Would a biker ride an electric motorcycle?

A look at how our perceptions govern what we might expect  others to do rather than what we might do ourselves? Would you ride an electric motorcycle? I would not as I think any type of  motorcycle dangerous in our climate and considering the road sense of many of our drivers here in Southern Africa. From Smart Planet by David Worthington

Imagine credit: Orphino

Orphino is one of several start-ups that are attempting to popularize the electric powered motorcycle; its recently announced model resembles a roadster, and tops out at 75 miles per hour. The burning question is whether motorcycle enthusiasts would really buy it.

An electric chopper is hugely contradictory to the motorcycle’s classic outlaw image, but many of today’s riders care much less about appearances than pragmatism and price. An Orphino will take you 60 miles on a single charge, and breaks the oil habit.

I asked some of my friends who already own bikes whether they would consider riding the Orphino, and was surprised by their answers: a resounding yes, with the caveat that it would not be suitable for the occasional weekend long excursion.

An urban denizen in his early 40’s responded that he would consider riding one around Philadelphia, while a baby boomer aged family friend from my hometown of Churchville, Pennsylvania, thought that the Orphino’s range was ideal for most riders.

“75 is pretty decent,” said the family friend. “The reality is that most guys who ride don’t ride a lot of miles at any given time. I ride 13 miles to work. Most ride normally 30-50 miles.”

Interestingly, my urban friend’s observations that the bike might be great for the streets of Philadelphia mirrors the findings of a recent Pike Research study that concluded electric motorcycles and scooters will bridge the gap between rapidly increasing density and inadequate transit infrastructure in growing cities.

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In praise of Wikipedia – Wiki birthday to you

If you have found that a Wikipedia reference for your Masters or PhD dissertation doesn’t quite cut it – I still reckon its where you might start if you are searching Google’s incredible “About 1,200,000,000 results (0.08 seconds)” for a search on Wikipedia itself or any other  topic you hadn’t even heard of yesterday – a homage and the perennial questions from The Economist.com, nicely set out  with the familiar superscript tags one sees in a wikipedia entry:

It is an astonishing success story [Further explanation needed]. On paper, the idea that volunteers could collectively produce the largest and most popular encyclopedia the world has ever seen sounds implausible. Surely reference works need to be compiled by experts [Disputed]? Yet Wikipedia now has over 17m articles, 3.5m of them in English, and its popularity—it is one of the ten biggest sites on the web and is used by around 400m people each month—shows how much people value it. As well as being a useful reference work, Wikipedia is also the most striking example of the idea that volunteers working together online can collectively produce something valuable. Not everyone can contribute to (or even understand) open-source software projects, but anyone can see how Wikipedia’s “crowdsourcing” model works. It showed that the wisdom of the masses could be harnessed, inspiring many other crowdsourced projects—a further reason to celebrate its success [This article reads like an editorial or opinion piece and may require cleanup].

For all Wikipedia’s achievements, however, it inspires three worries: that it contains too many inaccuracies; that it is not financially sustainable; and that it has lost touch with its founding ideal of being open to all [Verification needed].
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Reporters all – Bulletins for the future

A recent article from The Economist.com showing how even the major media are shaking over the impact of the internet and grappling with how to deal with it – as some are closing their doors ever more tightly about what can be shared over digital media and what is their own exclusive territory – others are opening their doors to all and sundry – I venture that within this year a much larger shakeout will see many stalwart media icons disappearing – sadly for me as I am still a hard-copy junky and lover of lush big image printed eye-candy. Here is commentary that these same media are taking back by relying or at least using the net as their source – used to be CNN’s correspondent on the street – now its more likely to be you or me! What this does to our cities remains to be seen, and how in our parts (i.e. the developing world)  newspapers are growing – I wonder how much of that growth is of tabloids with the morals of  the recently defunct “News of the World”?

The internet has turned the news industry upside down, making it more participatory, social, diverse and partisan—as it used to be before the arrival of the mass media, says Tom Standage

For consumers, the internet has made the news a far more participatory and social experience. Non-journalists are acting as sources for a growing number of news organisations, either by volunteering information directly or by posting comments, pictures or video that can be picked up and republished. Journalists initially saw this as a threat but are coming to appreciate its benefits, though not without much heart-searching. Some organisations have enlisted volunteers to gather or sift data, creating new kinds of “crowdsourced” journalism. Readers can also share stories with their friends, and the most popular stories cause a flood of traffic as recommendations ripple across social networks. Referrals from social networks are now the fastest-growing source of traffic for many news websites. Readers are being woven into the increasingly complex news ecosystem as sources, participants and distributors. “They don’t just consume news, they share it, develop it, add to it—it’s a very dynamic relationship with news,” says Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the Huffington Post, a news website in the vanguard of integrating news with social media.

