Brain Pickings

Posts Tagged ‘cities’

04 MARCH, 2011

Worldchanging: An Updated Vision for a Better World

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Since 2003, Alex Steffen’s nonprofit online magazine Worldchanging has been a beacon of sustainability, social innovation and thought-leadership in bettering our planet’s future. In 2006, this essential toolkit for conscious modern living was packaged in Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century — a densely informative 600-page synthesis of the iconic site, dubbed The Whole Earth Catalog for the iPod generation. At the time, sustainability was just a budding meme, which over the past five years evolved into an essential part, and some would argue a bare minimum, for our cultural ethos. This week, Worldchanging is back with Worldchanging, Revised and Updated Edition: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century — a timely compendium of the smartest strategies and most exciting new tools for building a better future.

One of the book’s most valuable aspects for us, given our deep fascination with and passion for urbanism, is its insightful angle on cities as living organisms capable of catalyzing social change.

The first Worldchanging book looked at the most creative and high-impact solutions available for solving the planet’s most pressing problems. WC2.0 takes the same solutions approach, but raises the bar, asking how we can participate as individuals in creating systemic change.” ~ Alex Steffen

From food justice to carbon-neutral homes to alternative transportation, the Worldchanging, Revised and Updated features 160 noteworthy ideas and vital solutions that maybe, just maybe, offer real, tangible hope for a world we’ve cornered into near-hopeless vulnerability.

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01 MARCH, 2011

Before I Die: Reclaiming Urban Aspiration

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I love the work of artist, designer and TED Fellow Candy Chang. Today, I caught up with her at TED 2011, where she shared her brilliant new project in New Orleans: Before I Die I Want To — an abandoned house turned into a giant chalkboard, on which people share their deepest existential aspirations.

I never expected such an amazing outpouring of responses so quickly. Within 24 hours, the entire wall was completely filled out. And the responses range from humorous to overwhelmingly thoughtful — from ‘be a YouTube sensation’ to ‘go 200 mph’ to ‘be completely myself.’ I hear that people are gathering at the house and it’s stopping traffic. I’m blown away.” ~ Candy Chang

The notion of turning neglected space into an active invitation to engage with your community and get to know your neighbors is a wonderful embodiment of enlightened urbanism. What’s more, it’s a reminder that not all meaningful social platforms are accessed through a screen — an inspired antidote to the Foursquarification of urban social quasi-interaction.

For live coverage of TED 2011 this week, follow my Twitter feed and check Brain Pickings nightly for exclusive photos and speaker quotes. And don’t miss this primer of 5 must-read books by TED 2011 speakers.

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08 FEBRUARY, 2011

Invisible Cities: A Transmedia Mapping Project

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What social media activity has to do with the literal lay of the land.

In December, the now-infamous map of Facebook friendships revealed an uncanny cartography of the world depicted purely through social relationships data. Now, a project by Christian Marc Schmidt and Liangjie Xia is taking the concept ambitiously further: Invisible Cities is a transmedia mapping project, displaying geocoded activity from social networks like Twitter and Flickr within the context of an actual urban map — a visceral, literal embodiment of something VURB‘s Ben Cerveny has called “the city as a platform,” the idea that cities are informational media and living computational systems for urban society.

By revealing the social networks present within the urban environment, Invisible Cities describes a new kind of city — a city of the mind.”

Individual nodes appear whenever real-time activity takes place and the underlying terrain represents aggregate activity. As data accumulates, the landscape morphs into peaks and valleys that represent highs and lows of data density and information activity — a data topography visualization not dissimilar in concept to Aaron Koblin’s Amsterdam SMS project, and also built with Processing.

The interplay between the aggregate and the real-time recreates the kind of dynamics present within the physical world, where the city is both a vessel for and a product of human activity. It is ultimately a parallel city of intersections, discovery, and memory, and a medium for experiencing the physical environment anew.”

Invisible Cities is available as a free download for Mac OS X and Windows — read the instructions and go play on your own.

via Creators Project

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03 FEBRUARY, 2011

The Museum of Possibilities

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What balloons have to do with civic engagement and open-source cities.

We love public space, that priceless petri dish of human interaction. It’s the lifeblood of any city, and the reason we left LA for New York. Unfortunately, much of it remains un- or underutilized, with cities failing to engage people in interacting with and in public space.

To prevent this disconnect when inaugurating its Quartier des Spectacles, the city of Montréal came up with an exceptionally inspired solution: The Museum of Possibilities — a wonderful daylong pop-up installation inviting visitors to share their dreams and visions for the future of the space by jotting down their ideas on pieces of paper and attaching them to colorful balloons.

Others could then vote on the ideas with stickers, collectively choosing the best visions for their shared space.

More than a mere art installation, The Museum of Possibilities became a playful yet actionable poll of public opinion, turning the possibilities into probabilities as the people of Montréal told their city, directly and tangibly, what they’d like to do with the space — a sort of physical, life-sized version of Give a Minute.

UPDATE: Per the comment below, the team behind the project has kindly stepped up: Melissa Mogiat, Mouna Andraos and Kelsey Snook. Find them and more of their fantastic work at Living With Our Time.

via Jake Barton of Local Projects

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