do not happen.

Viewing technology in evolutionary terms would appear to constrain us to only the possibilities that we could reasonably ‘evolve’ into. But this does not have to be the case: natural evolution works by random mutation and natural selection with no ‘plan’ as such, whereas technological innovation and product design are firmly teleologic (literally ‘end-directed’). In other words, the evolutionary model of technological change ignores basic human agency. While natural organisms can’t dip into the historical gene pool to bring back previous mutations, however useful they might be, innovators and designers are not locked into an irreversible evolutionary march and can look backward whenever they choose. So why don’t they? It is a case - circling back to constraint no. 1 - of thinking under the influence of progress dogma."
2015  crapfutures  constraints  darwin  evolution  innovation  future  progress  progressdogma  transportation  infrastructure  law  legal  time  pace  engels  friedrichengels  technology  californianideology  emmagoldman  anarchism  insurance  policy  electricity  nikolatesla  thomasedison  systems  systemsthinking  jonathanswift  samuelbutler  karlmarx  longnow  bighere  augustuspitt-rivers 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Extracraft and Expulsions (Keller Easterling and Saskia Sassen) - YouTube
"Grounded in their books Extrastatecraft: The Power of Infrastructure Space and Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global Landscape, acclaimed scholars Keller Easterling and Saskia Sassen present recent writings on equity, built and representational space, and the global economy. Response by Spatial Information Design Lab Director Laura Kurgan."
saskiasassen  kellereasterling  2015  towatch  economics  equity  infrastructure  landscape  complexity 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Plastic Passion: The Civil Engineering Solution to Weak Roadways -
"Asphalt: it fades, dips, cracks, and needs constant repairing. This is the type of degradation seen throughout the large majority of construction work, and this is the type of common problem many have tried to address throughout the history of roadwork and construction. And while there have been solutions, none have been permanent or sustainable. One of the newest and most innovative remedies to tackle the common construction dilemma is the idea of actually using plastic to replace asphalt; IE: plastic roads.

Known as Project PlasticRoad and headed up by Dutch company VolkerWessels, the actual plastic in the PlasticRoad project is made out of entirely 100% recycled materials and is the company’s sustainable alternative to conventional road structures. VolkerWessels’s plastic solution basically turns recycled plastic into prefabricated road parts that can later be installed in single pieces.

Lightweight in design and virtually maintenance free according to the company, using plastic in place of asphalt would reduce construction time by nearly a fraction and last three times the expected lifespan of conventional roadwork. Whereas a typical road can take months to be built, the plastic alternative provides construction with the opportunity to cut time in half and complete road work within weeks instead of months. According to VolkerWessels, using plastic as an alternative construction material opens up innovations typically limited by asphalt, such as:

• Power generation
• Quiet road surfaces
• Heated roads
• Modular construction

In addition to plastic’s advantage of being a lightweight material, it also acts as an appropriately durable solution that can take wear and tear in a way asphalt cannot. Plastic is unaffected by corrosion and weather and can handle temperatures as low as -40 degrees celsius and as high as 80 degree celsius without difficulty. The green material is resistant to chemical corrosion, too, and is a true portrait of a low-maintenance construction material.

Because of its predicted lifespan and relatively little to no road maintenance, plastic opens up construction roadwork to less time and labor spent on repairs and less traffic congestion within cities.

But one of the biggest advantages of using plastic instead of asphalt is the way VolkerWesssls envisions its design: a hollow space beneath the road that can be used for basic roadway amenities like cables, pipes, wirings, rainwater, and other infrastructural necessities. In the event of flooding or water retention, the hollow space can also be used to keep roads dry by using efficient drainage built into the roadways.

And because we’re talking about plastic and not asphalt, smart elements can be integrated into the prefabrication process of the actual road. Elements like traffic loop sensors, measuring equipment, and connections for light poles would all be possible by using plastic on roads instead of denser, less manageable asphalt.

Construction is in the midst of a technology intervention and process overhaul, and while asphalt will most likely continue to be the dominant material of choice, plastic as a viable and sustainable construction alternative is on the table for discussion. Could this be the beginning of plastic passion? It just might be."
plastic  roads  materials  infrastructure  construction  2015 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Sha Hwang - Keynote [Forms of Protest] - UX Burlington on Vimeo
"Let’s close the day by talking about our responsibilities and opportunities as designers. Let’s talk about the pace of fashion and the promise of infrastructure. Let’s talk about systematic failure — failure without malice. Let’s talk about the ways to engage in this messy and complex world. Let’s throw shade on fame and shine light on the hard quiet work we call design."
shahwang  2015  design  infrastructure  fashion  systemsthinking  complexity  messiness  protest  careers  technology  systems  storytelling  scale  stewartbrand  change  thehero'sjourney  founder'sstory  politics  narrative  narratives  systemsdesign  blame  control  algorithms  systemfailure  healthcare.gov  mythmaking  teams  purpose  scalability  bias  microaggressions  dignity  abuse  malice  goodwill  fear  inattention  donellameadows  leveragepoints  making  building  constraints  coding  code  programming  consistency  communication  sharing  conversation  government  ux  law  uxdesign  simplicity  kindness  individuals  responsibility  webdev  web  internet  nava  codeforamerica  18f  webdesign 
january 2016 by robertogreco
Isthmus: On the Panama Canal Expansion
"The shockwave of Panama Canal expansion is reshaping cities throughout the Americas. We need to look through the lens of landscape, not logistics."



"In the United States, many designers and urbanists have lamented the end of the modern age of infrastructure-building. Some call for renewed investment in public works 57 while others advocate for hacks and tactics to fill the perceived void. 58 However, we may soon see a new wave of infrastructural expansion built not by nation-states but by private interests (e.g. the Nicaragua Canal project driven by HKND Group, a Chinese corporation) or city governments (e.g. coastal cities such as Tokyo, Miami, and New York preparing for rising seas). Whoever is orchestrating construction, it’s clear that there is a continuing appetite for large-scale infrastructural works.

While the phenomenon of bigness is a common historical condition in the Americas generally 59 and the Panamanian isthmus specifically, the operative role of logistics distinguishes the current reconfigurations from the preceding five centuries of commerce, excavation, and construction. 60 The neutral language of logistics occludes the true scale of the Panama Canal expansion. Instead of acknowledging earth moved and channels dug, logistics celebrates wait times shortened and profit margins eased. And because it is a positivistic framework, logistics obscures the political and social implications of its behavior. But the canal expansion puts the lie to the claim that logistics is politically neutral. The primary medium of logistics is territory, and territory is land which is politically divided, controlled, and administered. 61

Efficiency is necessarily measured within bounds; redraw the boundaries, either physical or conceptual, and the calculus changes significantly. 62 The excess generated by the Panama Canal expansion and its networked effects challenges the validity of the bounds drawn around infrastructural projects of this scope and scale. Here the bounds are drawn based on the relatively narrow values admitted by logistics. Thus, the sedimentary surplus of excavation is seen as a disposal expense, rather than a potential resource, because the value it could generate would accrue to residents, turtles, and fish, not to the ACP or the global shipping corporations it deals with. The uncertain fate of American port expansions challenges the elevation of efficiency as a primary goal, by demonstrating that it may be impossible to draw boundaries so small that they meaningfully predict the behavior of such large systems in the manner demanded by positivist logistics.

We are not arguing that logistics should or will lose its role in the organization of infrastructure projects that have global effects. (That would be unrealistic, if only because of the intimate intertwinement of logistics and contemporary capitalism. 63) Rather, we argue that landscapes, people, and others affected by these projects would benefit if logistics were augmented with other conceptual tools. At the scale of the Panama Canal expansion, logistics has produced unintended effects that harm local communities and environments. While these are sometimes justified as necessary casualties of economic development, that defense collapses when the presumed economic benefits fail to materialize. The legacy of canal expansion may be a constellation of overbuilt and underutilized infrastructure projects and degraded ecosystems — symbols of unfulfilled political and economic ambitions. If this is common to logistical infrastructures at very large scales, then we should not use logistics as the sole framework for their conceptualization.

We argue that analytic and design frameworks that take landscape as their primary object should be among the tools used to evaluate such infrastructures. We say this precisely because landscape, as a concept, works with a more complete range of values — material (as emphasized in this essay), social, political, ecological, cultural, and aesthetic. 64 While logistics elides these dimensions, we have shown that they are present in the expansion project and have been a part of the canal landscape since its inception. 65 As a medium, landscape integrates multiple processes, indicators, and design goals. Landscape has both analytical and experiential dimensions, which makes it ideally suited for synthesizing ideas across science, design, land management, and other practices. 66 While the logistician frames every situation as a technical problem to be solved, the landscape designer sees a cultural project, an opportunity to bring together competing value systems and forms of expertise. Landscape foregrounds the values that are contested in a given project, and it does not assume that economic gain and efficient distribution are the only goals that matter. This is all the more important given that logistics is often speculative; promised economic benefits doesn’t always materialize, even as social and environmental effects do.

Here our argument differs from that of other writers in the design disciplines who have engaged logistics and the landscapes that it produces. Charles Waldheim’s and Alan Berger’s “Logistics Landscape” makes a direct connection between the production of physical space through logistics and landscape as a conceptual framework, but the article focuses on articulating logistical landscapes as a manifestation of the current period of urban history and offering a set of logistical landscape typologies. 67 It closes by asserting that landscape architecture could play a role in the design and planning of logistics landscapes, but does not articulate how that role might develop or what inadequacies in a purely logistical approach might need to be ameliorated. Writers such as Clare Lyster and Jesse LeCavalier critically examine and unpack the workings of logistical flow with the intention of drawing methodological lessons that might inspire designers, planners, and other urbanists, but they do not attempt to carve out roles for designers within the territories governed by logistics. 68 All of these researchers share a common interest in explaining why other disciplines, primarily designers, should be interested in how logistics operates.

We have taken a different approach, describing gaps in the operations of logistics in order to convey the urgency of approaching large-scale infrastructural projects with landscape tools, methods, and frameworks. The discipline of landscape architecture, which we as authors call our own and which Waldheim and Berger assert the value of, possesses some of these characteristics, but it is not alone. Landscape ecology, geography, soil science, environmental studies, the nascent spatial humanities, and spatial planning are all examples of disciplines that take landscape as their medium. 69 Working with colleagues from these disciplines, designers who learn to grapple with logistical bigness might discover new formats for public works, approaches which neither retreat to the tactical nor valorize a bygone era, but instead produce augmented speculative frameworks, novel spatial practices, and material responses fit to contemporary conditions."
shipping  panamá  panamacanal  ports  2015  anthropocene  architecture  geology  cities  us  americas  northamerica  southamerica  panamax  logistics  landscape  losangeles  oakland  seattle  infrastructure  bigness  scale  briandavis  robholmes  brettmilligan 
december 2015 by robertogreco
An Inside Look at a Facebook Data Center - The Atlantic
"As we wrap up the tour, I finally ask a question I've been holding back all day, partly from embarrassment and partly because I expect they’ll say no. “So we have this quadcopter,” I start.

In quite possibly the weirdest near-future moment of my life, we are immediately given an answer, and it is so precise it suggests that it's an answer they've had to give before. We are told that it's totally OK to fly the drone over and around the data center we just toured, but if we go anywhere near the currently under construction parts, we will get in trouble. The construction company, they apologetically note, has a pretty strict drone policy. Later, I try to imagine the business meeting where Facebook and their contractor carefully compared drone policies. I hate the future.

[video: https://vimeo.com/146188260 ]

From this distance the scale of the data-center campus, with the just completed Phase 2 building and power substation in the background, suddenly becomes a lot more legible, and with it Facebook’s larger position in the scheme of the network. The Internet is a massive technology built on top of and piggybacking on past massive technologies, both legacy and living. Looking at the Altoona data center from a distance, I considered the extent to which Facebook is less and less a website on the Internet and more and more a telecommunications paradigm unto itself, piggybacking off of the Internet. It is as much a part of the Internet as the Internet was part of the telephone system in the days of dialup.

And this is maybe why Facebook’s forced empathy feels so uncomfortable—as a company, it continues to make decisions that suggest an assumption that Facebook isn’t so much part of the Internet as it is the natural next evolution of it. Some of its efforts intended to be in the service of a free and open Internet have at times seemed more in the service of a free and open Facebook. Instant Articles is great for improving article loads times, but it also means that users never have to leave the confines of Facebook.

Internet.org promises to connect the world, but its initial rollout in India was heavily criticized as undermining principles of net neutrality by favoring specific companies and platforms—still connecting the world, maybe, but mostly connecting the world to Facebook. To their credit, Facebook responded to this criticism by opening the Internet.org platform (awkwardly rebranded as Free Basics) to third-party developers in May of this year, although in editorials written since then Zuckerberg has defended the program as never really antithetical to net neutrality.

While Facebook taken at its best intentions doesn’t make a distinction between access to Facebook and access to the Internet, many users apparently already do. And this matters, because the kind of agency, creativity, and innovation a user has on the open Internet is very, very different from the kind that she has on Facebook.

This isn’t to say that the Internet is going to be wholly replaced by Facebook any more than the Internet “replaced” phones. We still use phones. But the Internet and the many sea changes it engendered (like smartphones) ultimately transformed a lot of the underlying fabric and infrastructure of phones to the point where it’s actually pretty hard to use a phone without also technically using the Internet, and damn near impossible to find a phone that’s actually attached to a landline.

Facebook has all the technical infrastructure and insight to become that underlying fabric of the network as we know it, harder and harder to work around. For me, for now, not being on Facebook is more inconvenience than life-altering hindrance—at its most annoying, it means I’ve sealed my spinster fate because I can’t make a Tinder account (luckily, I already have a heart of ice and refuse love at every turn). But my war-zone reporter friend pretty much can’t do her job without it, and it’s taken as a given that the News Feed algorithm dictates the kind of traffic that her stories, and my stories, receive. And if a patent acquired by Facebook in August 2015 is any indication, in the future not having a Facebook account could shape my credit score.

This isn’t to say that Facebook is doing something terrible to Internet infrastructure—OCP has been incredibly good for Internet infrastructure. Wind farms are good for Internet infrastructure. Facebook is doing really amazing, innovative work from and through their data centers, where the people who work there don’t mind reporters who are 20 minutes late and will go two hours over time to show them the ins and outs of the data center.