As well as making Twitter, Facebook and Google part of the news ecosystem, the internet has also made possible entirely new kinds of specialist news organisations. It has allowed WikiLeaks, for example, to accept documents anonymously and publish them to a global audience, while floating in cyberspace above national jurisdictions, operated by a small, nomadic team. Other newcomers include a host of not-for-profit news organisations that rely on philanthropic funding and specialise in particular kinds of journalism. Many of these new outfits collaborate with traditional news organisations, taking advantage of their broad reach and trusted, established brands.

All these new inhabitants of the news ecosystem have brought an unprecedented breadth and diversity of news and opinion to the business. This has cast new light on a long-running debate about the politics of journalism: when there are so many sources, does political objectivity become less important?

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Drive a lot? Housing density may not be to blame (via Per Square Mile)

Almost certainly the idea that simply increasing density will reduce car usage again brings forth the mistaken idea that simple short term solutions can mitigate complex long term effects and is a result of the common planning fallacy that common location implies community – while this has been shown not to have even been true in the rural villages of past ages, we cling to these design simplicities rather than engaging with the complexity of the real city.

Drive a lot? Housing density may not be to blame Pushing high density living may seem like a good way to get people out of their cars—saving them money, curbing emissions, and reducing oil dependence—but densification may not be a silver bullet, according to one recent study. The authors dug into the National Household Transportation Survey to examine per household vehicle ownership rates, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and fuel consumption. While the results are by no means comprehensive or con … Read More

via Per Square Mile

A Landscape Redone (via The Dirt)

This redesign of one-year old public landscape even before it was established leads to many questions, i.e. for who is the designer working: the client or the public?, to what extent did the client understand the design, and to what extent did the Landscape Architect respond to the clients needs – often it seems to me that our self appointed role as public culture arbiters is in conflict with the role we are employed in as designers.

A Landscape Redone Blair Kamin, architecture critic for The Chicago Tribune, said Chicago has greatly benefited from its recent high-profile landscape architecture commissions, including Lurie Garden in Millennium Park and the plaza at Trump International Hotel and Tower. While Lurie Garden created a "stylized prairie" in the midst of the city, the plaza evoked a "lush riverbank at the base of an enormous steel and glass skyscraper." Now, the Trump skyscraper's man … Read More

via The Dirt

The Long Road to Sustainable Cities (via The Dirt)

It seems that even with fragmented and partial approaches to sustainability it is possible for cities to achieve results that might contribute to long term resilience and it is encouraging to get published news of this, culture changes slowly and politicians who control the funds need proof that what is proposed will yield results as well as what not to do.

The Long Road to Sustainable Cities "Sustainability in America’s Cities: Creating the Green Metropolis," edited by Matthew Slavin, founder and Principal of Sustaingrϋp, is a collection of case studies that chart the progress of sustainable urban development in eight cities across the United States. The case studies explain how these cities have applied innovative strategies and invested in climate change mitigation and adaptation, clean energy, green buildings, sustainable transpor … Read More

via The Dirt

IDEO Designer Proud of Shophouse Office in Singapore, Curious About Adaptable Use (via TownhouseCenter.org)

The Asian shophouse is an urban model that was common here in the Victorian era and a common feature of most colonial small towns , it is once again found in our informal settlements, albeit in a different form, it is once again a key element in the creation of mixed use urban environments, but in most current zoning and planning laws is not legal – it is interesting that it should be afeature of the highly contrived Singapore landscape – we saw many of them being “gentrified” in the middle eighties when we were there and its was sad how the local interesting ethnic environments were being “sanitized”…

IDEO Designer Proud of Shophouse Office in Singapore, Curious About Adaptable Use From the Curiosity Chronicles writer Paul Bennett: "I’m sitting in one right now writing this, so it seems to make sense that today we take a look at an Asian architectural curiosity, the shophouse.  A shophouse is a vernacular architectural building type that is commonly seen in many parts of urban Southeast Asia.  Typically, shophouses consist of shops on the ground floor which open up to a public arcade or 'five-foot way', and which have resid … Read More

via TownhouseCenter.org

Social Enterprise: The Missing Stage of Economic Development

From [polis] an excellent post on the impacts and possible futures of socal enterprise as a cure for the ills and evils of donor aid by Melanie Friedrichs who is a Polis summer intern.

Melanie Friedrichs with members of Wa Nak Jariioo, in the neighborhood of Grand Dakar, in Dakar, Senegal.

For years, the majority of first-world academics, politicians, and practitioners have viewed economic development as a two-stage process. When a country or region is too poor to help itself, offer aid: start schools, open clinics, build infrastructure to facilitate basic trade and communication, and do it all for free. After the place has been spoon-fed on first-world donations for a few years, see if it can walk. Stop aid, cut NGO services, and treat it like an adult — a fully capable (and competitive) member of the global economy.

Unfortunately, places — like people — don’t grow from babies directly into adults. Few, if any, countries have ever leapt from aid to independence, and some, as author Dambisa Moyo claims in “Dead Aid,” are economically stunted by too many free goods and services. Social enterprise could be an intermediate step, a driver of development that could bridge the gulf between aid and industry.

Social Venture Partners Rhode Island (SVPRI), the small non-profit where I currently work, defines social enterprises as “mission driven initiatives that apply market-based strategies to maximize social impact.”

