Facial Monitoring: The all-telling eye

Pervasive surveillance is now becoming extremely personalized – is there an infringement of our private space – are we even aware of all the body language we imply in a brief glance at  a piece of chocolate cake, a shiny new bauble in a window display or an attractive woman’s breasts in a magazine or in person! from The Economist

Webcams can now spot which ads catch your gaze, read your mood and check your vital signs:

IMAGINE browsing a website when a saucy ad for lingerie catches your eye. You don’t click on it, merely smile and go to another page. Yet it follows you, putting up more racy pictures, perhaps even the offer of a discount. Finally, irked by its persistence, you frown. “Sorry for taking up your time,” says the ad, and promptly desists from further pestering. Creepy. But making online ads that not only know you are looking at them but also respond to your emotions will soon be possible, thanks to the power of image-processing software and the ubiquity of tiny cameras in computers and mobile devices.

Uses for this technology would not, of course, be confined to advertising. There is ample scope to deploy it in areas like security, computer gaming, education and health care. But admen are among the first to embrace the idea in earnest. That is because it helps answer, at least online, clients’ perennial carp: that they know half the money they spend on advertising is wasted, but they don’t know which half.

Advertising firms already film how people react to ads, usually in an artificial setting. The participants’ faces are studied for positive or negative feelings. A lot of research, some of it controversial, has been done into ways of categorising the emotions behind facial expressions. In the 1970s Paul Ekman, an American psychologist, developed a comprehensive coding system which is still widely used.

Some consumer-research companies also employ goggle-mounted cameras to track eye movements so they can be sure what their subjects are looking at. This can help determine which ads attract the most attention and where they might be placed for the best effect on a web page.

This work is now moving online. Higher-quality cameras and smarter computer-vision software mean that volunteers can work from home and no longer need to wear clunky headgear. Instead, their eyes can be tracked using a single webcam.

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Augustin Berque: Milieu and human identity: Notes towards a surpassing of modernity

In an ongoing  discussion on a Linkedin group LANDSCAPE URBANISM  on the most 10 most important texts for a  Landscape Architect /Urban Planner, the usual suspects came up, an interestingly a discussion ensued on the Western orientation of the suggestions and the name of 2009 Fukuoka Prize laureate Austin Berque was proposed as an entry into Japanese thought  – not having heard of him before, I could find nothing in English other than this brief review. The resonance of finding a holistic  worldview to counter the prevailing enlightenment view that seems to be responsible for our alienation from the environment we depend on. This resonates with me and  in my opinion  of the views of Konjian Yu in his The Conscientizacao of the Landscape: An Interview with Kongjian Yu and the recent Prizer Prize Laureate Wang Shu Wang Shu Discusses Urbanization in China, that seem to be providing a way to value the environment of the present and the past without creating a”museum ” or “zoo” and on how we might find embodiment in our understanding of the landscape as a complex of the temporal natural and anthropocentric world. from SPACE AND CULTURE posted by Anne Galloway:

Reviewed by Andrea Mubi BrighentiDepartment of SociologyUniversity of Trento (IT)

After the catastrophic events that hit Japan, and particularly in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster, a large scale debate about the sustainability of our energetic, economic and even civilizational model is badly needed. Such a huge task which is before us, and which calls for a general rethinking of our ecological approaches and aspirations, could perhaps start from some spatial and environmental insights that Japanese thought itself has transmitted to us.

The collection of short essays reviewed here provides an excellent introduction to the work of the French geographer and orientalist Augustin Berque (born in 1942), who has devoted most of his life to an exploration of Japanese thought and culture, with particular reference to its peculiar spatial and environmental attitudes. Not much of Berque’s oeuvre is available to English readers, yet his major theoretical works (Berque 2000a, 2000b) can be said to engage a dialogue with Japanese philosophical tradition in order to develop reflections that are more widely applicable to the contemporary world, rather than a merely philological reconstruction of certain sources – an intellectual project that somehow recalls what François Jullien has done with Chinese thought.