Maybe my anxieties of a world in which Internet infrastructure becomes just Facebook infrastructure are alarmist gripes of a curmudgeon who really likes things like Tilde Club. I don’t really know what kind of future Facebook might shape for the network, and it would be facile to assume that future is either good or bad when all technology is inherently ambivalent, despite the best of intentions. And I’m sure that the people working at Facebook have the best of intentions. The road to Share Way, I think while gazing out onto the adjacent highway, is probably paved with them."
datacenters  facebook  ingridburrington  2015  iowa  sharing  connectivity  technology  infrastructure  internet  ocp  empathy  design  engineering 
december 2015 by robertogreco
Refugee camps are the "cities of tomorrow", says aid expert
"Governments should stop thinking about refugee camps as temporary places, says Kilian Kleinschmidt, one of the world's leading authorities on humanitarian aid (+ interview).

"These are the cities of tomorrow," said Kleinschmidt of Europe's rapidly expanding refugee camps. "The average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That's a generation."

"In the Middle East, we were building camps: storage facilities for people. But the refugees were building a city," he told Dezeen.

Kleinschmidt said a lack of willingness to recognise that camps had become a permanent fixture around the world and a failure to provide proper infrastructure was leading to unnecessarily poor conditions and leaving residents vulnerable to "crooks".

"I think we have reached the dead end almost where the humanitarian agencies cannot cope with the crisis," he said. "We're doing humanitarian aid as we did 70 years ago after the second world war. Nothing has changed."

Kleinschmidt, 53, worked for 25 years for the United Nations and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees in various camps and operations worldwide. He was most recently stationed in Zaatari in Jordan, the world's second largest refugee camp – before leaving to start his own aid consultancy, Switxboard.

He believes that migrants coming into Europe could help repopulate parts of Spain and Italy that have been abandoned as people gravitate increasingly towards major cities.

"Many places in Europe are totally deserted because the people have moved to other places," he said. "You could put in a new population, set up opportunities to develop and trade and work. You could see them as special development zones which are actually used as a trigger for an otherwise impoverished neglected area."

Refugees could also stimulate the economy in Germany, which has 600,000 job vacancies and requires tens of thousands of new apartments to house workers, he said.

"Germany is very interesting, because it is actually seeing this as the beginning of a big economic boost," he explained. "Building 300,000 affordable apartments a year: the building industry is dreaming of this!"

"It creates tons of jobs, even for those who are coming in now. Germany will come out of this crisis."

Kleinschmidt told Dezeen that aid organisations and governments needed to accept that new technologies like 3D printing could enable refugees and migrants to become more self-sufficient.

"With a Fab Lab people could produce anything they need – a house, a car, a bicycle, generating their own energy, whatever," he said.

His own attempts to set up a Zaatari Fab Lab – a workshop providing access to digital fabrication tools – have been met with opposition.

"That whole concept that you can connect a poor person with something that belongs to the 21st century is very alien to even most aid agencies," he said. "Intelligence services and so on from government think 'my god, these are just refugees, so why should they be able to do 3D-printing? Why should they be working on robotics?' The idea is that if you're poor, it's all only about survival."

"We have to get away from the concept that, because you have that status – migrant, refugee, martian, alien, whatever – you're not allowed to be like everybody else."

Read the edited transcript from our interview with Kilian Kleinschmidt:

Talia Radford: Why did you leave the UN?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: I left the the UN to be as disruptive as possible, as provocative as possible, because within the UN of course there is certain discipline. I mean I was always the rebel.

Talia Radford: What is there to rebel about?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: I think we have reached the dead end almost where the humanitarian agencies cannot cope with the crisis. We're doing humanitarian aid as we did 70 years ago after the second world war. Nothing has changed.

In the Middle East, we were building camps: storage facilities for people. But the refugees were building a city.

These are the cities of tomorrow. The average stay today in a camp is 17 years. That's a generation. Let's look at these places as cities.

Talia Radford: Why aren't refugee camps flourishing into existing cities?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: It's down to the stupidity of the aid organisations, who prefer to waste money and work in a non-sustainable way rather than investing in making them sustainable.

Talia Radford: Why are people coming to Europe?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: Everybody who is coming here right now is an economic migrant. They are not refugees. They were refugees in Jordan, but they are coming to Europe to study, to work, to have a perspective for their families. In the pure definition, it's a migration issue.

Right now everybody is going to Germany because in Germany they have 600,000 job vacancies. So of course there is an attraction, and there is space. Once the space is filled, nobody will go there anymore. They will go somewhere else.

Talia Radford: How do refugees – or economic migrants – know where to go? Via the media?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: No, it's all done through Whatsapp!

Talia Radford: What is the relationship between migration and technology?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: Every Syrian refugee in the Zaatari camp has been watching Google self-driving cars moving around, so [they] don't believe the information only belongs to the rich people anymore.

We did studies in the Zaatari camp on communication. Everybody had a cellphone and 60 per cent had a smartphone. The first thing people were doing when they came across the border was calling back home to Syria and saying "hey we made it". So the big, big thing was to distribute Jordanian sim cards.

Once we had gotten over the riots over water and lots of other things that politicised the camp, the next big issue was internet connectivity.

Talia Radford: What are the infrastructure requirements of a mass influx of refugees?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: The first is the logistics of accommodation: that's the survival bit. Everyone is struggling with this now, in reception centres, camps – every country in the world is dealing with this. Eighty-five to 90 per cent of any people on the move will be melting into the population so the real issue is how you deal with a sudden higher demand for accommodation.

Germany says that they suddenly need 300 to 400,000 affordable housing units more per year. It's about dealing with the structural issues, dealing with the increased population, and absorbing them into existing infrastructure.

Talia Radford: How do you see the refugee situation in Europe now?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: The discussion in Germany is quite interesting, because they currently have 600,000 jobs to fill, but they are all in places where there is no housing. It's all in urban centres where they have forgotten to build apartments.

Half of east Germany is empty. Half of southern Italy is empty. Spain is empty. Many places in Europe are totally deserted.

You could redevelop some of these empty cities into free-trade zones where you would put in a new population and actually set up opportunities to develop and trade and work. You could see them as special development zones, which are actually used as a trigger for an otherwise impoverished, neglected area.

Germany is very interesting, because it is actually seeing this as the beginning of a big economic boost. Building 300,000 apartments a year: the building industry is dreaming of this! It creates tons of jobs, even for those who are coming in now. Germany will come out of this crisis.

In Pakistan, in Jordan, they say "Oh no! These people are all going back in five minutes so we're not building any apartments for them! Put them in tents, put them in short-lived solutions." What they are losing is actually a real opportunity for progress, for change. They are losing an opportunity for additional resources, capacities, know-how.

Talia Radford: What other technologies have you dealt with in relation to refugees and migration?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: Energy is the big one. Things are finally moving because of the energy storage, which we suddenly have with the Tesla batteries for instance. Decentralised production of energy is the way forward. Thirty per cent of the world's population does not have regular access to energy. We could see a mega, mega revolution. With little investment we can set up a solar-power plant that not only provides power to the entire camp, but can also be sold to the surrounding settlements.

And water. In the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Danish groundwater pump supplier Grundfos partnered with a water company and you now have a smart-water terminal in the slum, where with smart cards you can buy clean drinking water.

You buy your water from a safe location for a fraction of what the crooks of the water business in Nairobi would sell the water for. So suddenly it becomes affordable, it becomes safe, and you can manage the quantities yourself.

A lot of change is facilitated by mobile phones. No poor person has a bank account any more in Kenya. Everybody has an M-Pesa account on their mobile phone. All transactions are done with their mobile phone. They don't need banks. They pay their staff now with your mobile phone. You charge their M-Pesa account.

Talia Radford: Are any of these services being set up at refugee camps?

Kilian Kleinschmidt: At Zaatari, the UNHCR never planned to provide electricity for the households. So people took it themselves from the power lines running through the camp. Electricity means safety, it means social life, it means business. Big business! People were charging €30 per connection and more.

With a $3 million investment in pre-paid meters, you could have ensured every household would get a certain subsidised quantity of energy. The UNHCR didn't think it would have $3 million to invest in the equipment, and so it is spending a million dollars a month of taxpayers' money on an unmanaged electricity bill.

Talia Radford: You helped set up a Fab Lab… [more]
immigration  cities  humanitarianaid  urban  urbanism  kiliankleinschmidt  unhcr  zaatari  jordan  refugees  refugeecamps  switxboard  europe  germany  economics  españa  spain  italy  italia  fabricationtaliaradford  interviews  migration  employment  jobs  work  fablabs  safety  infrastructure  kenya  nairobi  kibera  grundfos  energy  decentralization  solarpower  solar  batteries  technology  pakistan  housing  homes  politics  policy  syria 
november 2015 by robertogreco
The Internet is Like Water — Global, with Extreme Differences in Access — Medium
"Turn on a faucet in Manhattan, and you can be pretty certain the water you get out of the tap is potable. Though famously a dirty city, New York City provides some of the cleanest water in the United States, easy and at ready for those who live there. Internet access in much of the city is a little like that, too. Turn on your phone or tap into a wireless network, and data flow through seamlessly, thanks to powerful infrastructure that’s largely invisible to the average user.

The experience of the internet in a developing country can be quite different. Take, for instance, Manila, the capital of the Philippines. Many people access the internet via pocket wifi routers, which can be more readily available than physical landline connections. These routers work semi-reliably — in spurts, rather than a constant stream — , and people often carry multiple routers and network subscriptions to optimize for the best flow. On occasion, and sometimes far too frequently, the routers don’t work at all.

A young woman in Uganda gathers water from a well to carry back to her family. Photo by the author.

In other places, like Beijing, the internet and its infrastructure can be fairly reliable. But what comes through the pipes may need to be questioned and filtered. Many citizens of means curse the Great Firewall for slowing down or blocking entirely their access to the web, and they find other ways to go online, thanks to VPNs, proxies and other services. Most, however, live with an internet that is censored by both algorithmic and human means; depending on their priorities, this may or may not matter. But the fact remains that choice of what to access is limited.

And in a more rural area like the Oyam District of northern Uganda, internet access can often look more like a well. As I shared in a recent essay for The New Inquiry and a talk at the Theorizing the Web conference this year, “sneakernets” of data crop up in unexpected places. In very rural, no-bandwidth contexts, people find ways to trade data thanks to Bluetooth transfers, USB sticks, SD cards and other methods. The access point to the formal backbone of the internet might be hundreds of miles away, and in this regard, data is transferred hand to hand, rather than node to node. (This is literally how many rural Ugandans access their water, too.)

In other words, data flow, data spurt and data can be gathered. This metaphor matters because, just like with water access, the way people access the internet is highly stratified. Understanding this should inform how we think about policies and development strategies, especially as the web extends into the global south.



1. Shifting from a connectivity binary to a spectrum gives us a much richer view of the diversity of ways people access the internet.



The connectivity binary is the view that there is a single mode of connecting to the internet — one person, one device, one always-on subscription— rather than a spectrum.
The connectivity binary makes other modes of access invisible.



2. The internet probably has a larger impact than is currently measured, and we need better maps that reflect this.



3. In the face of scarcity, early internet access is often motivated by joy, social connection and entertainment — more so than education or politics per se.

…"
2015  anxiaomina  internet  infrastructure  water  nickseaver  sneakernet  access  uganda  beijing  china  philippines  nyc  us 
november 2015 by robertogreco
I have no idea what a smart city means: Rahul Mehrotra - Livemint
"There can’t be one solution for India like the Corbusian model was for Nehru. The trajectory of architects in the 1960s and 1970s was clearer than it is now, because they had state patronage. Now the only architecture that the state talks about is GDP (gross domestic product)—it’s a statistical architecture by which the state defines its identity. All state projects now are of infrastructure, telecommunications, highways, freeways, rapid trains, etc. Even smart cities are never talked about in terms of their architecture, but only in terms of their infrastructure. So, of course, there is a crisis for young architects.

For me, personally, I do believe that architecture is always of a place. My aspiration is to take global programmes like corporate offices and information technology centres, and root them in the place through material, climate and the way that people in that city use a building. We are now trying to reconcile fundamental values that make good architecture with a new form of patronage and that opens up its own sets of problems."



"I have no idea what a smart city means because this is a universal term that has no real value except for the people who are sloshing capital around. The problem with smart cities is that they are founded on capital and investment, but don’t consider the human being as part of this equation. I fear these will end up being gated communities for an elite, skilled, upper middle-class population. People say a smart city is one that uses technology to create connectivity and efficiencies. So I can stand at a bus stop and know that the bus is going to arrive in 10 minutes, and that’ll save me 10 minutes, but if it’s an inhuman city then I’m not interested in saving those 10 minutes."
smartcities  architecture  urban  urbanism  2015  rahulmehrotra  via:javierarbona  capitalism  qualityoflife  gdp  infrastructure  telecommunications 
november 2015 by robertogreco
On the Political Dimensions of Solarpunk — Medium
[via: http://solarpunks.tumblr.com/post/131978924858/dont-ask-permission-from-a-state-beholden-to]

"Don’t ask permission from a state beholden to oligarchs, and definitely don’t expect those oligarchs to do any of this for you. Guerilla gardening is the model, but look further. Guerilla solar panel installation. Guerilla water treatment facility restoration. Guerilla magnificent temple to the human spirit construction. Guerilla carbon sequestration megastructure creation.

Figure out what a community needs to be prosperous, peaceful and sustainable in as long a term as you can wrap your head around, and start building whatever piece is most in reach before the absent state notices. Doing so just might create pockets of more effective, horizontal politics. As the state wanes, these pockets can grow in size and influence, creating a better world even if some government claims the authority of law and holds a monopoly on violence.

Now, political choices got us into this mess, and political choices could get us out. I for one argue for a comprehensive set of reforms that were inspired by the discussions held around the world during Occupy: a global debt jubilee to free both countries and individuals from debts that impoverish and enslave them; a tax on extreme wealth to control inequality and rein in the power of oligarchs; a guaranteed basic income to provide for the poor, the infirm and those more useful as caregivers, artists and thinkers than employees of businesses; a dramatic reduction in the workweek to slow down unsustainable levels of economic expansion and to eliminate the countless “bullshit jobs” that serve no function but to bore those who hold them; the regulation or even abolition of usury (once considered as great a sin as slavery), so that investments in sustainable infrastructure that will pay off in cathedral time are not hampered by interest payments that will eventually exceed principal."



"As I argued in my discussion of cities, solarpunk should be careful not to idealize either the gothic high tech or the favela chic. No matter how many High Line-style parks or vertical farms they build, Manhattan will be useless if it is only filled with the luxury condos of absentee financiers. And favelas may be full of jugaad-innovation and dense with diverse entrepreneurialism, but they feature a fatal flaw: no fire codes. Slums are fascinating from a design perspective right up until they burn down or wash away. In a world of more extreme weather, disasters will strike down favelas before their recycling-centric, low-carbon lifestyles can save the climate.

