In this issue the topical aspects of social media, computing surveillance reveal the power of the net and the cloud, but more revealingly the ability of individuals and companies to adopt new technologies at a remarkably rapid pace usually riven by profit.

Thinking culture

A special issue of the new journal Limn on the topic of crowds and clouds has just been published. Includes a number of interesting articles. In particular there is a piece on mapping the social world. Below is a description of the special issue:
This issue of LIMN focuses on new social media, data mining and surveillance, crowdsourcing, cloud computing, big data, and Internet revolutions. Rather than follow the well-worn paths of argument typical today, our contributors address the problems in new ways and at odd angles: from the power and politics of statistics and algorithms to crowdsourcing’s discontents to the capriciousness of collectives in an election; from the focus group and the casino to the worlds of micro-finance and data-intensive policing. Together they raise questions about the relationship of technology and the collectives that form in and through them.

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Commentary on Britain’s approach to digital media and social media form ‘inside’ adds a needed perspective and an attempt to balance the criticism of government’s ability to “keep up with the times” – something many of us battle with daily in our brush with interactive local authority websites and media platforms that are not very user friendly or just plain don’t work.

We Love Local Government

Part two of this week’s ‘state of the localgov nation address’ are two subjects close to my heart and close to my interests – it’s all about digital and innovation. Whilst these two areas often overlap they are actually two different beasts in many ways, so it’s worth considering them individually before combining the two.

For no reason other than alphabetical let’s begin with digital. In some ways the last few years feel like nothing much has altered: we’ve still got arguments over Twitter and Facebook, examples of archaic social media policies, no-one’s cracked single sign-on and IE6 just won’t die. However, scratch a little of this surface and you’ll find, in the same way as the Sopranos episodes where nothing happened yet everything changed, we’ve actually come a long way.

Much of the shift in digital thinking can be attributed to one person – the never-to-be-known person who convinced someone that…

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Questions of Data Sovereignty -The laws of the city ?

Questions are raised by The Economist  as to what use is all this data – some wonder  wonder is it not just another way to embed control and power and other whether it means anything at all – just  more utopian dreams which will fall by the wayside – so much more archived felled trees and crowded cloud space?

A deluge of data makes cities laboratories for those seeking to run them better

NO FACE looks alike, but human bodies and their genetic make-up are almost identical. Cities too have distinctive charms—but are surprisingly alike behind their façades. Regardless of size, their populations grow at the same average rate everywhere in the world. A city twice as large as its neighbour is likely to be 15% richer. The mix of green space and built-up areas tends to be equal everywhere.

Such findings reflect a recent shift in urban research. Better technology has turned cities into fountains of data that confirm known regularities and reveal striking new patterns. This could transform how cities are regarded, built and managed. Attempts to contain urban sprawl, long the prevailing paradigm of urban planning, for instance, could fall out of favour. Cities could be run with the sort of finely tuned mix of technology and performance associated with Formula 1 racing cars

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A more comprehensive review of  these data driven technologies can be seen  on Pop-Up Cities post

Data-Driven Urban Citizenship

With networked infrastructures mixing with physical fabric of the cities (check out iPavement, paving tiles with embedded microcomputer), there is a gradually growing body of urban data. Often this data is not collected or not stored. Often it is stored without being shared. A steady trickling out of this urban data, however, is taking place through open data platforms and various public-private data partnerships. While there emerges a political demand for rights regarding networked objects (see Adam Greenfield and Bruno Latour and Near Future Laboratory), a range of products, services and platforms are coming up that offer to enrich citizenship with accessible and visualised data.

The everyday citizenship in urban areas is increasingly augmented by all kinds of incoming data visuals — map of ‘every bus trip’ in the city, possibilities of using the same data to pre-empt congestion and resolving them by diversifying traffic, geographic spread of different languages used to tweet across the city, crime landscape of the cities (and of course you remember Crimespotting by Stamen), catching criminals by real-time data miningvisualisation of energy and resource intensities of your city, and exploratory platform for historical visuals and documents embedded on the city map.

 

Read more: http://popupcity.net/2012/06/data-driven-urban-citizenship/#ixzz1yngSCaD1

Urban Public Space – An Open Invitation to Contribute

This is an  invite  to readers to contribute to this blog,   any post that has to do with the urban public domain, especially if it can be situated in the actual physical pubic space of the city, any city is welcome.

I have been slack this month but have been thinking how to take the blog from re- posting generalized articles on the urban  to  original posts that deal with  issues of how politics, governance and business, especially retail property development,  impact on public space within the urban environment and  how these are shaped by the different “cultural” groups that make up these ‘publics’.

In the Southern Theory frameworks there is  interest in how the poor are disenfranchised by  manipulations of the public sphere to advantage those with power or money.

The media often play a key role in how these disenfranchised and marginalized people are viewed and treated by the authorities and power groups.

An example in Cape Town is how the City Improvement Districts e.g. Central City Improvement District  (CCID),  which is a partnership between the City of Cape Town and local business interests, in terms of which they are able to provide their own private police force,  which in the interests of public safety and order, clear the streets of ” undesirable elements” or  street people like unauthorized pavement traders, ‘car guards” ,traffic-light hawkers, beggars and homeless street kids, and as a consequence, those who have the least ability to make a living in “normal respectable ways” are denied access to the public spaces that are constitutionally their right where they might eke out a living,

This post  Ode to the Central City Improvement District from The Daddy Long Legs provides  one view.

Rita Abrahamsen wrote about it in her book, Security Beyond the State:

Communities, and particularly today’s urban communities, are often heterogeneous, with limited consensus…

For ‘undesirable elements’, such as street children and vagrants, the CCID has meant increased harassment and more frequent arrest…Securicor officers frequently transport street children to so-called safe houses, in order to get them off the streets, in full knowledge that they will be back the next day…

A combination of pubic by-laws and private enforcement serves to prevent the poor and the homeless from utilizing the city’s public spaces, where they frequently make their livings through various forms of informal trading…The articulation of private-public and global-local that has emerged in Cape Town thus facilitates specific forms of security provision that strengthen aspects of the public and the state, at the same time as it increases power differentials, disempowers already marginalized individuals or groups and renders the security provided by both public and private agents a distinctly variable

The media play a key role in the demonization and criminalisation of these groups – some of them are far from innocent of crimes such as pilfering, pick pocketing, drunkenness and drug peddling etc, which is the justification used to exclude all of them, not just those proven guilty. It is no coincidence that this is in the interests of business owners and property developers as well.

There are certainly benifits for the city and is population  in making the public space safer and the CCID has contributed to these efforts,  see for example this article from the Cape Town Partnerships website: Strategic partnership enhances safety of CBD’s Company’s Garden , but it seems to me that there might be ways of including more people in achieving this and so enabling a  equitable  city for all of its citizens and visitors.

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More Playground Crochet from Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam

One of the most interesting playgrounds I have ever seen is totally hand made and it turns out is the most popular in views as well on Playscapes with some links to the makers Toshiko’s website

The post about the crochet playground constructions of Toshiko Horiuchi MacAdam is one of the most popular ever here at Playscapes(second only to the Puckelball Pitch in page views).

It has been a bit difficult to find information on Toshiko’s work, as most of the locations are in Japan.  But the MacAdams have recently launched their own site with more information about their unique playscapes, which they call NetPlayWorks…you can now see a comprehensive list of locations, as well as previously unavailable photos of each, a small selection of which are seen below.   Oh, the eye candy…don’t you feel happy just looking at these!