The Small World Experiment – Yahoo & Face book want you!

Yahoo and face book are collaborating with your help to find out if its a small world after all?

“The small world experiment comprised several experiments conducted by Stanley Milgram and other researchers examining theaverage path length for social networks of people in the United States. The research was groundbreaking in that it suggested that human society is a small world type network characterized by short path lengths. The experiments are often associated with the phrase “six degrees of separation,” although Milgram did not use this term himself”:

From Yahoo: The Small World Experiment is designed to test the hypothesis that anyone in the world can get a message to anyone else in just “six degrees of separation” by passing it from friend to friend. Sociologists have tried to prove (or disprove) this claim for decades, but it is still unresolved.

Now, using Facebook we finally have the technology to put the hypothesis to a proper scientific test. By participating in this experiment, you’ll not only get to see how you’re connected to people you might never otherwise encounter, you will also be helping to advance the science of social networks.

Click here to  view the experiment or take part (on our own head be it!)

Scientific American _ Cities Special Issue

The special issue of Scientific American  has a vast range of topical articles on the issues of cities and how they could become “better” and “smarter” both laconic buzz words of media  and big business fixation, most of the content is on line as well as much that is not in the newsstand version – well worth perusing both the online and paper versions.

View the online edition

Essay: The Story of our Food

I often wonder if people know where their food comes from, both where it was grown as well as where it originated from, what’s its “cultural baggage” why is so little food from where you are now – I don’t just mean why is that you don’t eat what grew in the area you now live before people arrived, many places like Cape Town I would be hard pressed to survive on my vegetarian diet, but why the specific combination of foods you and your family grew up on came with them from wherever they originated – most of us don’t live where we were born and yes in most countries of the West pizza is almost the national food of children’s desires. This essay by Maartje Somers is more of a history lesson of the truth about our food or lack of it, from NEXT NATURE  and has a telling lesson in terms of modern debates on globalization and food security: 

Every time we eat a piece of food, we take a bite out of the world. All these small bites tell a dozen stories. A carton of eggs presents the story of contented hens, a bottle of olive oil the tale of Italian grandmothers. Yet these pastoral scenes barely hide the realities of a food system that leaves one billion people starving and another billion overweight. Moving beyond food-based fictions, how should we react to the truth?

It happened in a trendy restaurant. A breadbasket and a small bowl of olives had just been brought to the table. Our hands reached out to take some, when the waitress stopped us. “Wait,” she interrupted, “I have to explain the bread.” Explain the bread? Yes, that one variety of bread had been baked with hard durum wheat from a village just south of Tuscany, the other one came from a bakery slightly north of Amsterdam. The olives were kalamata olives, imported from Thessaloniki, and olivas violadas (olives ‘raped’ by an almond) from Basque Country in Spain. It took the waitress about five minutes to finish her lecture. Then, finally we could dig in.

These days all our food comes with a story to tell. Usually it is the story we want to hear. In the supermarket the story is about the price of food, in a restaurant or delicatessen it is about taste and origin. Very often stories about food focus on authenticity. That is the way food would like to be – authentic and natural – like in the old days when people harvested their own crops. And this is exactly what we want to believe. The jam in my fridge has ‘a natural taste’ and the milk is ‘pure and honest.’ Eat colour, it says on the posters in the street, displaying juicy red peppers. And these shiny vegetables almost jump from the page in the cookbooks by Jamie Oliver and Nigella Lawson, bestsellers the world over. But at the same time we are buying more and more ready-made meals.

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Interface =Time Conceptual interpretations of mediated reality

A review of MoMA’s new exhibition “Talk to Me” by Tom Vanderbilt from The Design Observer Group which investigated the changing nature of human interaction with the surrounding environment  and how that environment is becoming more and more mediated by machines which we are unable to understand;  Hence the environment is becoming more densely laden with symbols while its inhabitants are becoming less able to use their inbuilt apparatus (cognition via senses) to assess the environment – in actual fact the urban environment is thus not richer but in fact poorer in terms of sense data and is actually being “thinned down” more and more – much of the available urban data is control information and feedback in terms of what we are and are not allowed to do there as well as what and where where we should buy the machines which will put us back in touch with “ourselves” albeit the reconditioned selves others want us to be. 