Instead, I like the idea of focusing on large-scale infrastructure projects that will provide value for communities into the long term. A seed bank; a hyper-dense vertical permaculture farm engineered for carbon fixing; a massive, low-maintenance desalination system; a space elevator. These projects could themselves be the organizing principle around which unique solarpunk communities are organized."



"I’ve seen many people describe solarpunk as optimistic. My last suggestion is this: don’t be optimistic, be hopeful. As Vaclav Havel explained: “Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out.” Havel, an artist turned activist turned statesman who led his nation out of a time of crisis, in many ways embodies the transformational power of ideas and aesthetics — and thus the potential of a movement like solarpunk to do real good in the world.

This essay has been long, and it has discussed many troubling situations and possibilities. I wrote these things because I think it is important for any cohesive body of political thought to contrast what it wants with what it opposes: for transparency and privacy, against surveillance and deception; for conservation and abundance, against hoarding and exploitation; for neighborhoods and collaboratives, against gangs and police.

I also wrote this because I believe the enormity of our problems doesn’t have to paralyze us. Quite the opposite: seeing the world as it is is vital if you are going to figure out how it could be. Now is the moment to be galvanized, to know that we are on to something, and to make acting on these ideas a real part of our lives."
solarpunk  2015  andrewdanahudson  politics  favelachic  gothichightech  recycling  diy  optimism  hopefulness  scale  activism  jugaad  infrastructure  organization  horizontality  sustainability  solar  water  climatechange  gardening  hope  refugees  longnow  longnowfoundation  williamgibson  madmax  paolobacigalupi  bladerunner  overconsumption  overpopulation  thecomingrevolution  cities  urban  urbanism  brucesterling  drought  blackswans 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Technology Imperialism, the Californian Ideology, and the Future of Higher Education
"This matters greatly for those of us in education technology in several ways (and not simply because Internet.org has partnered with edX to offer free online education). Facebook is really just synecdochal here, I should add – just one example of the forces I think are at play, politically, economically, technologically, culturally. These forces matter at the level of infrastructure, technological infrastructure: who controls the networks, who controls the servers, who controls our personal devices, who controls the software that’s installed on them?

And it matters at the level of ideology. Infrastructure is ideological, of course. The new infrastructure – “the Internet” if you will – has a particular political, economic, and cultural bent to it. It is not neutral. Some of this is built upon old infrastructure. In the United States, for example, networks are layered upon networks: waterways provided the outline onto which we mapped the railroads. Railroads provided the outline onto which we mapped the telegraph. The telegraph for the telephone. The telephone for the Internet. Transportation of people, products, ideas across time and space."



"The first two nodes of what would eventually become ARPANET (which in turn would eventually become “the Internet”) were connected in California in 1969 – from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) to SRI International in Menlo Park – from Hollywood to Silicon Valley.
The infrastructure and the ideology of the Internet remain quite Californian."



"Another story from California, one specifically this time about higher education:

It may be that “the beginning of the end of public higher education as we know it” has its roots in an earlier development well before investors and tech entrepreneurs started predicting that we were only a couple of decades away from having only 10 universities in the world, thanks to their MOOCs. The beginning of the end, say Aaron Bady and Mike Konczal: the governorship of Ronald Reagan in the late 1960s, who then vowed he would “clean up that mess in Berkeley.”

At the time, the state had already developed what historian Kenneth Starr has called a “utopia for higher education.” The pinnacle arguably: The Master Plan for Higher Education, signed into law in 1960. The plan was, in essence, a commitment to provide all Californians with access to higher education, something that’s been, as Tressie McMillan Cottom points out in her work, a cornerstone of how Americans have viewed class mobility. The Master Plan was meant to offer three avenues for access to college, a tripartite system where the top 12.5% of high school graduates in the state could attend one of the campuses of the University of California – at Berkeley, for example, or LA – tuition-free. The top one-third were guaranteed a spot at one of the campuses of the California State University system – Cal State, San Francisco State, and so on. Community colleges in the state would accept any students “capable of benefiting from instruction” – that is, both new high school graduates and “non-traditional” students. Upon graduation from community college, those students could then transfer to any Cal State or UC campus in order to finish their Bachelor’s Degree. As Bady and Konczal write,
In theory and to a significant extent in practice, anyone from anywhere in California could, if they worked hard enough, get a bachelor’s degree from one of the best universities in the country (and, therefore, in the world), almost free of charge. The pronounced social and economic mobility of the postwar period would have been unthinkable without institutions of mass higher education, like this one, provided at public expense.

When Reagan took office as Governor of California in 1967, he made it clear: public expenses would be curbed, particularly in the university system. “There are certain intellectual luxuries that perhaps we could do without,” he told reporters. Taxpayers, he said, should not be “subsidizing intellectual curiosity.” The purpose of college, in other words, was not to offer what we’ve long construed as a liberal arts education; the purpose of higher education: to learn “job skills.”

The tech industry is just the latest to latch onto this argument. “Everyone should learn to code,” we now hear.

And as the state of California – and elsewhere – has withdrawn its financial commitment to free or subsidized public higher education, who has stepped in to meet the demands? The for-profit sector.

And the tech industry is latching onto this market as well."



"Tim Draper’s (unconstitutional) plan to split up the state of California would have completely reshaped American politics. It failed, but I think it underscores the sort of transformative vision – “the Silicon Valley narrative,” the “Californian Ideology” – that the tech industry has. This vision is not simply about “the virtual world.”

We in education would be naive, I think, to think that the designs that venture capitalists and technology entrepreneurs have for us would be any less radical than creating a new state, like Draper’s proposed state of Silicon Valley, that would enormously wealthy and politically powerful.

When I hear talk of “unbundling” in education – one of the latest gerunds you’ll hear venture capitalists and ed-tech entrepreneurs invoke, meaning the disassembling of institutions into products and services – I can’t help but think of the “unbundling” that Draper wished to do to my state: carving up land and resources, shifting tax revenue and tax burdens, creating new markets, privatizing public institutions, redistributing power and doing so explicitly not in the service of equity or justice.

Echoes of imperialism. Imperialism’s latest form."
california  californianideology  capitalism  commodification  education  technology  neoliberalism  2015  audreywatters  timdraper  aaronbady  mikekonczal  ronaldreagan  richardbarbrook  andycameron  libertarianism  inequality  infrastructure  privatization  unbundling  markzuckerberg  facebook  evgenymorozov  connectivity  injustice  losangeles  internet  web  online  netneutrality  politics  policy  economics 
october 2015 by robertogreco
Power Lines in Anime
"Dedicated to power lines, power line support poles and lattices, and rail overhead lines"
tumblrs  anime  via:tealtan  infrastructure  powerlines 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Fragments on Machines on Vimeo
"HD Video, 16:9, audio, colour
17 mins
Narration by Barnaby Kay
Writing by Jen Calleja and Richard Phoenix

Fragments on Machines reveals the physical framework and materiality of the Internet, a vast network often thought and spoken about solely in abstract terms.
Adopting the title from Marx’s Grundrisse, The Fragment On Machines, in which the material and immaterial are discussed in relation to labour and, I use it here to explore similar notions within this film.

Taking New York City as its central focus, the film observes the evolution of architecture in the city to accommodate the material nodes and connectors that comprise the physical manifestation of the “virtual” world.

New York is home to many of the great buildings that symbolise nineteenth and early twentieth century industrial capitalism. Today, it is significant that a number of these Art Deco skyscrapers—located predominantly in the Financial District—have become the containers for the infrastructure of the Internet and virtual capital. These grand monuments of brick and steel are now homes to the servers and computers that drive post-industrial finance capitalism.

This research elucidates how the Internet is connected to the wider economy via such phenomenon as high-frequency trading (HFT). HFT firms in NYC and elsewhere have physically moved to be as close as possible to the Internet’s infrastructure, filling high-rises in the surrounding area with mainframes and cooling systems. The physically closer these firms are, the faster their algorithms can trade—much faster than our human capabilities.

It is no coincidence that sites such as the Verizon Headquarters, adjacent to One World Trade Center, which is explored within Fragments on Machines, are located in the heart of New York’s financial district surrounded by international banks and close to the New York Stock Exchange. Highly elusive yet pervasive in their nature, data centres consist of room upon room of copper and fibre-optic cables, computer servers and ventilation systems. With direct links to the companies they serve, these Internet hubs become a kind of unofficial space for trade."
infrastructure  internet  emmacharles  jencalleja  richardphoenix  materiality  networks  nyc  via:ablerism  datacenters  capitalism 
july 2015 by robertogreco
The Anthropoid Condition - The Los Angeles Review of Books
[via: "Great interview w/ John D. Peters at @LAReviewofBooks: http://lareviewofbooks.org/interview/the-anthropoid-condition-an-interview-with-john-durham-peters/ . A lot of people think they’re smart; Peters is really smart."
https://twitter.com/mattthomas/status/619916078093742080

"Peters’s new book, “The Marvelous Clouds,” is easiest the smartest thing I’ve read in a ages, btw. http://amzn.to/1LY8MqQ "
https://twitter.com/mattthomas/status/619916841733894144 ]

"BRÍAN HANRAHAN: What distinguishes your understanding of 'media' in The Marvelous Clouds from other, maybe better-known uses of the term?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: 'Media' is one of those terms whose meaning is as imprecise as a plate of spaghetti. And like 'spaghetti,' few can tell if it is a plural or singular noun. My academic preference is to say “media are” with a plural verb in order to underline the diversity of media forms and formats, but most people are happy to talk about media as a mass noun and use the term to refer to everything from journalists and publicity to furnace filters and hard drives. In the field of media studies, media typically are more clearly defined as a cluster of institutions, audiences, and programs (e.g., Disney, BBC, or Google), but there is a minority tradition I favor that sees media more broadly as staples, environments, and data processors of all kinds — as elements in the middle. Some of my critics say this view stretches the concept beyond its breaking point, but I believe ubiquitous computing has already stretched media more than our concepts have: thanks to digital transformations, media are so environmentally pervasive that we need an encompassing definition to match. Theory is usually playing catch-up.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: The book delves into innumerable subjects, skipping through dozens of disciplines: anthropology, zoology, theology, astronomy, the history of technology, cultural history of many kinds, philosophy and literature and more. But if there is one term that you seem to identify with, it is 'media theory.' On the face of it, that might seem a modest label for such a broad vision. So what is “media theory,” as you understand it, and what can be learned from it?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Glad that you think it is a matter of skipping rather than skidding! The book presupposes a view of knowledge and research that it doesn’t spell out at any length. What would the university look like if we took seriously the mortality of the human knower and the responsibility to speak to the species rather than only to one’s peers? I believe it would be a less turfy, more humble, and more interdisciplinary place, one less focused on the newest thing and more open to long stretches of time.[i] Labeling fields of study often amounts to little more than a branding exercise, so my unpretentious choice of “media theory” is, among other things, an indirect comment on academic tribalism. Media theory has almost no barriers to entry — you’d be amazed at how readily some people opine on media without any sense of the field’s traditions or concepts — and almost anyone can call themselves a media theorist; as beings who live in the middle, in medias res, I think that every human being is potentially such a creature. Media theory, at its best, is a means of seeking greater awareness of the basic conditions in which we live.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: Clouds, unlike fire, sky, and sea, don’t get chapters to themselves in the book, but they are in the title, and they are a recurring motif. What is so interesting about clouds for a media theorist and historian?

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Clouds are interesting because they bring together so many great questions. It’s hard to boil down something I’ve thought so much about, but here goes.[ii]

First, clouds raise very fundamental questions of where significance lies. Clouds are often thought to be blank and meaningless, the playthings of whimsy. Hardly. Few things are so packed with meaning. Once you start looking at clouds, you see them everywhere in art, literature, religion, and popular culture, and of course in the sky. The question of what clouds mean is a deep one; reading clouds is the paradigm case of how to interpret nature and how not to. Clouds tell us about the weather and the future, and reading the sky is a basic human task; in Iowa, where I live, like many places, clouds are among the most spectacular forms of natural beauty. Of course, there is a long tradition of scorn starting from at least Aristophanes aimed at anyone who finds meaning in clouds, but it is just as foolish to say clouds have no meaning (ask a sailor, pilot, or farmer if clouds mean nothing). The meaning that remains once you subtract human intention turns out to be rich, and I argue that media theory should take this abundant zone of meaning seriously.

Second, from the poison gas clouds of World War I to the mushroom cloud of World War II to the data cloud today, clouds are telling historical markers. While writing the book, I would tell people I was writing about clouds, and they’d sometimes respond, Oh, I work in IT too! (The cloud metaphor, with its hints of benign oversight and calm flow, richly serves the ideological interests of the IT industry.) That the default meaning of “cloud” has become “server-based data storage” is a symptom of nature being absorbed by technology and technology becoming second nature. It is remarkable how casually we accept this monstrous hybrid of atmospheric aerosols and computing infrastructure without a second thought. Clouds are thus a symptom of what it is fashionable to call the anthropocene, the geological epoch in which human agency alters nature radically.

Third, clouds are an elemental background that surrounds us — and unnoticed environments are prime territory for media theory. A central point of the book is that if we define media as carriers of significance then media should include natural elements; studying aerosol clouds and data clouds side by side gives me a way to make this point.

Fourth, clouds raise two fundamental problems in media theory: how to record phenomena that exist in time and how to represent ones that do not conform to a symbolic system.

Regarding recording, the book is a meditation on how media capture and fail to capture time, and clouds are a good example of entities whose nature is to vanish. Clouds illustrate media ontology. Like sounds and music, clouds exist by disappearing. They exist in time. Clouds are highly material — just this morning so much rain dumped on southeastern Iowa as to trigger flashflood warnings again — and their dynamic materiality is suggestive for media under volatile digital conditions (probably one reason the cloud metaphor took hold so readily).

Regarding representing, clouds bear significance, but without any code to clarify what they mean. Their meanings are essentially vague. The history of cloud media, in painting and photography, is the struggle to capture sensuous objects that are also abstract. (The sky was painting abstract impressionist images long before humans did!) Clouds are the original white noise. Well before analog media such as film and sound recording broke the stranglehold of the symbolic in the late nineteenth century, painters struggled to depict cloud colors and forms, often with stunning results. The ability to represent the indefinite is one of the great achievements of modern mathematics and media, and clouds were at the vanguard here too. If you want to understand how meaning works, you have to understand vagueness, and clouds are a chief example.