This definition is one of many. Like the term “green,” “social enterprise” has been applied to or appropriated by groups of incredible diversity. Usually, it refers to organizations that mix money-making and social impact, two poles on a wide scale that encompasses everything from Girl Scouts selling cookies to the Goldman Sachs Charitable Gift Fund. An important faction maintains that the term can apply to any innovative solution to a social problem.

The spectrum of social enterprise … according to some definitions.

Social enterprise can be glamorous. Some of the most prominent players in the field are boutique consulting and venture capital firms that focus exclusively on non-profits, whose employees enjoy the comfort of air-conditioned, well-connected offices in New York or London as well as the self-satisfaction of serving the greater good. These firms, like Social Finance,New Profit, or the IGNIA fund, focus on improving the “social return on investment” — making every last dollar of donor money count. These firms are making an impact, directly on their clients and indirectly on the non-profit sector, by contributing to new standards of accountability and efficiency.

However, the greatest potential benefit of social enterprise may lie on the less glamorous side of the spectrum. There are thousands of small businesses that may never attract the attention of big-shot funders or employ more than five people, but that nonetheless marry social mindfulness with real income, employment, and economic development. Most of these micro-enterprises can’t make it without some donations, but unlike charities, their earned-income strategies grow or maintain the donor dollar while creating what every economy needs: new business.

In the developed world, micro social enterprises have some established streams of funding and support. For example, SVPRI runs an eight-week incubator program to launch and grow micro social enterprises. When they start, most enterprises are just a lone entrepreneur with an idea: a bike shop involved in the community (Recycle-a-Bike), a distributor for maternal health kits (Maternova), a catering business run out of a local soup kitchen (Amos House). The entrepreneurs are often unemployed individuals seeking to give back to their communities and also support themselves and their families.

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Book Review: ‘Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA’

A review of a new book by iconic landscape architects SWA from LANDSCAPE+URBANISM reflects the Landscape Urbanism’s intense interest in the infrastructure and hard material of the urban park – I still wonder where the space for the changing roles of people and their needs are in these lucrative control structures? 

Landscape Infrastructure: Case Studies by SWA‘ published in 2011, is edited by the Infrastructure Research Initiative of SWA including Los Angeles office principals Gerdo Aquino and Ying-Yu Hung.  This is supplemented with contributions from Charles Waldheim, Julie Czerniak, Adriaan Geuze, Matthew Skjonsberg and Alexander Robinson.  While ostensibly about landscape infrastructure, this type of book is a new sort of publishing hybrid that has emerged, combining the firm-specific work of a monograph within a more topical subject matter on a particular typology or approach to project work.

I think this may become a new trend in publishing, as it provides firms with the opportunity to showcase work, but also offers a more expansive vehicle for exploration of themes and inclusion of more collaborators, making the book both more widely marketable while putting the work of the firm in the forefront of emerging trends.  This differs somewhat from the Dutch examples and their production of brick-like graphic tomes of research and work.  This collection of essays and case studies benefits from the inclusion of more voices, although is similarly directed at positioning a firm within a certain intellectual and conceptual frame of reference.

This frame of reference, landscape infrastructure, is not altogether new, but is definitely one of the more emerging ideas within landscape architecture and urban design, which is reflected in the description of the book, per the SWA website:

“INFRASTRUCTURE, as we know it, no longer belongs in the exclusive realm of engineers and transportation planners. In the context of our rapidly changing cities and towns, infrastructure is experiencing a paradigm shift where multiple-use programming and the integration of latent ecologies is a primary consideration. Defining contemporary infrastructure requires a multi-disciplinary team of landscape architects, engineers, architects and planners to fully realize the benefits to our cultural and natural systems.”

The book exhibits some of the exploration of these topics, picking up on what Aquino mentions as the aim of SWAs Infrastructure Research Initiative “as a testing ground for engaging and redefining infrastructure in the context of future growth in our cities and towns.” (p.7)  This is echoed by Waldheim, and the research of the firm and the position of infrastructure as a way to “enter contemporary discourse on landscape as a form of urbanism.” (p.9) and is thus connected to the more well-known broader goals of landscape urbanism and other ‘adjectivally modified’ forms of urbanism. (for more on this, read Aquino’s interview on Archinect ‘What is a Park?‘)

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Architectures of Hybrid Migrations (via Free Association Design (F.A.D.))

I wonder how this type of advanced engineering science meshes with the worlds of migration and how the determination of which fish to allow to migrate and which to reject is not modifying the system that it is trying to preserve?

Architectures of Hybrid Migrations Although very likely not submitted to this year's Animal Architecture Awards, the design for the "Selective Water Withdrawal Tower" on The Deschutes River could have been a candidate for the prize, or at minimum, a poignant contribution to forums discussing "the myriad issues arising from the complex interactions between animals and human society", and how such interactions tend to co-shape one another. The Round Butte Selective Water Withdrawal … Read More

via Free Association Design (F.A.D.)