“As Americans grapple with a wide range of societal problems like obesity and other health issues, traffic gridlock and reduced family time, and socially isolated city-centers, we might stop to ask how we got this way and how we can change.”—In our new article, Christopher Breggren looks overseas for the solution to the challenges faced by many US cities. (via thisbigcity)
“For centuries, humans have been creating ever-more complicated systems, from the machines we live with to the informational systems and laws that keep our global civilisation stitched together. Technology continues its fantastic pace of accelerating complexity — offering efficiencies and benefits that previous generations could not have imagined — but with this increasing sophistication and interconnectedness come complicated and messy effects that we can’t always anticipate. It’s one thing to recognise that technology continues to grow more complex, making the task of the experts who build and maintain our systems more complicated still, but it’s quite another to recognise that many of these systems are actually no longer completely understandable. We now live in a world filled with incomprehensible glitches and bugs. When we find a bug in a video game, it’s intriguing, but when we are surprised by the very infrastructure of our society, that should give us pause.”—
Overall I agree with the points here. However I think a surprise at the infrastructure of our society could also be a good thing. What if it gives us pause to marvel? We also focus on negative unintended effects. What about messy effects that are positive?
Don Wood, the CEO of Federal Reality Investment Trust, has said the process of knocking down or converting a mall could take as long as two decades.
"It’s really going to be hard in the next 10 years to knock down that mall and rebuild it into something better because the economics just don’t work," Wood said at a conference in June 2012, according to The Wall Street Journal. A failing mall in a non-affluent market “most likely will just stay there and get worse and worse over the next 20 years.”
What will eventually replace these ghost malls are community colleges, business offices, and health care facilities, according to Green Street Advisors.
Until then, many of these former shopping hubs will continue the gradual process of boarding up windows and turning out the lights, one store after another.
CMSwire asked me to participate in the January topic of the future of collaboration, and in my usual fashion, I suggested it was time to move past collaboration to cooperation:
It’s the year 2014, and we are trying to do today’s jobs with yesterday’s tools.
As we move into a new way of work — one based on more fluid and looser connections, grounded in freethinking, humanist and scientific approaches to the social contract — it’s becoming clear that the traditional model of ‘collaboration tools’ is based around outmoded structures of control rather than the shape of our work today, or the nature of networked sociality. We need a different take on the tools we are using to get work done, one based on open cooperation at the core of our work instead of closed collaboration running alongside it.
Perhaps most important is one fact that isn’t immediately obvious when looking at collaboration tools: their tool architecture features were devised when using such tools was an occasional activity, like reading and writing email. However, in today’s economy, people are always on, and our work tools sit at the center of our work, where we are always engaged. Paradoxically, it is this place — where we see the greatest flow of messages and information — that comes to feel like the “still point of a turning world,” to borrow from T.S. Eliot.
In recent years, enterprise social networks have been developed that attempt to fuse the cooperative following and interaction a la Twitter with the collaborative controls of older work tools, and they haven’t led to some new explosion of productivity. And I think that is because they fail to take into account the shape of our work today, or the nature of networked sociality. A different take on social tools is needed, one based more on open cooperation at the core of our work instead of closed collaboration running alongside our work.
"In 2005, one very small act blew open the concept of urban redevelopment, wrenching it out of the hands of big-city planners and handing it to artists, activists, and, yes, architects. The principals at Rebar, a San Francisco design firm, converted a solitary parking space into a tiny park, complete with sod and a bench (while someone fed the meter), and launched what has become the worldwide PARK(ing) Day phenomenon. By the time Boston city officials issued a request for proposals for similar “parklets” around the city last fall, the do-it-yourself movement known as “tactical urbanism” had moved squarely into the mainstream."
"[O]ur current conception of design is bound up within a pathological form of growth. It is understandably fun to engage in the edgy, attention-getting art-novelties of our consumer-based design culture. But it is silly to suppose that this approach is in any genuine sense progressive, sustainable, or “modern.” In fact it is only reactionary orthodoxy, clinging to a nearly century-old, outmoded conception of industrial modernity. True modernity lies…in a different way of thinking about what it is to design for the full participation of all human beings, for living systems, and for a living planet."
One of last year’s best series of urbanism articles (IMO)
“In today’s world smart growth shouldn’t be considered smart if it doesn’t include green buildings and green infrastructure, if it doesn’t show respect to our historic buildings and local culture, if it doesn’t foster public health, if it isn’t equitable, if it doesn’t pay more attention to stewardship of the earth.”—People Habitat: 25 Ways to Think About Greener, Healthier Cities | by F. Kaid Benfield (via atlurbanist)
A fascinating new study has revealed what many Planetizen readers already know: cities aren’t meant to be experienced from behind the wheel of a car. Researchers at the University of Surrey found that drivers perceive exactly the same things more negatively than those who walk, bike, or take transit, confirming the anecdotal experience of literally every person that’s ever tried to find parking in an urban downtown.
Pacific Standard Magazine has a great write-up describing the results of the study, in which participants were asked to judge the traits of people they saw from a car, transit, bicyclist, or pedestrian perspective:
"The researchers found that participants who saw the video from the perspective of a car rated the actors higher on negative characteristics (threatening, unpleasant) than participants in the other three conditions. Participants who saw the video from the perspective of the pedestrian rated the actors higher on positive characteristics (considerate, well-educated) than those in the car condition."
These findings have a few interesting implications…
These studies, taken together, indicate that cities working to emphasize walkable, transit-oriented communities are laying a strong foundation for continued growth. Improvements that focus on how people interact with cities at a human level, rather than the driving experience, are likely to be the changes that produce the most positive experiences for visitors and new residents. And the more alternatives residents and visitors have for getting around without a car, the fewer negative impressions they’re likely to form of the city.
planetizen: 30.12.13. Why Your Big Move to the Big City May Be Your Last. psmag, 19.12.13. Hoody, goody or buddy?How travel mode affects social perceptions in urban neighbourhoods. Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour Volume 21, November 2013, Pages 219–230
“The projected shift from single-family to multifamily living will likely have many large, long-lasting effects on the U.S. economy…Similarly, the possible shift toward city living may dampen demand for automobiles, highways, and gasoline but increase demand for restaurants, city parks, and high-quality public transit. Households, firms, and governments that correctly anticipate these changes are likely to especially benefit.”—Kansas City Fed senior economist Jordan Rappaport, “The Demographic Shift From Single-Family to Multifamily Housing” | Read more about it on the Wall Street Journal’s economics blog, 1/7/2014 (via atlurbanist)
I think our destination is neither utopia nor dystopia nor status quo, but protopia. Protopia is a state that is better than today than yesterday, although it might be only a little better. Protopia is much much harder to visualize. Because a protopia contains as many new problems as new benefits, this complex interaction of working and broken is very hard to predict.
Today we’ve become so aware of the downsides of innovations, and so disappointed with the promises of past utopias, that we now find it hard to believe even in protopia — that tomorrow will be better than today. We find it very difficult to imagine any kind of future we would want to live in. Name a single science fiction future that is both plausible and desirable?
No one wants to move to the future today. We are avoiding it. We don’t have much desire for life one hundred years from now. Many dread it. That makes it hard to take the future seriously. So we don’t take a generational perspective. We’re stuck in the short now. We also adopt the Singularity perspective: that imagining the future in 100 years is technically impossible. So there is no protopia we are reaching for.
It may be that this future-blindness is simply the inescapable affliction of our modern world. Perhaps at this stage in civilization and technological advance, we enter into permanent and ceaseless future-blindness. Utopia, dystopia, and protopia all disappear. There is only the Blind Now.