Finally, clouds have long been associated with thinking, philosophizing and ultimate things, so they fit my atmospheric interests well. I know the title opens me up to wisecracks about academic loftiness. But in a world run by data-analytics Luftmenschen, it is good to get reacquainted with clouds and other kinds of sky media.

BRÍAN HANRAHAN: Why does the media culture of cetaceans, as you imagine it, play such a large role in your history of planetary technics? And what distinguishes your approach from previous thinking about the cetacean world? As you point out, dolphins and whales have long been subjects of utopian fantasy, as well as scientific communications research.

JOHN DURHAM PETERS: Cetaceans, the family of whales, porpoises, and dolphins, are often considered among the most intelligent animals on earth (especially dolphins), but they lack the infrastructures that anchor human existence such as feet, hands, fire, clothing, writing, right angles, celestial orientation, and all other forms of technology. Cetaceans thus present a kind of thought experiment about what it might be like to live in a technology-free habitat. Cetaceans could have techniques — say, of dancing, fishing, or communicating — but they could not have technologies, i.e., made materials that shape other materials, including their environments and minds. They live in habitats immune to fabrication, and thus offer a stark contrast to the human “technosphere,” our domesticated bubble of carbon and silicon, GMO crops and insulation. Intelligent marine mammals offer a radical alternative, at least in thought, to our essentially and externally technical history, and show us how much of what we take to be human depends on our technical supports."

[too much to quote]
johnduhampeters  matthomas  2015  interviews  media  feminism  clouds  cloud  infrastructure  hubris  cetaceans  anthropocene  technology  technosphere  technosolutionism  siliconvalley  writing  history  inderdisciplinary  silos  whitenoise  time  meaning  online  internet  tribalism  academia  mediatheory  slow  zoominginandout  multidisciplinary  crossdisciplinary  transdisciplinary 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Rhizome | How to See Infrastructure: A Guide for Seven Billion Primates
"If we lift up the manhole cover, lock-out the equipment, unscrew the housing, and break the word into components, infrastructure means, simply, below-structure. Like infrared, the below-red energy just outside of the reddish portion of the visible light section of the electromagnetic spectrum. Humans are not equipped to see infrared with our evolved eyes, but we sometimes feel it as radiated heat.

Infrastructure is drastically important to our way of life, and largely kept out of sight. It is the underground, the conduited, the containerized, the concreted, the shielded, the buried, the built up, the broadcast, the palletized, the addressed, the routed. It is the underneath, the chassis, the network, the hidden system, the combine, the conspiracy. There is something of a paranoiac, occult quality to it. James Tilly Matthews, one of the first documented cases of what we now call schizophrenia, spoke of a thematic style of hallucination described by many suffering from the condition, always rewritten in the technological language of the era. In Matthews' 18th Century description, there existed an invisible "air loom," an influencing machine harnessing rays, magnets, and gases, run by a secret cabal, able to control people for nefarious motives. Infrastructure's power, combined with its lack of visibility, is the stuff of our society's physical unconscious.

Perhaps because infrastructure wields great power and lacks visibility, it is of particular concern to artists and writers who bring the mysterious influencing machines into public discourse through their travels and research."
adamrothstein  infrastructure  cities  2015  allansekula  charmainechua  jamestillymatthews  unknownfieldsdivision  liamyoung  katedavies  timmaughan  danwilliams  shipping  centerforlanduseinterpretation  nicolatwilley  timmaly  emilyhorne  jeremybentham  jennyodell  landscape  donnaharaway  technology  ingridburrington  nataliejeremijenko  trevorpaglen  jamesbridle 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Dish Blight: The Ruins of Satellite TV Are All Around | Atlas Obscura
"There’s a name for this growing eyesore: dish blight.

Satellite dishes, of course, are a global phenomenon. Dish blight, as it’s been called since around 2010, is a focus mostly in American cities, but it’s an issue that will hit every country that goes through the same pattern of cable/internet replacing satellite TV that we have now. For the time being, it’s American cities that have begun to take note of the phenomenon. DirecTV alone has over 20 million subscribers in the United States and nearly that many in Latin America, and given the rapid turnover of satellite TV, that leaves thousands abandoned in any given city.

“We understand there are upwards of 5,000 that are not in service, just sitting on the facades of properties,” Philadelphia councilman Darrell Clarke told Newsworks. Clarke, who represents a large stretch of Philadelphia’s many historic districts, pushed a bill through the city council in 2011 that’s designed to reduce the eyesore of satellite dishes in his district through efforts like repainting them to blend in with the building itself.

In turn, organizations ranging from the satellite companies to affordable housing advocates have protested the new bills, which they see as removing a low-cost connection option in favor of more expensive solutions like cable—in other words, some advocates see the fight against dish blight as a proxy war against the poor.

But how did we even get here? What is the deal with satellite dishes littering America’s urban homes?"

[via: https://twitter.com/harmancipants/status/618249394371043329 ]
antennas  2015  infrastructure  urban  landscape  television  tv 
july 2015 by robertogreco
Continuous Monuments and Imaginable Alternatives - Amateur Cities
"In 1969, Superstudio, a radical Italian design group, made a proposal for what they called the ‘Continuous Monument’. It was a homogenous block of architecture that would encircle the earth depicting the global and total dimension of design and architecture of that time. We currently live in the time of a similar monument that harvests and feeds off ‘data’ – the golden ambrosia of the 2010s."



"In an ideal situation the model of a mesh network has the potential to become a platform for broadly horizontal networked politics as defined by its inherent structure. It could bring a new type of commons in the face of the death of network neutrality, government and corporate surveillance and exploitation as embodied by the current network structure.

Too often we are confronted with visions and stories of the future that say: ‘In the future everyone will live this way or that way. In the future everyone will have these things. In the future everyone will want that thing.’ This can often lead to acceptance of the idea that the future has been predetermined by powers greater than us. We need to imagine instead, what futures might bring. There are dozens of other small, niggling but significant alternatives that can challenge the theoretical basis for how the future might open up to a plethora of possible imaginable alternatives. Take for instance; domestic solar power, crypto currencies, end-to-end encryption or personal manufacturing. They are but a few that have the potential to either become incredibly empowering or to be sucked into our current continuous monument.

It is often said by military strategists, business leaders and alike that knowledge is the most powerful weapon. But imagination is also a significant one.

The political theorist David Graeber writes about how, since the protests of the late 1960s, the same entities pursuing the project of legibility have pursued a ‘. . . relentless campaign against the human imagination.’ It has resulted in ‘. . . the imposition of an apparatus of hopelessness, designed to squelch any sense of an alternative future.’

Activating imagination in everyday practice is hard. Financial imperatives and competition do not give space and time to explore alternatives and freely play with ideas without consequences. But there is a great reward in giving time to exploration. Inspiration can be found in things like mesh networks, but there are other examples. Jugaad culture – the repurposing of technology predominantly occurring in India is an excellent example. It provides an alternative by giving a particular design a different lifespan and shows how, in William Gibson’s words – ‘the street find its own uses.’ The speculative design cannon proposes objects and systems that are not intended for our world. They aim to stimulate our imagination about the hidden effects and repercussions of our design culture.

The purpose of such design and of introducing imagination is to widen the scope of possibilities. It could prevent the carte blanche master plan of the Smart City to become the inevitable endpoint of the current technological narrative. Furthermore it could perhaps lead to the development of real, functioning designs, such as mesh networks that will work better for people.

Knowledge of the systems, structures and technologies at play in our own continuous monument is vital for technologists, designers, urbanists, architects and everyone involved. It is impossible to be a wholesome practitioner and to remain ignorant of the wider context in which one situates one’s work. But what is equally as important is the activation of imagination; imagining beyond the given context to what could be, not just what, as is often presented, inevitably will be."
tobiasrevell  superstudio  architecture  government  resistance  cities  data  jamescscott  seeinglikeastate  davidgraeber  infrastructure  internet  privacy  surveillance  technology  design  systemsthinking  smartcities  legibility  illegibility  imagination  meshnetworks  2015 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Christian Parenti on Climate Change, Militarism, Neoliberalism and the State
"When the left turns its back on the social democratic features of government, stops making demands of the state, and fails to reshape government by using the government for progressive ends, it risks playing into the hands of the right. The central message of the American right is that government is bad and must be limited. This message is used to justify austerity. However, in most cases, neoliberal austerity does not actually involve a reduction of government. Typically, restructuring in the name of austerity is really just a transformation of government, not a reduction of it.

Over the last 35 years, the state has been profoundly transformed, but it has not been reduced. The size of the government in the economy has not gone down. The state has become less redistributive, more punitive. Instead of a robust program of government-subsidized and public housing, we have the prison system. Instead of well-funded public hospitals, we have profiteering private hospitals funded by enormous amounts of public money. Instead of large numbers of well-paid public workers, we have large budgets for private firms that now subcontract tasks formerly conducted by the government.

We need to defend the progressive work of government, which, for me, means immediately defending public education. To be clear, I do not mean merely vote or ask nicely, I mean movements should attack government and government officials, target them with protests, make their lives impossible until they comply. This was done very well with the FCC. And my hat goes off to the activists who saved the internet for us. The left should be thinking about the ways in which it can leverage government.

The utility of government was very apparent in Vermont during the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. The rains from that storm destroyed or damaged over a hundred bridges, many miles of road and rail, and swept away houses. Thirteen towns were totally stranded. There was a lot of incredible mutual aid; people just started clearing debris and helping each other out. But within all this, town government was a crucial connective tissue.

Due to the tradition of New England town meeting, people are quite involved with their local government. Anarchists should love town meetings. It is no coincidence that Murray Bookchin spent much of his life in Vermont. Town meetings are a form of participatory budgeting without the lefty rigmarole.

More importantly, the state government managed to get a huge amount of support from the federal government. The state in turn pushed this down to the town level. Without that federal aid, Vermont would still be in ruins. Vermont is not a big enough political entity to shake down General Electric, a huge employer in Vermont. The Vermont government can't pressure GE to pay for the rebuilding of local infrastructure, but the federal government can.

Vermont would still be a disaster if it didn't get a transfer of funds and materials from the federal government. Similarly in New York City, the public sector does not get enough praise for the many things it did well after super storm Sandy. Huge parts of the subway system were flooded, yet it was all up and running within the month.

As an aside, one of the dirty little secrets about the Vermont economy is that it's heavily tied-up with the military industrial complex. People think Vermont is all about farming and boutique food processing. Vermont has a pretty diverse economy, but agriculture plays a much smaller role than you might think, about 2 percent of employment. Meanwhile, the state's industrial sector, along with the government, is one of the top employers, at about 13 percent of all employment. Most of this work is in what's called precision manufacturing, making stuff like: high performance nozzles, switches, calibrators, and stuff like the lenses used in satellites, or handcrafting the blades that go in GE jet engines. But I digress … As we enter the crisis of climate change, it's important to be aware of the actually existing legal and institutional mechanisms with which we can contain and control capital."
christianparenti  climatechange  militarism  neoliberalism  2015  goverment  politics  policy  progressivism  progressives  economics  austerity  priorities  military  surveillance  inequality  wealth  anarchism  mutualaid  activism  epa  environment  infrastructure  vermont  townmeetings 
may 2015 by robertogreco
6, 55: Dilution of precision
"Some things are hard to understand until you’ve stood in them. Anthropologist Genevieve Bell (at 1:09, in the third video down) told executives at Intel how small living spaces in China could be, but when they went and stood in the places that she had described clearly, they were still surprised. “I can touch all the walls!”

Travel is a way of accumulating this embodied knowledge. Gazing up at the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. Climbing up the passageway in the Great Pyramid at Giza. Standing in the shadow of redwoods. When we decided to take a weekend roadtrip in California, we really didn’t have to discuss what we’d go see: both of us have been thinking a lot about infrastructure and about the California drought, so we drew up a tentative plan, woke up early, and headed east from Santa Cruz towards Interstate Highway 5, to visit one of the most significant pieces of water infrastructure in California."



"Infrastructure is the set of systems that enable you to do what you do that you never think about. Power, water, heating, communications – all the things that (if you’re lucky enough) is just piped to your house – are never noticed until something goes wrong. As Warren Ellis put it this morning, “The victory condition [of utilities] is silence.” Then there’s the larger-scale infrastructure, like the highway system. We spent a lot of time on I-5, an economic backbone of the West Coast, running from Tijuana, Mexico to Blaine, Canada. But because it’s not in crisis, we don’t think about it much. We don’t take a weekend to stand on hills overlooking it. Likewise GPS, and stable currency, and mobile phone coverage."

[Also available here: http://tinyletter.com/metafoundry/letters/metafoundry-35-dilution-of-precision ]
perspective  infrastructure  2015charlieloyd  debchachra  2015  californiaaqueduct  california  water  californiastatewaterproject  agriculture  centralvalley  sanjoaquinvalley  sanluisreservoir  perception  scale  warrenellis  landscape  genevievebell  china  housing  i5  interstate5  i-5  food  farming 
may 2015 by robertogreco
Wings Over Water - YouTube
"Relying on precipitation, gravity flow, exquisite engineering and ingenuity is the California State Water Project. Come join us for an extraordinary flight on Wings Over Water."
water  california  infrastructure  2012  californiastatewaterproject 
may 2015 by robertogreco
This Mesh We're In: Why Communities Are Building An Internet That's More Local | Fast Company | Business + Innovation
"Recently, a pair of artists in New York put forward an unusual plan for teaching middle school students about the Internet: specifically, by teaching them how to get off it and build their own.

OurNet will combine two series of lessons: one on building a social network, and the other dedicated to constructing a private network, or "darknet," in the classroom. In the process, write Joanne McNeil and Dan Phiffer in their proposal, students will learn important concepts about how the Internet works. Last week the project was awarded a $35,000 grant from a MacArthur Foundation digital learning initiative.

Unlike the physical networks of Time Warner and Verizon or the virtual networks of Facebook and Instagram, however, the networks they and their students build will be noncommercial, and limited to people in their Wi-Fi range. That’s not just a way to simplify the lesson: It’s a deliberate choice to help students think about alternatives to corporate Internet providers and platforms built around advertising and tracking.

"This is an opportunity for the students to see what kind of middlemen they don’t need to connect—the idea that you can socialize with people without going on Facebook, or the idea that you can actually have a network that’s not through an ISP," says McNeil.