Chris Woebken and Kenichi Okada, Animal Superpowers: Ant, 2007. Photo: Chris Woebken

In his book The Information, James Gleick relays an anecdote from the dawn of telegraphy. A man entered a telegraph office in Bangor, Maine, with a written message he wished to send. The operator pressed a key, then hung the paper on a hook. The patron was perturbed: The message was still there, he argued. How could it have been delivered?

“A message,” Gleick writes, “had seemed to be a physical object.” While that was always an illusion, “now people needed consciously to divorce their conception of the message from the paper on which it is written.” Not only that, but this language — the Morse Telegraphic Alphabet — was no alphabet, notes Gleick. “It did not represent sounds by signs.” It was, rather, a “meta-alphabet, an alphabet once removed.” It was code.

As Gleick describes, telegraphy, “the crossing point between electricity and language — also the interface between device and human — required new ingenuity.” There was the cadre of “operators” trained in this new form, but also an entire industry of compression; language (as later with text messaging) was turned into fragments and stock phrases (e.g., “wmietg” stood for “when may I expect the goods?”) sold via code-books, then into dots and dashes, only then to be reconstituted as words on paper. And a few decades later, it was mostly gone, all those code words and clacks rendered largely obsolete, supplanted by another form of information traveling down the wire: the human voice.

This story came to me as I toured “Talk to Me,” which recently opened at the Museum of Modern Art. Curated by Paola Antonelli and Kate Carmody, and a kind of coda to Antonelli’s 2008 MoMA exhibition “Design and the Elastic Mind,” it aims to explore, through dizzying and occasionally overwhelming range, “the communication between people and things.” As the website notes, “whether openly and actively, or in subtle, subliminal ways, things talk to us, and designers help us develop and improvise the dialogue.”

Telegraphy is interesting in this context not simply because it anticipated some of the themes found in the show — managing the superabundance of information, the creation of a real-time, geographically distant consciousness (weather, news, prices, time itself fused in synchrony), the creation of networks (Gleick: “the earth was being covered, people said, with an iron net-work”), the “gestural interface” of the transmitter (we are now our own telegraph operators, clacking, swooping, squeezing our fingers across our devices), signal-to-noise ratio (garbled telegraphs, like garbled Google Voice transcripts, could send radically varying messages), not to mention questions of secrecy and privacy, or the way technological imperatives might affect the way we talk — long before the Twitter-fication of the language, we had the telegraphization.

Susan Woolf, Taxi Hand Sign Shapes, 2010

But even as we think about communicating with things, telegraphy also reminds us that communication itself is an object; “language,” writes Gleick, “is an instrument.” It does things, it changes things; it is built and it erodes away. A few exhibits here remind us of that: The Taxi Hand Signals, created in South Africa to assist the blind in communicating with drivers (and documented here by anthropologist Susan Woolf, who has further codified the system in a tactile book, where the signs are raised for touch, as well as accompanied by Braille labels); or the Homeless City Guide, hobo-like chalk markings (lo-fi “augmented reality,” of a sort) to “help others read the city” — an encircled “P,” for example, signifying “heavy police presence” — published each month in the magazine The Pavement.

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It is noteworthy that the week that Apple became the worlds largest company by stock market capitalization ( a suspect measure if there ever was one) , they should release the information that their new campus `(read corporate head office) should be officially submitted to the Cupertino City Council from OpenBuildings by Antonina Ilieva.  Looking not unlike an alien craft landed in a forested field, it reminds me of a ‘future” that is forever prejudiced by having been designed in the past…. as science fiction author William Gibson stated “the future has already arrived – its just not evenly distributed yet”

image: Foster + Partners; Apple Inc.