Traditional houses in Ogimachi by Guillaume Brialon

[CC image credit: Traditional houses in Ogimachi by Guillaume Brialon]

In a larger work that appeared nearly at the same time as the collection on milieu and human identity, Berque (2010) has explored the notion of the ‘ideal habitat’ and has questioned the contemporary transformation and sustainability of that ideal. In these shorter essays, written during the last ten years, the focus is rather on the notions of landscape, milieu, common heritage and identity. Starting from the acknowledgement that western modernity has produced a grave disequilibrium in the relation between the human species and the world – as landscape devastation, waste of natural resources and the many aberrations in the design of the urban built environment testify – the author advances a distinction between a western conception of landscape, pivoted around the subject, and an eastern conception, which instead focuses on the predicate–the latter logic being best represented by Nishida Kitarô’s basho no ronri, or logic of place, a text from 1966. Continue reading

African Oasis:Babylonstoren

An “African Oasis” designed by a Frenchman in a “Cape Dutch” farmstead just outside Cape Town  filled with Western fruit trees, herbs and vegetables – true globalization… from Garden Designnow what is African About this one might ask?

PHOTO BY: Courtesy Babylonstoren

A map of the garden. Image courtesy of Babylonstoren.

Babylonstoren means “Tower of Babel” in Dutch, and the eight acres of gardens at this restored 18th-century Cape Dutch farmstead and hotel in South Africa’s Drakenstein Valley are, like their namesake, both monumental and tantalizingly unfinished. And yet, a walk through the grounds may help visitors do what that skyscraper of legend could not: touch heaven.

“Perhaps people find it peaceful because it’s not aggressive,” says Babylonstoren’s landscape designer, French architect Patrice Taravella. “Beauty is not an objective, it is the result.”

Babylonstoren garden

In the geometric gardens of Babylonstoren, a farmstead and hotel near Cape Town, South Africa, pathways paved with recycled peach pits crunch underfoot beside a gurgling, stone-lined stream that serves as the gardens’ gravity-aided irrigation system. Photo courtesy of Babylonstoren, photo by Cactus Branding

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It is more likely that retail properties big owners – the banks will be unable to suppress their and their capital partners – big retails unending greed – – I hope you are right – but fear there will be far more collapsing before they are prepared to accept a changed role.

What are our inalienable rights in life – let alone societies ? “We can’t choose where we are born…..to go to go to sleep, or to wake up (John Gray – Straw Dogs)

Hwaairfan's Blog

Vaccination Rights Teminated!


By Hwaa Irfan


There is a curious development taking place within the U.S. pertaining to what rights a citizen has over their own health, and one that may not only pertain to American citizens. It has probably been unfolding for a long time the result of which protects the interests of the medical and pharmaceutical industry over the God given right to choose. It is a development that most are probably are aware of to some degree, but when it verges on a crime to defend that personal choice sanity has clearly been removed from the  equation.

When one hears of such curious occupations as a Vaccine Right lawyer that pretty much sums up the desperate measures that have to be taken in order to defend one’s right over one’s health. Patricia Finn is one such attorney.

Taking into context the passing of the bill…

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Flushing toilets could heat future buildings

What else would you use it for? from Archinect

OriginOil, a start-up based in Los Angeles, CA., has begun a pilot of its urban algae farm concept at the La Défense complex near Paris. Wastewater from buildings nourishes algae growth; algae is processed to make heat. The company is attempting to prove that integrating algae production into large building complexes will help bring them closer to net zero. — smartplanet.com

Kathryn Gustafson Receives Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture

A well deserved honour for one  of Landscape `Architectures great contemporary artists from Archinect

Winner of the 2012 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture: Kathryn Gustafson

Winner of the 2012 Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture: Kathryn Gustafson

Kathryn Gustafson, director of Seattle landscape architecture practice Gustafson Guthrie Nichol and partner of London design firm Gustafson Porter, is the recipient of the annual Arnold W. Brunner Memorial Prize in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. This honor is given to a preeminent architect from any country who has made a significant contribution to architecture as an art. Gustafson is only the third landscape architect in 57 years to be awarded the prize. — bustler.net

Gustafson Guthrie Nichol: Lurie Garden, part of Millennium Park, in Chicago's historic Grant Park (Photo: Linda Oyama Bryan)