OurNet is part of a growing movement that aims to consider and build alternative computer networks. The wireless network idea adds to a growing number of small, independent, nonprofit wireless community networks, often organized as so-called "mesh networks" for their weblike, decentralized design, in which each node—a phone, for instance, or a sophisticated wireless router—relays the connection onwards to the next node. OurNet, with one central classroom router, will have an even simpler structure, though it shares the mesh networks' philosophy of decentralization.

The ad hoc approach has gained attention for its usefulness in more extreme situations. Various mesh networks have been deployed to improve communication at Occupy Wall Street and at Hong Kong's Occupy Central, for instance, and the State Department has funded their installation in Detroit and Tunisia, where they're thought of as a way to extend Internet service and avoid government surveillance. They've also been used to improve communications after disasters to replace severed communications links.

One network in Red Hook, Brooklyn, built by activists as a way to help the neighborhood stay connected and get emergency updates after superstorm Sandy struck New York in 2012, last week received a grant from one of the city's resiliency initiatives."
joannemcneil  danphiffer  education  internet  ournet  wireless  meshnetworks  ows  occupywallstreet  occupy.here  sarahgrant  subnodes  stevenmelendez  infrastructure  shahselbejerthorpe  guifi  guifi.net  hyperboria  isp  chicagomeshnetjefflunt  nycmesh  history  web  raspberypi  projectideas  edtech 
may 2015 by robertogreco
The Drone Aviary | superflux
"The Drone Aviary - an R&D project from The Superflux Lab - is an investigation of the social, political and cultural potential of drone technology as it enters civil space. Through a series of ongoing installations, films and publications, the project aims to give a glimpse into a near-future city co-habit with ‘intelligent’ semi autonomous, networked, flying machines."



"The installation at the V&A contains a family of 5 drones and an accompanying film. Each drone is designed to be symbolic of the convergence of wider social and tech trends with specific tasks and functions that are gaining popularity amongst drone enthusiasts and entrepreneurs.

1. Madison, The Flying Billboard: This is an advertising drone, a hovering display platform, which can swoop, scan and hunt consumer demographics. It uses sophisticated facial recognition to gain feedback on the effectiveness of its content and to tailor advertisements to the interests of those within its vicinity.

2. Newsbreaker, The Media Drone: Supported by algorithmic monitoring news, emergency services and social media in real-time, these nimble devices push the boundaries for what has become known as High Frequency Journalism, helping feed our growing hunger for the very latest breaking news stories as it happens. As it films and streams news in real-time, story writing algorithms parse imagery, audio, web and radio traffic into rapidly growing, and continually edited, column inches.

3. Nightwatchman, The Surveillance Drone: A highly mobile data acquisition device used by everyone from local councils to law enforcement agencies. By securely connecting to a centralised database The Nightwatchman is able to amass and utilise huge amounts of location and subject specific information assisting in everything from documenting civil offences to detecting potential terror threats.

4. RouteHawk, Traffic Management Assistant: This drone fulfills two primary functions: firstly with its high brightness LED display and powerful 8 motor design the RouteHawk can move quickly to problem situations and provide dynamic warnings to approaching drivers. Secondly its LIDAR speed detector and ANPR camera allow the RouteHawk to efficiently log and transmit traffic violations to relevant penalty enforcement departments, often allowing a unit to pay for itself within a month.

5. FlyCam Instadrone: A highly accessible, low cost, user-friendly platform with true 'smart' style functionality. Quickly superseding the Selfie stick as todays must have life-logging and social media tool, the FlyCam allows anyone with a smartphone to share unforgettable memories from the clouds to the cloud using the Instadrone app. Additionally, its patented context aware algorithm means advertisers can deliver messages to customer when and where it counts.

The Film:
In the film, the drones become protagonists, revealing fleeting glimpses of the city from their perspective, as they continuously collect data and perform tasks. It hints at a world where the ‘network’ begins to gain physical autonomy, moving through and making decisions about the world, influencing our lives in often opaque yet profound ways. A speculative map highlights where physical and digital infrastructures merge as our cities become the natural habitat for 'smart' technologies from drones and wearable computers through to driverless cars."

[Posted to Tumblr with a few notes: http://robertogreco.tumblr.com/post/116318868178/drone-aviary-superflux-the-drone-aviary-an-r-d ]
superflux  drones  nearfuture  designfiction  surveillance  2015  film  uav  future  timmaughan  anabjain  jonarden  infrastructure  robotvision  robotreadableworld  airspace  vision  tracking  society  prototyping  facerecognition 
april 2015 by robertogreco
Ingrid Burrington - Crash Course in Digital Literacy - YouTube
"INGRID BURRINGTONARTIST WRITER, LIFEWINNINGIn our session ”Crash Course in Digital Literacy” Ingrid will give an overview of the physical infrastructure of the internet, share some of her own experiences trying to visit and map these infrastructures, and explain why it’s useful to think about the internet as a physical, tangible landscape.Ingrid Burrington lives and works on an island off the coast of America, where she writes, makes maps, and tells jokes about places, politics, and the weird feelings people have about both.Most recently, her work has appeared in Creative Time Reports. She is currently a fellow at the Data and Society Research Institute and an artist in residence at Eyebeam, an art and technology center in New York."
ingridburrington  2014  internet  infrastructure  digitalliteracy  online  datacenters  cloud 
march 2015 by robertogreco
FutureEverything 2015: Alexis Lloyd & Matt Boggie on Vimeo
"From New York Times R&D Labs, Alexis Lloyd and Matt Boggie talk about our possible media futures, following the early days of the web - where growth was propelled forward by those making their own spaces online - to the present, where social platforms are starting to close down, tightening the possibilities whilst our dependency on them is increasing. Explaining how internet users are in fact participatory creators, not just consumers, Alexis and Matt ask where playing with news media can allow for a new means of expression and commentary by audiences."
public  media  internet  web  online  walledgardens  participation  participatory  2015  facebook  snapchat  open  openness  alexisloyd  mattboggie  publishing  blogs  blogging  history  audience  creativity  content  expression  socialnetworks  sociamedia  onlinemedia  appropriation  remixing  critique  connection  consumption  creation  sharing  participatoryculture  collage  engagement  tv  television  film  art  games  gaming  videogames  twitch  performance  social  discussion  conversation  meaningmaking  vine  twitter  commentary  news  commenting  reuse  community  culturecreation  latoyapeterson  communication  nytimes  agneschang  netowrkedculture  nytimesr&dlabs  bots  quips  nytlabs  compendium  storytelling  decentralization  meshnetworking  peertopeer  ows  occupywallstreet  firechat  censorship  tor  bittorrent  security  neutrality  privacy  iot  internetofthings  surveillance  networkedcitizenship  localnetworks  networks  hertziantribes  behavior  communities  context  empowerment  agency  maelstrom  p2p  cookieswapping  information  policy  infrastructure  technology  remixculture 
march 2015 by robertogreco
Residential Archaeology – MAS CONTEXT
"The cultural phenomenon of customization, the appropriation of things to make them personal, has been the focus of study for years. We can see it daily in the objects that we transform and recycle, between efficiency and aesthetics. If we extrapolate this idea to the discipline of architecture, it becomes even more interesting, albeit of varying intensity: from the wallpaper to the added floor level and through various degrees of appropriation in between.

The approach of Modern Architecture, such as the universal space from the early 20th Century, becoming even more common in the 1950s in houses by Craig Elwood or Richard Neutra among others, has been transformed nowadays into the idea of neutral space, empty, ready to be occupied.

There are also curious examples such as the Appliance House and the Put-Away Villa by the couple formed by Peter and Alison Smithson. In the first one, architecture and household goods are the same, taking to the limit the idea that we are only passing through the spaces. Ideas such as comfort are taken to the extreme in the growing amount of advertising of autos and appliances.

From the industrialized architecture of those spaces we had to extract the particular aesthetic related to the prefabrication process. It is time for architects and manufacturers to address the problem from the opposite end of the scale and make buildings that emanate living habitats and reflect the needs of those who inhabit the spaces.

In the second example, a few years later and almost in opposition, the warehouse house, where we all collect, resulting in the need for a deposit, which requires the occupation of a third of the house: the place for objects-that-you-don’t-use-now-and-that-perhaps-won’t-be-used-anymore. Ultimately, it is the domestication of the spaces.

Let’s recall the performance “I Like America and America Likes Me” (1974) by Joseph Beuys. In it, Beuys is separated from his usual space in order to be placed in a single space along with a coyote, also separated from its natural habitat. Cohabitation and making the space human, space domesticated.

Finally we are generally talking about two things: first, how we get to the spaces and second, how we fill them and therefore, how we transform them.

We must pause and think, how do users (of different social class) personalize their spaces? What can we learn and understand from the materiality of life? Does this have anything to do with the materiality of the projects designed by architects and with any social commitment?

Le Corbusier, Mario Pani, Teodoro González de León, among others, have focused on the constructive materiality, in methods of self-construction or low-cost construction. But, what about the materiality of the everyday? What happens between the mere representation that the architect proposes and the everyday occupation by the resident?

Residential Archaeology consists, therefore, of:

1. Drawing in an archeological way three things: the space occupied by the architecture itself; the everyday life infrastructure, that is, furniture; and the elements that provide use to the furniture, those that humanize them.

2. Studying the impact in terms of occupancy, density and time. An archaeological GPS that subtly gets transformed by the passing of the hours and the collecting of objects, and sometimes their final destination. What we called earlier the objects-that-you-don’t-use-now-and-that-perhaps-won’t-be-used-anymore. How do they alter and reconfigure the space?

3. As a result, the project proposes the registration of these styles-modes-adjustments of life in an electronic file in order to observe their impact and make the design and use evident. Additionally, the project makes a 1:1 scale comparison of each unit: a rug-map, as if drawn by hand on the floor itself, recalling the images we have of when we did so as children on the street or sidewalk. It is, in the end, a recording as George Perec explains in Life A User’s Manual.

The project places the Unité d’habitation in Marseille, the Tlatelolco housing complex, the Mixcoac Towers, the CUPA and Unidad Esperanza under equal conditions, like it does with its authors: Le Corbusier, Mario Pani and Teodoro González de León. All are perhaps pieces of the same puzzle that builds and shows more faithfully what, perhaps, we should take more into account, how we domesticate the spaces.

Citing [furniture and interior designer] Clara Porset, “we could not impose the tenant to acquire the furniture that had been created specifically for his home, nor did we think about convincing him. Instead, we chose to instruct him about design in general, providing him with a culture of housing.”"
housing  architecture  archaeology  residentialarchaeology  tlatelolco  mixcoactowers  lecorbusier  mariopani  teodorogonzálezdeleón  space  everyday  infrastructure  furniture  juancarlostello  residential  cupa  mexicocity  mexico  marseille  france  customization  josephbeuys  humans  domestication  habitat  craigelwood  richardneutra  modernism  df  mexicodf 
march 2015 by robertogreco
My libertarian vacation nightmare: How Ayn Rand, Ron Paul & their groupies were all debunked - Salon.com
"In Honduras, the police ride around in pickup trucks with machine guns, but they aren’t there to protect most people. They are scary to locals and travelers alike. For individual protection there’s an army of private, armed security guards who are found in front of not only banks, but also restaurants, ATM machines, grocery stores and at any building that holds anything of value whatsoever. Some guards have uniforms and long guns but just as many are dressed in street clothes with cheap pistols thrust into waistbands. The country has a handful of really rich people, a small group of middle-class, some security guards who seem to be getting by and a massive group of people who are starving to death and living in slums. You can see the evidence of previous decades of infrastructure investment in roads and bridges, but it’s all in slow-motion decay.

I took a van trip across the country, starting in Copan (where there are must-see Mayan ruins), across to the Caribbean Sea to a ferry that took my family to Roatan Island. The trip from Copan to the coast took a full six hours, and we had two flat tires. The word “treacherous” is inadequate—a better description is “post-apocalyptic.” We did not see one speed limit sign in hundreds of kilometers. Not one. People drive around each other on the right and left and in every manner possible. The road was clogged with horses, scooters and bicycles. People traveled in every conceivable manner along the crumbling arterial. Few cars have license plates, and one taxi driver told me that the private company responsible for making them went bankrupt. Instead of traffic stops, there are military check points every so often. The roads seemed more dangerous to me than the gang violence.

The greatest examples of libertarianism in action are the hundreds of men, women and children standing alongside the roads all over Honduras. The government won’t fix the roads, so these desperate entrepreneurs fill in potholes with shovels of dirt or debris. They then stand next to the filled-in pothole soliciting tips from grateful motorists. That is the wet dream of libertarian private sector innovation.

On the mainland there are two kinds of neighborhoods, slums that seem to go on forever and middle-class neighborhoods where every house is its own citadel. In San Pedro Sula, most houses are surrounded by high stone walls topped with either concertina wire or electric fence at the top. As I strolled past these castle-like fortifications, all I could think about was how great this city would be during a zombie apocalypse."



"One can dismiss the core of near-sociopathic libertarian ideas with one simple question: What kind of society maximizes freedom while providing the best outcomes for the greatest number of human beings? You cannot start with the assumption that a Russian novel writer from the ’50s is a genius, so therefore all ideas about government and society must fit between the pages of “Atlas Shrugged.” That concept is stupid, and sends you on the opposite course of “good outcomes for human beings.” The closer you get to totally untamed, uncontrolled privatization, the nearer you approach “Lord of the Flies.”

These questions about how best to provide a good society are not being asked in Honduras, but they are also ignored in the United States as a matter of routine. We have growing income inequality and government is being ever more controlled by a few extremely wealthy political donors. Our own infrastructure is far from admired worldwide, and the trend doesn’t look good from where I’m sitting. We have yet to stop our own political rhetoric to address the basic question about what kind of place and in what type of society we want to live.

Society should not exist to make a few people fabulously wealthy while others starve. Almost all humanity used to live this way, and we called it feudalism. Many people want to go back to that sort of system, this time under the label of libertarian or “the untrammeled free market.” The name is irrelevant because the results are the same. In Honduras, I did not meet one person who had nice things to say about the government or how the country is run. My takeaway from the trip is that living in a libertarian paradise satisfies only a few of the wealthiest citizens, while everyone else thinks it sucks.