If you love Apple and fine ingenious design as much as we do, you will be thrilled to hear that the beautiful, environmentally-aware Foster + Partners designed new Apple Campus is now one step closer to becoming a reality. The Cupertino City Council has just announced that Apple Inc. has submitted a development proposal for their new Apple Campus. Continue reading

Strelka Institute: Urban Design vs. Dystopia – Rem Koolhaas

Within the framework of a Russian “urban renaissance” a continuation of the critique of current  architecture and its lack of urbanity now radically implemented in a research and and educational program led by Rem Koolhass and OMA amongst other luminaries of the ‘architecture’ profession somewhat ironically in that the critique of complicity in the depletion of meaning in the face of individualistic and materialistic control should find a place in contemporary Russia where the intensity of oligarchic materialism seems at  a peak! This is well worth watching if you are at all interested in relevance and social impact of our design interventions.

Here an exposition of its intent or context in a video of  and in the expanded article from [polis] on the work of this institute

Introduction to Strelka

Jiang Jung, Strelka instructor and chief editor of Urban China, presenting a study of geopolitics and urbanization in Russia and China.

Strelka is located on the Moscow River in an adapted section of the former Red October Chocolate Factory. It was conceived during a casual conversation among friends at the Venice Biennale 2009, based on shared concern over the course of urban development under former mayor Yury Luzhkov. This group of design and media luminaries — including Alexander Mamut, once known as “the Yeltsin family banker” — inspired Rem Koolhaas and OMA/AMOto develop and implement an educational program aimed at preparing designers to address complex problems in Russia and around the world. The institute was announced at last year’s Venice Bienniale and the first group of students began in October.

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China is promoting low-carbon ecocity development as a key priority in the 12th 5-Year Plan

A discussion from Tom M. Wolters on a linkedin group leads to the following article from bURB  by fiona liu which  reflects the incredible speed with which an autocratic top-down planning system can implement radical changes to its system – it remains to be seen if these changes a will in fact be  implemented as designed and that they will give the desired results – but there is no doubt that the Chinese authorities are serious about this – I also wonder how the aspirations and needs of common people are going to be impinged on or squashed by these somewhat grandoise schemes and how Western consultants and firms are willing to rush into these schemes without knowledge of how the norms that they are based on were arrived at – i.e. how were the indicators used arrived at and how do we know they are in fact right? FYP or five year plans have an ominous ring of the Stalinist and Mao years.

Tianjin: the future city

Evolution of Chinese regulation of eco-city: new low-carbon town policy_4th june 2011

China has made the international commitment to reducing carbon intensity by 40% to 45% by 2020. The period from 2005 to 2020 takes in three Five-year plans (FYPs), the 11th, 12th and 13th. (FYPs). FYP is one of China’s most important long-term planning policy tools, which sets down and clarify national strategy, reflecting a key strengths of the socialism is its capacity for long-term, national-level planning – its political continuity. The FYP also represent the feature of Chinese government’s largely top-down management character: central government forces local government to make emissions cuts and, to achieve that, local governments have to enforce power cuts.

In the 11th FYP (2005-2010), China has seen a drop of 19.06% in energy intensity, meaning a drop in carbon intensity of 20% to 21%. Starting from 2005, The 11FYP calls for “building a resource-conserving and environmentally friendly society”, emphasizing the importance of “sound urbanization”, and expressed the intention to pursue a “new pattern for urban development which is resource-conserving, environmentally friendly, economically efficient, and socially harmonious” .

12 FYP addresses urbanization as a central issue, and emphasizes on inclusive growth. FYP projected that from 2011 to 2015, the population living in urban areas will continue to grow and is likely to reach 51.5%. 12 FYP targets at creating 45 million jobs in urban areas, keeping registered urban unemployment below 5% and boosting domestic consumption. As part of the drive to realize these goals, the government will boost investment in “improving people’s livelihood”, for example to built and renovate more apartments for low-income families, and extend the current urban pension schemes to including the 357 million urban residents. 12 FYP aims at 16% cut in energy intensity, corresponding to 17% cut in carbon intensity.

Following the adaptation of the 12 FYP, a new round of revision to the both sets of eco-city guideline in both ministries are expected to come soon. However, experience from Caofeidian and CCTEC shouldn’t be expected to be incorporated into national eco-city guideline very soon.

To support the new urbanization philosophy in the 12 FYP, a set of new regulations

Vice minister of MoHURD Qiu Baoding’s June 27th speeches on Chinese Urban Development and Planning Conference in Yangzhou, Jiangsu Province, indicated the likely direction to this round of revision to the MoHURD defining of eco-cities.