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When a Parking Lot Is So Much More

The obvious often needs to come from bigger player to be taken notice of – from Archinect

We need to redefine what we mean by “parking lot” to include something that not only allows a driver to park his car, but also offers a variety of other public uses, mitigates its effect on the environment and gives greater consideration to aesthetics and architectural context. — nytimes.com

Why We Can’t Delay on Global Warming

From ASLADIRT a rebuttal of the skeptics 

William D. Nordhaus, Sterling Professor of Economics at Yale University, wrote an interesting rebuttal to global warming skeptics in the recent issue of The New York Review of Books. Obviously peeved that his research has been misused by those who argue warming isn’t really happening, Nordhaus gives a blow by blow account of how the skeptics are wrong.

Nordhaus writes that the arguments of warming skeptics can be summed up by a January 2012 editorial in The Wall Street Journal written by a group of scientists called “No Need to Panic About Global Warming.” The article says “the globe is not warming, that dissident voices are being suppressed, and that delaying policies to slow climate change for fifty years will have no serious economic or environment consequences.” To counter this, Nordhaus argues that these scientists, some of which are at top universities, offer “incorrect or misleading answers.” He believes this is particularly dangerous given these public wranglings “muddy the waters” at a critical time.

While he agrees that there are still major uncertainties, why delay on acting on global warming and roll the dice? “Policies implemented today serve as a hedge against unsuspected future dangers that suddenly emerge to threaten our economies or environment. So, if anything, the uncertainties would point to a more rather than less forceful policy—and one starting sooner rather than later—to slow climate change.”

Furthermore, don’t listen to the skeptics who argue that systematic changes to regulations will have catastrophic effects on the economy: ”The claim that cap-and-trade legislation or carbon taxes would be ruinous or disastrous to our societies does not stand up to serious economic analysis. We need to approach the issues with a cool head and a warm heart. And with respect for sound logic and good science.”

Read Nordhaus’ full analysis in The New York Review of Books.

In related news, check out a worrying article in The New York Times explaining how U.S. forests aren’t holding up well in a warming climate (already), which is a major problem given trees are a key carbon sink that also help mitigate temperature rise.

Also, explore ASLA’s comprehensive resources on climate change mitigation and adaptation.

Image credit: Why the Global Warming Skeptics Are Wrong / NY Review of Books

The Future That Is Now – Essay by Stan Allen

This essay, as a history of contemporary architecture and its theoretical base by Stan Allen, is particularly interesting to me as I am currently reading William Gibson’s book of essays “Distrust that particular flavour” – Gibson, who has been one of my seminal influences, is relevant to the discussion of the recent past as his concepts of a futurity rooted in the present, ( “the futures already arrived, it’s just not evenly distributed yet”) is the inevitable fate of architectural and most built environment design which must fit into the current reality and by the time it is built, designed in the recent past yet its influence will be felt it the near and somewhat more remote future, as it is rather persistent in both its successes and its inevitable and much publicized failures, from this perspective its  “navel gazing”, theorizing,  of its recent past  seems laughable. From The Design Observer

Architecture studios at Harvard University, Princeton University and Cornell University. [Photos by Lou HuangShih-Min Hsu and Adam Kuban]

And it’s always interesting, I think, to see how the future, or rather the forward-looking form of any discipline, always carries within it the seeds of its own triteness.
— William Gibson [1]

Among the participants in the first ANY (Architecture New York) conference, organized by Peter Eisenman and Cynthia Davidson in 1991, was the novelist William Gibson, author of the cyberpunk classic Neuromancer. Published in 1984, Neuromancer captured the anxieties of a dystopian world in which technology has penetrated all aspects of everyday life. In Gibson’s early novels, unprecedented physical mobility and the fluidity of personal identity enabled by digital technologies reshape individual subjectivity and the physical space of the city alike — which is perhaps why the author found himself in Los Angeles at the beginning of the 1990s speaking to the group of architects, philosophers, literary critics and architectural theorists assembled by Eisenman and Davidson. Like the film Blade Runner two years earlier, Neuromancer had become an early touchstone for imaginative speculation on the urban and architectural consequences of digital culture.

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