Honduras has problems but people should go visit anyway and soon. The dangers are fleeting, and there are coffee plantations to tour, ruins to see, cigars to smoke and fish to catch. The people need your tourism dollars. As a bonus, it’s important for Americans to see the outcome when the bad ideas of teenage boys and a bad Russian writer are put into practice. Everyone believes in freedom, but it’s an idea both fetishized and unrecognizable when spouted by libertarians. There can be no such thing as freedom, safety or progress of any kind, when an entire society is run for the benefit of a handful of rich assholes and global conglomerates. If you think I’m overstating it, just go to Honduras and see it for yourself."
inequality  libertarianism  libertarians  2015  edwinlyngar  honduras  economics  privatization  infrastructure  us  aynrand  ronpaul  government  capitalism  sanpedrosula 
march 2015 by robertogreco
The Smithsonian's Cooper Hewitt: Finally, the Museum of the Future Is Here - The Atlantic
"When I visited, I talked to the Labs team in their office and then toured the then not-quite-finished mansion. We talked about the museum first—the physical one we were in. Unlike leaders of other New York museums, who are investing in events, Chan (and the Cooper Hewitt generally) believe the heart of the museum is in its collection and its visitors. In other words: its stuff and its people.

“They don’t want to have the burden of this preservation forever,” he said of the increasingly event-focused Museum of Modern Art, 40 blocks south. “The beauty here is: We’re the Smithsonian. We don’t have a choice. No matter what other staff in this building might say, we don’t have a choice but to keep all this stuff forever.”

The museum will forever be committed to its stuff. But it has to have a more enlivening presence, he believes, than placards and shelves. Cope held up his smartphone at one point and pointed at it."



"Notice the trick the Labs team has completed. The API seems to be first for users and developers. It lets them play around with the collection, see what’s there. As Cope told me, “the API is there to develop multiple interfaces. That’s the whole point of an API—you let go of control around how people interpret data and give them what they ask for, and then have the confidence they’ll find a way to organize it that makes sense for them.” But who is doing the most work around the collection—the most organizing, the most-sensemaking? It’s the museum itself.

“When we re-open, the building will be the single largest consumer of the API,” said Chan.

In other words, the museum made a piece of infrastructure for the public. But the museum will benefit in the long term, because the infrastructure will permit them to plan for the near future.

And the museum will also be, of course, the single largest beneficiary of outsider improvements to the API. It already talks to other APIs on the web. Ray Eames’s page, for instance, encourages users to tag their Instagrams and Flickr photos with a certain code. When they do, Cooper Hewitt’s API will automatically sniff it out and link that image back to its own person file for Eames. Thus, the Cooper Hewitt’s online presence grows even richer.

The Cooper Hewitt isn’t the only museum in the world with an API. The Powerhouse has one, and many art museums have uploaded high-quality images of their collections. But the power of the Cooper Hewitt’s digital interface is unprecedented. There’s a command that asks for colors as defined by the Crayola crayon palette. Another asks if the snack bar is open. A third mimics the speech of one of the Labs members. It’s a fun piece of software, and it makes a point about the scope of the museum’s vision. If design is in everything, the API says, then the museum’s collection includes every facet of the museum itself. "



"Even if things do work, the model turns museum websites into museums themselves, catalogs of once-snazzy apps built for special occasions before being discarded forever. Exhibits go away, but those apps never do. A museum’s website—the primary face of the museum to the world—winds up looking like a closet of old prom dresses.

When Bill Moggridge became the Cooper Hewitt’s director in 2010, he wanted the museum to make its digital infrastructure more thoughtfully. Moggridge, it should be noted, is a legend. He helped design the first laptop computer. He founded the world-famous firm IDEO. And he invented the term “interaction design.” Moggridge died in 2012, not living to see the renovation project he began.

Moggridge created Chan’s position and hired him for it. And while Chan could have kept outsourcing projects to big outside firms, he instead lobbied for funding and hire a staff. The museum’s digital work was too important. It had to have in-house experts. “There's a lovely phrase we use a lot,” Cope said. “The guy who invented the Perl programming language talked about Perl as being there to make easy things simple and hard things possible.”

“That’s how we try to think about this. Not everyone’s gonna understand what we’ve built or the potential of what we’ve built right away. It’s gonna take some of the curators longer than others to figure it out. But the minute they get it, they should be able to turn around and be like, 'What if…? Can we do…?'—and if it’s easy, it should be live in 15 minutes.”"



"The team has accomplished so much largely by accepting imperfection. When the Labs launched the API, it was missing a lot of information. Cope called the quality of its metadata at launch “incredibly spotty,” before Chan clarified, “it’s terrible.”

But that was on purpose. Better to put the museum’s grand imperfection and incompleteness out in the world and let people make of it what they will, the team decided, then wait for it to be perfect. “It was a tactical play to say, don’t obsess about that stuff, because its what people do with it that matters,” said Chan.

“We could spend the next 50 years trying to make that data perfect and it still would not ever be perfect. There was 70 years of collecting that had different documenting standards. Museums only started collecting policies in the eighties and nineties. How can you retrospectively fix everything? It just can’t be done. So let’s move on and figure out what we want to do with it,” he said.

This attitude—popularized by Steve Jobs with the phrase, “Real artists ship”—extends to how the team thinks through media production, too. “I can’t sit on a video for six months, making these minute edits. I have to pitch it out door, so we can say: This interview got this many views, this thing got this many views, let’s keep going with this,” said Shelly.

The Labs’s work, as a whole, is an investment in a particular idea of cultural democracy. It’s a view where imperfect speech can always—and will always, and should always—be augmented by further speech. It trusts in the discourse over the perfection of the original work."



"And perhaps already, the Labs team believes, that digital information will be inextricable from the physical object. The Cooper Hewitt has long collected napkin sketches of famous logos and inventions. If it wants to collect the rough thoughts of today, it will have to work fast, because napkins last longer in files than sketch files do on iPads.

“To collect a Nest absent of any data, what does that tell you?,” asked Cope.“It tells you it’s a beautiful piece of industrial design. Well, maybe the museum should start thinking about some way of keeping that data alongside the object, and maybe it doesn’t need to be privileged in the way the object is.”"
robinsonmeyer  2015  cooper-hewitt  museums  collections  archives  internet  web  sebchan  aaronstraupcope  billmoggridge  design  interaction  api  data  digital  online  objects  things  applications  software  unfinished  imperfection  democracy  culture  culturaldemocracy  infrastructure  visitors  events 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The All-Women Hacker Collective Making Art About the Post-Snowden Age | Motherboard
““There is something about the internet that isn’t working anymore,” is the line that opens filmmaker Jonathan Minard’s short documentary on Deep Lab—a group of women hackers, artists, and theorists who gathered at Carnegie Mellon University in December to answer the question of what, exactly, that disquieting “something” is. The film premieres on Motherboard today.

What Deep Lab represents is just as hard to pin down as the “something” invoked in the opening minutes of Minard’s short film. Is it a book, a lecture series, or Minard’s documentary—all of which were put together in under a month? Is it an ethos? Is it feminist? Is Deep Lab a charrette, a dugnad, or a “congress,” as its participants called it?

It’s hard to say what Deep Lab is in part because of its scattershot nature, both in terms of its products and its focus. The Deep Lab book—available for free online—is a 242-page collection of essays, fragments, and reflections on everything from encryption to cyberfeminism penned by a dozen different authors with divergent interests.
Deep Lab’s interdisciplinary approach is perhaps necessary to parse the complicated realities of the post-Snowden age. Since Snowden’s revelations regarding the scope of the US government’s online surveillance program broke in 2013, it seems as though the internet has taken on a new, dark, and confusing identity.

Larger-than-life interests in the form of corporate and governmental surveillance are now at play in our daily interactions on the internet, and interpreting those outsized realities so we can understand them is no small challenge.

“As an artist, I want to reinterpret culture in a way that society can parse.” said Addie Wagenknecht, the multimedia artist who organized Deep Lab during her ongoing fellowship at the STUDIO for Creative Inquiry at Carnegie Mellon. “You take these big events and try to encapsulate them in a way that you can present them concisely and quickly so that it’s defined for people who experience that piece or exhibition.”

A chapter in the book compiled by data artist Ingrid Burrington is comprised of 20 pages listing objects pulled from the Pentagon’s 1033 program—which has supplied military hardware to local police for decades—in plain black text. After four solid pages of “5.56 MILLIMETRE RIFLE,” it becomes clear that Deep Lab is not only artistically compelling and tantalizingly oblique in how it approaches issues of life and death, but deadly serious.

According to Wagenknecht, Deep Lab is also a medium for women to do more than just participate in digital culture—the tech world has been notoriously resistant to opening its ranks to women—but to interpret and define it, and to share and create tools and techniques for survival within it.

“Maybe for women, we’re more aware of protecting ourselves online because it’s always been a social problem,” Wagenknecht told me. “Think of contacting friends before you leave a party late at night so people can make sure you got home safe—men maybe don’t think about that and women always do. And it’s those same roles on the web. How do you protect yourself from a hack or doxing? The power shifts to the person with more knowledge.”

Deep Lab member Harlo Holmes, who works as the head of metadata for the Guardian Project, designed a system for victims of cyber bullying on Twitter to easily and painlessly map the digital connections between harassers called Foxy Doxxing.

There were also men present at Deep Lab, including Minard, though they weren’t collaborators per se. Multimedia artist Golan Levin is the director of STUDIO, where Deep Lab congregated. Playing host to Deep Lab, Levin—along with Wagenknecht, who was the group’s chief mastermind and organizer—was part of Deep Lab’s development from the very beginning.

“I’m enormously proud,” Levin said. “You’re looking at a book, a documentary, and a lecture series that was put together by a dozen people in a month. I think they’re side-effects of what Deep Lab actually was.”

So, to return to the question that started this article—what is Deep Lab?—Levin provided his own answer: “It’s punk.”

But even more than punk—more than a book, a documentary, a gathering, or a lecture series—Deep Lab is a beginning, according to Allison Burtch, a resident at the Brooklyn-based Eyebeam Art and Technology Center and Deep Lab member.

I don’t think Deep Lab has ended; it was the beginning of a camaraderie,” Burtch said. “Yeah, we did this thing and did some talks, but it’s not ending. This is the beginning of different affiliations with people. It was awesome. “

According to Wagenknecht, a Deep Lab lecture series is planned for later in 2015, and will take place at venues in New York City. Until then, we have a book, several lectures, and a documentary to contemplate what Deep Lab is, and what it all means.​"
2015  deeplab  art  digitalart  infrastructure  2014  ingridburrington  jenlowe  technology  data  jonathanminard  jordanpearson  cyberfeminism  enryption  interdisciplinary  coding  code  programming  surveillance  golanlevin  harloholmes  allisonburtch  hackercollectives  collectives  culture  addiewagenknecht  punk  documentary  poer  subversion  deepweb  freedom  privacy  security  socialmedia  facebook  google  socialnorms  safety 
january 2015 by robertogreco
The Official Website of Virunga National Park - The Virunga Alliance
"Born of a Congolese commitment to the protection of Virunga National Park, the Virunga Alliance aims to foster peace and prosperity through the responsible economic development of natural resources for four million people who live within a day’s walk of the park’s borders.

A minimum of 30% of the park’s revenues is invested in community development projects. These projects are defined by the community and are based on the principle of free and informed consultation with civil society groups.

Virunga Alliance is the intersection of civil society, private sector and state institutions working together toward sustainable development goals in eastern Congo. Virunga Alliance will deliver large-scale opportunities to tens of thousands of Congolese men and women who are ready to rebuild the region and redefine the country’s future.

We propose a three-phase approach and identify four main sectors for development, including Energy, Tourism, Agro-Industry, Sustainable Fisheries, and Infrastructure."
virunga  parks  africa  congo  drc  sustainability  fisheries  agriculture  tourism  energy  infrastructure  economics  development 
january 2015 by robertogreco
Hullabaloo: Rewarding failure by design?
"For the investor class, it is a tragedy of the commons when they don't get a cut from it. That's why, for example, they are so hot to see a middle man in every middle school."



"David Dayen wrote yesterday at Salon about Sen. Elizabeth Warren's opposition to investment banker, Antonio Weiss, President Obama's nominee for Treasury Department undersecretary for domestic finance. One of Weiss' biggest clients is Brazilian private equity fund 3G. Dayen describes deals that would make Paul Singer blush. (Okay, maybe not.) They seem almost designed to reward failure:
The deals also exhibit the modern hallmark of corporate America: financial engineering. Decisions are made to satisfy shareholder clamoring for short-term profits rather than any long-term vision about building a quality business. The manager class extracts value for their own ends, and the rotted husk of the company either sinks or swims. It doesn’t matter to those who have already completed the looting.
"
capitalism  investment  investors  middlemen  privatization  2014  failure  tomsullivan  us  policy  politics  education  schools  forprofit  infrastructure  commons  bankruptcy  finance  banking  bankers  barrysummers  looting  corporatism  financialengineering  management  roads  tollroads 
december 2014 by robertogreco
The smartest cities rely on citizen cunning and unglamorous technology | Cities | The Guardian
"Ignore the futuristic visions of governments and developers, it’s humble urban communities who lead the way in showing how networked technologies can strengthen a city’s social fabric"



"We are lucky enough to live at a time in which a furious wave of innovation is breaking across the cities of the global south, spurred on both by the blistering pace of urbanisation, and by the rising popular demand for access to high-quality infrastructure that follows in its wake.

From Porto Alegre’s participatory budgeting and the literally destratifying cable cars of Caracas, to Nairobi’s “digital matatus” and the repurposed bus-ferries of Manila, the communities of the south are responsible for an ever-lengthening parade of social and technical innovations that rival anything the developed world has to offer for ingenuity and practical utility.

Nor is India an exception to this tendency. Transparent Chennai’s participatory maps and the work of the Mumbai-based practices CRIT and URBZ are better-known globally, but it is the tactics of daily survival devised by the unheralded multitude that really inspire urbanists. These techniques maximise the transactive capacity of the urban fabric, wrest the very last increment of value from the energy invested in the production of manufactured goods, and allow millions to eke a living, however precarious, from the most unpromising of circumstances. At a time of vertiginously spiralling economic and environmental stress globally, these are insights many of us in the developed north would be well advised to attend to – and by no means merely the poorest among us.

But, for whatever reason, this is not the face of urban innovation official India wants to share with the world – perhaps small-scale projects or the tactics of the poor simply aren’t dramatic enough to convey the magnitude and force of national ambition. We hear, instead, of schemes like Palava City, a nominally futuristic vision of digital technology minutely interwoven into the texture of everday urban life. Headlines were made around the planet this year when Narendra Modi’s government announced it had committed to building no fewer than 100 similarly “smart” cities.