Earlier in the same June, on June 4th, the MoHURD published <Regulations on MoHURD low carbon pilot city (town) application and management> [Mo]. The conditions for applying low-carbon cities and towns laid out in this new regulation are:
1) the planned construction scale of low-carbon cities should be less than 3 square meters, without occupying arable land
2) the location of this eco-city should be within the 30km radiant circle with the center downtown, and optimally it should be within 100 km from big cities.
3) close to express way, railway (or prolonged urban rail tracks), either existing or planned.
4) if it is close to existing road network, the design of this road network should be compliant with the “green transportation” principle
5) working governance mechanism, including system refor, capital and regulation support (no clear statement where the money should come from).

A can view a presentation Low-Carbon Eco-City Construction in China

Ecologists, designers explore new ‘architecture-biology interface’

The air we breathe and the bugs we share are under the scope here and in ways that our intuition has been telling us – we are better served by diversity than lack of it – even in terms of a buildings microbe population – definitely counter intuitive to the current generation of hospital administrators and their architectural specifications …. from smart planet

What if architects designed structures with not only people in mind, but also the microbes that inhabit buildings, too? Is there a way to design environments, namely in the healthcare arena, that are conducive to keeping a beneficial mix of microbes thriving, while also remaining clean? How can biologists and ecologists contribute to the field of sustainable design, by studying and helping to develop new materials?

These are all questions that are central to the research ofJessica Green, an ecologist, engineer, and professor at both the University of Oregon and the Santa Fe Institute. She’s also a TED 2011 Senior Fellow; last year, she was a TED Fellow. Green co-founded and directs a lab at the University of Oregon known as the Biology and the Built Environment (BioBE) Center, where she and her colleagues are exploring a new area of design that they call the “architecture-biology interface.” They are currently looking to partner with healthcare facility designers to measure and study how design and microbes affect each other, the environment (both natural and man-made), and humans, of course. She recently presented her work at the TED Global conference in Edinburgh, Scotland in July. The curators of TED just released the video of Green’s TED Talk to the public on August 6. The clip includes the debut of a visualization from scientific animation designers XVIVO that they created with Green to help viewers understand how microbes enter, exist, and interact in the human world from a microbe’s point of view.

Here’s the video of Jessica Green’s TED Talk, including the microbe animation:

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Architype Review Focuses on Landscape Architecture (via The Dirt)

Publicity for Landscape Architecture is always welcome – some projects featured are over exposed and others I haven’t seen before – worth a look

Architype Review Focuses on Landscape Architecture Architype Review, a Web site created by designers for designers, focuses in on a different building type each month. Past issues have focused on train stations, museums, hotels, and schools. Within each type, the site tries to "honor those projects that are challenging the limits and redefining the norms." Now, Architype has zoomed in on landscape architecture, selecting a set of 16 landscape projects from around the world, along with a slideshow … Read More

via The Dirt

Team Camí Comtal has won La Sagrera Linear Park design competition | Barcelona Spain | AldayJover, RCR and West 8

From World Landscape Architecture another West8 design and super graphics:

La Sagrera Linear Park-West 8Welcome Garden – Aldayjover, RCR, West 8 and SBDA

Team Camí Comtal (AldayJoverRCR and West 8 ) winning entry provides relief to the bustling city of Cerdá, introducing a new green slow route to counter today’s urban frenzy and activity, represented by the (other) Diagonal Avenue.

The new green corridor, four kilometer long, extending from the city’s fringe deep into the heart of the centre is the successful result of the tunneling of the new Very fast Train route from France to Barcelona Sagrera/Sans. The urban precincts on either side of the route which used to be separated by railway yards are now linked by a series of parks.

A new green diagonal axis is extended into the core of Barcelona thanks to the burial of the existing railways. This new public space is a means to connect the sea, the city and its natural surroundings. The new La Sagrera linear park or Parc del Camí Comtal represents a new ‘Slow’ Barcelona that gives relief to the urban rush of the city of Cerdá. It greatly adds biodiversity as it introduces a new slow and easy green cross, facing the famous Diagonal avenue, paradigm of the urban life.