Because definitions of the smart city remain so vague, I think it’s worth thinking carefully about what this might mean – beyond, that is, the 7,000 billion rupees (£70bn) in financing that India’s high powered expert committee on urban infrastructure believes the scheme will require over the next 20 years. It is one thing, after all, to reinforce the basic infrastructures that undergird the quality of urban life everywhere; quite another to propose saddling India’s cities with expensive, untested technology at a time when reliable access to electricity, clean drinking water or safe sanitary facilities remain beyond reach for too many.

We can take it as read that our networked technologies will continue to play some fairly considerable role in shaping the circumstances and possibilities experienced by billions of city-dwellers worldwide. So it’s only appropriate to consider the ways in which these technologies might inform decisions about urban land use, mobility and governance.

However, especially at a time of such enthusiasm for the notion in India, I think it’s vital to point out that “the smart city” is not the only way of bringing advanced information technology to bear on these questions of urban life. It’s but one selection from a sheaf of available possibilities, and not anywhere near the most responsive, equitable or fructifying among them.

We can see this most easily by considering just who it is the smart city is intended for – by seeking to discover what model of urban subjectivity is inscribed in the scenarios offered by the multinational IT vendors that developed the smart city concept in the first place, and who are heavily involved in sites like Palava. When you examine their internal documentation, marketing materials and extant interventions, it becomes evident there is a pronounced way of thinking about the civic that is bound up in all of them, with rather grim implications for the politics of participation.

A close reading leaves little room for doubt that vendors like Microsoft, IBM, Siemens, Cisco and Hitachi construct the resident of the smart city as someone without agency; merely a passive consumer of municipal services – at best, perhaps, a generator of data that can later be aggregated, mined for relevant inference, and acted upon. Should he or she attempt to practise democracy in any form that spills on to the public way, the smart city has no way of accounting for this activity other than interpreting it as an untoward disruption to the orderly flow of circulation. (This is explicit in Palava’s marketing materials, as well.) All in all, it’s a brutally reductive conception of civic life, and one with little to offer those of us whose notions of citizenhood are more robust."



"The true enablers of participation turn out to be nothing more exciting than cheap commodity devices, reliable access to sufficiently high- bandwidth connectivity, and generic cloud services. These implications should be carefully mulled over by developers, those responsible for crafting municipal and national policy, and funding bodies in the philanthropic sector.

In both these cases, ordinary people used technologies of connection to help them steer their own affairs, not merely managing complex domains to a minimal threshold of competence, but outperforming the official bodies formally entrusted with their stewardship. This presents us with the intriguing prospect that more of the circumstances of everyday urban life might be managed this way, on a participatory basis, by autonomous neighbourhood groups networked with one another in something amounting to a city-wide federation.

In order to understand how we might get there from here, we need to invoke a notion drawn from the study of dynamic systems. Metastability is the idea that there are multiple stable configurations a system can assume within a larger possibility space; the shape that system takes at the moment may simply be one among many that are potentially available to it. Seen in this light, it’s clear that all the paraphernalia we regard as the sign and substance of government may in fact merely constitute what a dynamicist would think of as a “local maximum”. There remain available to us other possible states, in which we might connect to one another in different ways, giving rise to different implications, different conceptions of urban citizenship, and profoundly different outcomes.

The sociologist Bruno Latour warns us not to speak airily of “potential”, reminding us that we have to actually do the work of bringing some state of affairs into being before we can know whether it was indeed a possible future state of the system – and also that work is never accomplished without some cost. I nevertheless believe, given the very substantial benefits we know people and communities enjoy when afforded real control over the conditions of their being, that whatever the cost incurred in this exploration, it would be one well worth bearing.

The evidence before us strongly suggests that investment in the unglamorous technologies, frameworks and infrastructures that are already known to underwrite citizen participation would result in better outcomes for tens of millions of ordinary Indians – and would shoulder the state with far-less onerous a financial burden – than investment in the high-tech chimeras of centralised control. The wisest course would be to plan technological interventions to come on the understanding that the true intelligence of the Indian city will continue to reside where it always has: in the people who live and work in it, who animate it and give it a voice."

[See also: http://boingboing.net/2014/12/24/why-smart-cities-should-be.html ]
2014  adamgreenfield  urban  urbanism  collectivism  cities  innovation  smartcities  chennai  caracas  nairobi  portoalegre  digitalmatatus  manila  infrastructure  palavacity  technology  power  control  democracy  ows  occupywallstreet  urbz  crit  transparency  occupysandy  nyc  elcampodecebada  madrid  zuloark  zuloarkcollective  collectives  twitter  facebook  troughofdisallusionment  darkweather  networks  internetofpeople  brunolatour  grassroots  systems  systemsthinking  metastability  dynamicsystems 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Primer0012 -Seeing Like A Supply Chain
"For the supply chain, overzealous security is a much clearer and more present danger than the Poor Man's ICBM."
emilyhrone  timmaly  2014  shipping  infrastructure  security  policy  economics  business  markets  supplychain  terrorism 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Library as Infrastructure
"For millennia libraries have acquired resources, organized them, preserved them and made them accessible (or not) to patrons. But the forms of those resources have changed — from scrolls and codices; to LPs and LaserDiscs; to e-books, electronic databases and open data sets. Libraries have had at least to comprehend, if not become a key node within, evolving systems of media production and distribution. Consider the medieval scriptoria where manuscripts were produced; the evolution of the publishing industry and book trade after Gutenberg; the rise of information technology and its webs of wires, protocols and regulations. 1 At every stage, the contexts — spatial, political, economic, cultural — in which libraries function have shifted; so they are continuously reinventing themselves and the means by which they provide those vital information services.

Libraries have also assumed a host of ever-changing social and symbolic functions. They have been expected to symbolize the eminence of a ruler or state, to integrally link “knowledge” and “power” — and, more recently, to serve as “community centers,” “public squares” or “think tanks.” Even those seemingly modern metaphors have deep histories. The ancient Library of Alexandria was a prototypical think tank, 2 and the early Carnegie buildings of the 1880s were community centers with swimming pools and public baths, bowling alleys, billiard rooms, even rifle ranges, as well as book stacks. 3 As the Carnegie funding program expanded internationally — to more than 2,500 libraries worldwide — secretary James Bertram standardized the design in his 1911 pamphlet “Notes on the Erection of Library Buildings,” which offered grantees a choice of six models, believed to be the work of architect Edward Tilton. Notably, they all included a lecture room.

In short, the library has always been a place where informational and social infrastructures intersect within a physical infrastructure that (ideally) supports that program.

Now we are seeing the rise of a new metaphor: the library as “platform” — a buzzy word that refers to a base upon which developers create new applications, technologies and processes. In an influential 2012 article in Library Journal, David Weinberger proposed that we think of libraries as “open platforms” — not only for the creation of software, but also for the development of knowledge and community. 4 Weinberger argued that libraries should open up their entire collections, all their metadata, and any technologies they’ve created, and allow anyone to build new products and services on top of that foundation. The platform model, he wrote, “focuses our attention away from the provisioning of resources to the foment” — the “messy, rich networks of people and ideas” — that “those resources engender.” Thus the ancient Library of Alexandria, part of a larger museum with botanical gardens, laboratories, living quarters and dining halls, was a platform not only for the translation and copying of myriad texts and the compilation of a magnificent collection, but also for the launch of works by Euclid, Archimedes, Eratosthenes and their peers."



"Partly because of their skill in reaching populations that others miss, libraries have recently reported record circulation and visitation, despite severe budget cuts, decreased hours and the threatened closure or sale of “underperforming” branches. 9 Meanwhile the Pew Research Center has released a series of studies about the materials and services Americans want their libraries to provide. Among the findings: 90 percent of respondents say the closure of their local public library would have an impact on their community, and 63 percent describe that impact as “major.”"



"Again, we need to look to the infrastructural ecology — the larger network of public services and knowledge institutions of which each library is a part. How might towns, cities and regions assess what their various public (and private) institutions are uniquely qualified and sufficiently resourced to do, and then deploy those resources most effectively? Should we regard the library as the territory of the civic mind and ask other social services to attend to the civic body? The assignment of social responsibility isn’t so black and white — nor are the boundaries between mind and body, cognition and affect — but libraries do need to collaborate with other institutions to determine how they leverage the resources of the infrastructural ecology to serve their publics, with each institution and organization contributing what it’s best equipped to contribute — and each operating with a clear sense of its mission and obligation."



"Libraries need to stay focused on their long-term cultural goals — which should hold true regardless of what Google decides to do tomorrow — and on their place within the larger infrastructural ecology. They also need to consider how their various infrastructural identities map onto each other, or don’t. Can an institution whose technical and physical infrastructure is governed by the pursuit of innovation also fulfill its obligations as a social infrastructure serving the disenfranchised? What ethics are embodied in the single-minded pursuit of “the latest” technologies, or the equation of learning with entrepreneurialism?

As Zadie Smith argued beautifully in the New York Review of Books, we risk losing the library’s role as a “different kind of social reality (of the three dimensional kind), which by its very existence teaches a system of values beyond the fiscal.” Barbara Fister, a librarian at Gustavus Adolphus College, offered an equally eloquent plea for the library as a space of exception:
Libraries are not, or at least should not be, engines of productivity. If anything, they should slow people down and seduce them with the unexpected, the irrelevant, the odd and the unexplainable. Productivity is a destructive way to justify the individual’s value in a system that is naturally communal, not an individualistic or entrepreneurial zero-sum game to be won by the most industrious.


Libraries, she argued, “will always be at a disadvantage” to Google and Amazon because they value privacy; they refuse to exploit users’ private data to improve the search experience. Yet libraries’ failure to compete in efficiency is what affords them the opportunity to offer a “different kind of social reality.” I’d venture that there is room for entrepreneurial learning in the library, but there also has to be room for that alternate reality where knowledge needn’t have monetary value, where learning isn’t driven by a profit motive. We can accommodate both spaces for entrepreneurship and spaces of exception, provided the institution has a strong epistemic framing that encompasses both. This means that the library needs to know how to read itself as a social-technical-intellectual infrastructure."



"In libraries like BiblioTech — and the Digital Public Library of America — the collection itself is off-site. Do patrons wonder where, exactly, all those books and periodicals and cloud-based materials live? What’s under, or floating above, the “platform”? Do they think about the algorithms that lead them to particular library materials, and the conduits and protocols through which they access them? Do they consider what it means to supplant bookstacks with server stacks — whose metal racks we can’t kick, lights we can’t adjust, knobs we can’t fiddle with? Do they think about the librarians negotiating access licenses and adding metadata to “digital assets,” or the engineers maintaining the servers? With the increasing recession of these technical infrastructures — and the human labor that supports them — further off-site, behind the interface, deeper inside the black box, how can we understand the ways in which those structures structure our intellect and sociality?

We need to develop — both among library patrons and librarians themselves — new critical capacities to understand the distributed physical, technical and social architectures that scaffold our institutions of knowledge and program our values. And we must consider where those infrastructures intersect — where they should be, and perhaps aren’t, mutually reinforcing one another. When do our social obligations compromise our intellectual aspirations, or vice versa? And when do those social or intellectual aspirations for the library exceed — or fail to fully exploit — the capacities of our architectural and technological infrastructures? Ultimately, we need to ensure that we have a strong epistemological framework — a narrative that explains how the library promotes learning and stewards knowledge — so that everything hangs together, so there’s some institutional coherence. We need to sync the library’s intersecting infrastructures so that they work together to support our shared intellectual and ethical goals."
shannonmattern  2014  libraries  infrastructure  access  accessibility  services  government  civics  librarians  information  ethics  community  makerspaces  privacy  safety  learning  openstudioproject  education  lcproject  zadiesmith  barbarafister  seattle  nyc  pittsburgh  culture  google  neoliberalism  knowledge  diversity  inequality  coworking  brooklyn  nypl  washingtondc  architecture  design  hackerlabs  hackerspaces  annebalsamo  technology  chicago  ncsu  books  mexicocity  mexicodf  davidadjaye  social  socialinfrastructure  ala  intellectualfreedom  freedom  democracy  publicgood  public  lifelonglearning  saltlakecity  marellusturner  partnerships  toyoito  refuge  cities  ericklinenberg  economics  amazon  disparity  mediaproduction  readwrite  melvildewey  df 
december 2014 by robertogreco
Teddy Cruz to Ted Cruz: Tear Down That Wall | Creative Time Reports
"In an open letter, the renowned urbanist urges the Republican senator to embrace immigration reform—and the creative intelligence of immigrant communities."



"We should recognize and celebrate the innovations of immigrants, because their tactics of survival and self-made entrepreneurship form the core of a more emancipatory idea of the American dream. As an urbanist I look at the complex networks of informal economic exchange and mixed-use housing in immigrant communities and am compelled to ask: How can the human capacity and creative intelligence embedded in migrant communities be amplified to rethink sustainability? Can a cross-border citizen—say, someone who lives in Tijuana and works in San Diego—bring about an idea of citizenship rooted in the shared values and interests between two divided cities? How can immigrant communities help us think about strengthening the social ties and economic landscapes of all our communities, particularly in border cities where American families go back generations?

Because of the opportunities opened up by border territories, I take a stand against your anti-democratic legislation, Senator Cruz. The extremist cultural war that you and your party have waged against the ethical imperative for shared values will only solidify our nation’s global isolation. Do you really have the audacity to claim that undocumented immigrants, the poorest and most marginalized human beings dwelling among us, are the greatest threat to our American way of life? Even after studies have shown that our current deportation program has had “no observable effect on the overall crime rate”? Ultimately a society that is anti-taxes, anti-immigrants, anti-government and anti–public infrastructure only commits civic (and economic) suicide. If we do not reverse the polarizing policies spearheaded primarily by your party, they will lead to the obsolescence of the United States as a global leader in defining how a pluralistic democracy should work.

The truth of the matter is that in today’s world we cannot go it alone—nor can we impose our will on others by force. The problems of Mexico and Central America are ours too. The problems of Ferguson, MO, and other communities with marginalized populations are not isolated from the halls of Washington. We cannot wish away the problems of such places with guns and fences; instead we must listen to, and cooperate with, those most affected by our policies.

"Empathy, of the sort promised on the Statue of Liberty’s plaque, must be at the center of today’s debates. I believe that an absence of empathy also entails a lack of care for ourselves, because we can always find ourselves in the place of others. For this reason, economic and urban growth cannot come at the expense of social equity. The drive to privatize cannot overrun public infrastructure. Mistrust of government cannot undermine the need to protect our shared values. And your hollow notions of freedom and progress, Senator Cruz, cannot and must not subordinate our collective responsibilities to individual self-interest.

Please consider this point, Senator Cruz: immigrants are not threats; they may in fact be our best teachers. So let’s be pragmatic and find an intelligent and just process to provide a path to citizenship for the 11 million undocumented workers who are already here with us in the United States. They are not returning willingly to the violence and oppression that they escaped, and they are an economic and cultural engine for our country—an engine that you and I have been lucky to be part of as immigrants, documented or not."

[via: http://jonerichall.com/post/103404504479/its-time-for-a-new-border-narrative-based-on-reality ]
teddycruz  tedcruz  2014  border  borders  immigration  economics  urbanism  urbanplanning  urban  cities  militarization  infrastructure  policy  politics  us  immigrants  democracy 
november 2014 by robertogreco
Metafoundry 15: Scribbled Leatherjackets
[Update 23 Jan 2015: a new version of this is now at The Atlantic: http://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2015/01/why-i-am-not-a-maker/384767/ ]

"HOMO FABBER: Every once in a while, I am asked what I ‘make’. When I attended the Brighton Maker Faire in September, a box for the answer was under my name on my ID badge. It was part of the XOXO Festival application for 2013; when I saw the question, I closed the browser tab, and only applied later (and eventually attended) because of the enthusiastic encouragement of friends. I’m always uncomfortable identifying myself as a maker. I'm uncomfortable with any culture that encourages you take on an entire identity, rather than to express a facet of your own identity (‘maker’, rather than ‘someone who makes things’). But I have much deeper concerns.

Walk through a museum. Look around a city. Almost all the artifacts that we value as a society were made by or at the the order of men. But behind every one is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in its various aspects—that is mostly performed by women. As a teenager, I read Ayn Rand on how any work that needed to be done day after day was meaningless, and that only creating new things was a worthwhile endeavour. My response to this was to stop making my bed every day, to the distress of my mother. (While I admit the possibility of a misinterpretation, as I haven’t read Rand’s writing since I was so young my mother oversaw my housekeeping, I have no plans to revisit it anytime soon.) The cultural primacy of making, especially in tech culture—that it is intrinsically superior to not-making, to repair, analysis, and especially caregiving—is informed by the gendered history of who made things, and in particular, who made things that were shared with the world, not merely for hearth and home.

Making is not a rebel movement, scrappy individuals going up against the system. While the shift might be from the corporate to the individual (supported, mind, by a different set of companies selling things), and from what Ursula Franklin describes as prescriptive technologies to ones that are more holistic, it mostly reinscribes familiar values, in slightly different form: that artifacts are important, and people are not.

In light of this history, it’s unsurprising that coding has been folded into ‘making’. Consider the instant gratification of seeing ‘hello, world’ on the screen; it’s nearly the easiest possible way to ‘make’ things, and certainly one where failure has a very low cost. Code is 'making' because we've figured out how to package it up into discrete units and sell it, and because it is widely perceived to be done by men. But you can also think about coding as eliciting a specific, desired set of behaviours from computing devices. It’s the Searle’s 'Chinese room' take on the deeper, richer, messier, less reproducible, immeasurably more difficult version of this that we do with people—change their cognition, abilities, and behaviours. We call the latter 'education', and it’s mostly done by underpaid, undervalued women.

When new products are made, we hear about exciting technological innovation, which are widely seen as worth paying (more) for. In contrast, policy and public discourse around caregiving—besides education, healthcare comes immediately to mind—are rarely about paying more to do better, and are instead mostly about figuring out ways to lower the cost. Consider the economics term ‘Baumol's cost disease’: it suggests that it is somehow pathological that the time and energy taken by a string quartet to prepare for a performance--and therefore the cost--has not fallen in the same way as goods, as if somehow people and what they do should get less valuable with time (to be fair, given the trajectory of wages in the US over the last few years in real terms, that seems to be exactly what is happening).

It's not, of course, that there's anything wrong with making (although it’s not all that clear that the world needs more stuff). It's that the alternative to making is usually not doing nothing—it's nearly always doing things for and with other people, from the barista to the Facebook community moderator to the social worker to the surgeon. Describing oneself as a maker—regardless of what one actually or mostly does—is a way of accruing to oneself the gendered, capitalist benefits of being a person who makes products.

I am not a maker. In a framing and value system that is about creating artifacts, specifically ones you can sell, I am a less valuable human. As an educator, the work I do is, at least superficially, the same year after year. That's because all of the actual change is at the interface between me, my students, and the learning experiences I design for them. People have happily informed me that I am a maker because I use phrases like 'design learning experiences', which is mistaking what I do for what I’m actually trying to elicit and support. The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.

My graduate work in materials engineering was all about analysing and characterizing biological tissues, mostly looking at disease states and interventions and how they altered the mechanical properties of bone, including addressing a public health question for my doctoral research. My current education research is mostly about understanding the experiences of undergraduate engineering students so we can do a better job of helping them learn. I think of my brilliant and skilled colleagues in the social sciences, like Nancy Baym at Microsoft Research, who does interview after interview followed by months of qualitative analysis to understand groups of people better. None of these activities are about ‘making’.

I educate. I analyse. I characterize. I critique. Almost everything I do these days is about communicating with others. To characterize what I do as 'making' is either to mistake the methods—the editorials, the workshops, the courses, even the materials science zine I made—for the purpose. Or, worse, to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminishing their own agency and role in sensemaking, as if their learning is something I impose on them.

In a recent newsletter, Dan Hon wrote, "But even when there's this shift to Makers (and with all due deference to Getting Excited and Making Things), even when "making things" includes intangibles now like shipped-code, there's still this stigma that feels like it attaches to those-who-don't-make. Well, bullshit. I make stuff." I understand this response, but I'm not going to call myself a maker. Instead, I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else. Instead of calling myself a maker, I'm proud to stand with the caregivers, the educators, those that analyse and characterize and critique, everyone who fixes things and all the other people who do valuable work with and for others, that doesn't result in something you can put in a box and sell."

[My response on Twitter:

Storified version: https://storify.com/rogre/on-the-invisible-infrastructure-of-often-intangibl

and as a backup to that (but that doesn't fit the container of what Pinboard will show you)…

“Great way to start my day: @debcha on invisible infrastructure of (often intangible) labor, *not* making, & teaching.”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536601349756956672

“[pause to let you read and to give you a chance to sign up for @debcha’s Metafoundry newsletter http://tinyletter.com/metafoundry ]”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536601733791633408

““behind every…[maker] is an invisible infrastructure of labour—primarily caregiving, in…various aspects—…mostly performed by women” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602125107605505

“See also Maciej Cegłowski on Thoreau. https://static.pinboard.in/xoxo_talk_thoreau.htm https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eky5uKILXtM”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602602431995904

““Thoreau had all these people, mostly women, who silently enabled the life he thought he was heroically living for himself.” —M. Cegłowski”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536602794786963458

“And this reminder from @anotherny [Frank Chimero] that we should acknowledge and provide that support: “Make donuts too.”” http://frankchimero.com/blog/the-inferno-of-independence/
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536603172244967424

“small collection of readings (best bottom up) on emotional labor, almost always underpaid, mostly performed by women https://pinboard.in/u:robertogreco/t:emotionallabor”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536603895087128576

““The appropriate metaphor for education, as Ursula Franklin has pointed out, is a garden, not the production line.” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536604452065513472

““to describe what I do as 'making' other people, diminish[es] their own agency & role in sensemaking” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536604828705648640

“That @debcha line gets at why Taylor Mali’s every-popular “What Teachers Make” has never sat well with me. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RxsOVK4syxU”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536605134185177088

““I call bullshit on the stigma, and the culture and values behind it that reward making above everything else.” —@debcha”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536605502805798912

“This all brings me back to Margaret Edson’s 2008 Commencement Address at Smith College. http://www.smith.edu/events/commencement_speech2008.php + https://vimeo.com/1085942”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536606045200588803

“Edson’s talk is about classroom teaching. I am forever grateful to @CaseyG for pointing me there (two years ago on Tuesday).”
https://twitter.com/rogre/status/536606488144248833

““Bringing nothing, producing nothing, expecting nothing, withholding … [more]
debchachra  2014  making  makers  makermovement  teaching  howweteach  emotionallabor  labor  danhon  scubadiving  support  ursulafranklin  coding  behavior  gender  cv  margaretedson  caseygollan  care  caretaking  smithcollege  sensemaking  agency  learning  howwelearn  notmaking  unproduct  frankchimero  maciejceglowski  metafoundry  independence  interdependence  canon  teachers  stigma  gratitude  thorough  infrastructure  individualism  invisibility  critique  criticism  fixing  mending  analysis  service  intangibles  caregiving  homemaking  maciejcegłowski 
november 2014 by robertogreco
The Good Life is a fiction — Medium
"We offload physical effort onto our technologies, but are hence increasingly obliged to engage in other forms of labour in order to sustain the infrastuctures on which those technologies depend; the increasing interdependencies of infrastructure act as multipliers of technological effectiveness, but as they do so they push us further out onto the brittle, skinny branches of the technological path-dependency tree."

For example: to run a tractor, you need diesel, which in turn requires the entire Byzantine global supply chain of the petrochemical industry (not to mention the global military-industrial complex with which it is locked in a seemingly inextricable symbiotic embrace); the electronic components in the tractor’s GPS required small but crucial quantities of the increasingly well-named rare earth metals, plus copper, aluminium, and a whole bunch of other interestingly toxic or inaccessible things; ideas, materials and various forms of energy are collected, processed, distributed and harnessed in countless complex and unseen ways before you can observe them manifest as a tractor ploughing a field. So if you’re really going back to the land, you can’t use any of that stuff, because in doing so you are extending your footprint far beyond your little croft. Perhaps you can find a local blacksmith with whom to barter for some basic tools — but where did he get those pigs of iron from, hmm? Whence came the hardwood of the handles, the coal that fuels the forge? How was it gathered, transported?

The problem here is infrastructure — or, more accurately, the illegibility thereof. I’ve unpacked this idea at greater length already, but for now it suffices to say that infrastructure is as old as argriculture, perhaps even as old as civilisation itself, and as such is one of the great unquestioned assumptions of our lives. You can perform an analysis much like the one I just performed on the tractor on pretty much anything and everything you touch and see in your everyday life — and I recommend you do so, even if just as an occasional exercise, because you will be equipping yourself with a pragmatic wisdom for the troubled years to come. It’s the antidote to Milton Friedman’s libertopian magical thinking about pencils: the market thinks about resources, capital and labour so you don’t have to!

The market makes infrastructure illegible, because everyone’s a sucker for a good magic trick, and who wants to think about where pencils come from?

In order for you to not need to know where pencils come from, many hundreds or thousands of people — hell, maybe even more — have to know a very great deal about where pencils come from. You pay the market price for a pencil because that is the cost of the pencil being Someone Else’s Problem.

But the infrastructural gotcha doesn’t just restrict you from using labour-saving devices; agriculture is even more deeply tied into global supply chains and economic flows than that. Centuries of selective breeding and, more recently, genetic engineering, have produced seed stock for growing plants that resist pests, that yield more or better fruits or seeds, that grow taller and stronger and more tightly, more times per year. But those breeds may be dependent on fertilisers, which are a product of the international chemical industry; they may require more water per hectare than is available in the immediate area, and which must be piped from elsewhere; they may need to be grown in specialist greenhouses with energy-hungry climate control systems, or to be shipped to an optimal market via one or more transport infratructures; they may require chilling or freezing before they make it to the consumer’s household, where they may require further chilling or freezing. In short, the agricultural yield of a plot of land is amplified hugely by the technological multipliers of global infrastructure; remove the influence of that infrastructure, and the yield drops spectacularly, to a point where there is nowhere near enough arable land on the surface of this planet to feed all the people currently living on it.

This is why we can’t go backwards, any more than we can keep running blindly forwards.

To detechnologise and deurbanise the human species and return to its mythological and romanticised agrarian roots, it would be necessary for the vast majority of the human species to die in a very short period of time. Ironically enough, this may well be exactly what comes to pass if we cannot solve the existential crises which solutionism and hairshirt primitivism alike both claim to and fail to address. Over-optimised and hyper-cybernetic systems running at capacity are prone to sudden phase changes and cascading chain-reaction failures; if solutionism simply kicks that can a bit further down the road, then primitivism chooses to pretend it never drank anything that came from a can. Both positions suffer from the same terminal lack of reflexivity that eats like a cancer at the heart of contemporary political discourse: a desperate denialist refusal to consider the wider context from which these problems have emerged."



"If I was to sum up what the Viridian Movement meant to me in practical terms, I’d say it taught me that the answer to bad technology is neither more technology or no technology, but better technology.

More technology is our current solutionist paradigm: if cars pollute, then we’ll make electric cars that displace the pollution somewhere we can’t see it; if cars kill people and clog cities, then we’ll add expert systems and automation to them, so that the roads can handle even more traffic than ever before. More technology has been our approach since the industrial revolution; it’s the approach that has bequeathed us rising global temperatures, psychotic emergent behaviours in stock markets, increasing alienation from our labour, from our world, from each other.

But no technology is pure reactionism, a refusal to acknowledge technology’s role in making your life something other than three score years and change of relentless, thankless labour. No technology is the cry of those who are, unwittingly, more dependent upon technology than anyone else; it is not a cry you will hear in squats, townships and refugee camps, but in leafy suburbs and expensively pristine tourist destinations. No technology is the cry of unchecked privilege, of bleeding-heart middle-class liberalism, of sublimated Puritan guilt manifesting as Protestant condescension, of ignorance mistaking itself for concern.

And better technology?

The first step toward better technology is to make a clear distinction between better technology and more technology.

The second is to realise that better technology doesn’t necessarily mean thinking about what a technology does or how it does it, but about why you wanted the technology in the first place, and what you definitely don’t want it to do; to start and finish every design or strategy by resituating it in its contexts, local and global alike.

The third step toward better technology is to realise that all technologies are effectively hyperspecialised extensions of our infrastructures; to not further obscure and occlude the supply chains and networks in which our lives are embedded, but to expose them, celebrate them, admire and fear and reimagine them; to recognise the role of infrastructure as the sole mediator between our species and the environment which both sustains and threatens us, and as the ultimate arbiter of our civilisational futurity.

The way out is through."
2013  paulgrahamraven  viridianmovement  technology  primitivism  solutionism  technosolutionism  reactionism  rural  urban  infrastructure  future  sustainability  climatechange  efficiency  systemsthinking  agriculture  behavior  complexity  simplicity 
november 2014 by robertogreco
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