THE SHAPE OF WATER

From Jason King’s Landscape+Urbanism site

 

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“Rendering of Houston wetland channel showing ecological wetland, conservation areas, and recreation trails” p. 90-91

An amazing resource posted on ASLA’s The Dirt (here) focuses on Design Guidelines for Urban Wetlands, specifically what shapes are optimal for performance. Using simulations and physical testing to investigate hydraulic performance the team from the Norman B. Leventhal Center for Advanced Urbanism (LCAU) at MIT. Led by Heidi Nepf, Alan Berger and Celina Balderas Guzman along with a team including Tyler Swingle, Waishan Qiu, Manoel Xavier, Samantha Cohen, and Jonah Susskind, the project aims to have a practice application in design guidance informed by research. From their site:js_plan_typical-01

“Although constructed wetlands and detention basins have been built for stormwater management for a long time, their design has been largely driven by hydrologic performance. Bringing together fluid dynamics, landscape architecture, and urban planning, this research project explored how these natural treatment systems can be designed as multi-functional urban infrastructure to manage flooding, improve water quality, enhance biodiversity, and create amenities in cities.”
Starting in the beginning by outlining ‘The Stormwater Imperative’, the above goal is explained in more depth, and issues with how we’ve tackled these problems are also discussed, such as civil-focused problem solving or lack of scalability, but also explore the potential for how, through intentional design, these systems “can create novel urban ecosystems that offer recreation, aesthetic, and ecological benefits.” (1)

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The evolution that has resulted in destruction of wetlands through urbanization, coupled with deficient infrastructure leads to issues like flooding, water pollution due to the loss of the natural holding and filtering capacity of these systems and the increased flows. However, as pointed out by the authors, this can be an opportunity, as constructed wetlands “can partially restore some lost ecosystem services, especially in locations where wetlands do not currently exist.” (5)

The modeled flow patterns are also interesting, showing the differentiation from fast, regular, slow flows, along with any Eddy’s that were shown in dye testing using the flumes.

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Check it out and see what you think.  The report is available as a online version via ISSUU or via PDF download from the LCAU site, where there are also some additional resources.  All images in this post are from these reports and should be credited to the LCAU team.

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Stephen Muecke on Bruno Latour’s Modes of Existence

I have enjoyed what pieces of the book are available in English so far – here is a review

I am what I am attached to’: On Bruno Latour’s ‘Inquiry into the Modes of Existence’

RIGHT NOW IN PARIS, Bruno Latour is being fêted. “One of the great intellectual adventures of our epoch […] the Hegel of our times,” enthuses Patrice Maniglier in Le Monde, who finds him a much more entertaining read than the dour German.

Curious, the way the French worry about their intellectual standing, for which they use the English word, taking their philosophers to be the barometers of the national reputation. “Is France still thinking?” worries Le Magazine Littéraire, as it too comes up with Latour as a rare savior. His new book, Enquête sur les modes d’existence (An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence), sold out of the first print run of 4,000 in 10 days. But it is not just a book; it is also a project in interactive metaphysics. In other words, a book, plus website. (Unheard of! A French philosopher using the Internet!) Intrigued readers of Latour’s text can go online and find themselves drawn into a collaborative project (so far only in French, but the English web pages will be up soon, and Catherine Porter’s translation of the book will be out from Harvard University Press in the spring). Simply register on the site, and you are free to offer commentary, counter-examples, snippets of movies, images, whatever. You may possibly graduate to the status of co-researcher, and even be invited to a workshop in Paris down the line, to thrash out the thornier problems.

Collective collaboration — some would call it “crowdsourcing” — is rare in philosophy, but Latour, a sociologist and anthropologist by training, is used to collaboration with scientists. (He was one of the founders of the new field of science studies and a veteran of the “science wars” of the 1990s.) And An Inquiry into the Modes of Existence is not really philosophy as understood by the dustier denizens of the Sorbonne, where nearly everyone and his other is a phenomenologist. Latour’s subtitle is An Anthropology of the Moderns, and it continues the project he began with 1993’s We Have Never Been Modern, an anthropological account of western European culture, with serious metaphysical implications, that attempts to answer the question: who do we think we are? “We” — however vague that occidentalist umbrella term may be — are the ones whose style of modernization was destined to take over the rest of the world. But the project has hit a dead end: the planet itself is protesting, and we are going to have to think again about our technological, economic, philosophical “universals.” We will have to choose between modernizing and ecologizing, says Latour, a theme he has been sounding at least since 2004’s The Politics of Nature.

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Citizen Science – Enabling Urbanism – Common Science

From Common Science more on moving technology and live sensing into the real world… what if we are able to use our ubiquitous onboard computers to do more than increase the electromagnetic noise – but literally enable our survival in our increasingly hostile an poisoned world  – while a bit old (2008) still a good description of a world still to come –  the future that seed are now – for more up to date info see the website .

In this research we highlight an important new shift in mobile phone usage – from communication tool to “networked mobile personal measurement instrument”. We explore how these new “personal measurement instruments” enable an entirely novel and empowering genre of mobile computing usage called citizen science.  Through the use of sensors paired with personal mobile phones, everyday people are invited to participate in collecting and sharing measurements of their everyday environment that matter to them.

Our research hypothesis is that this new usage model for mobile phones will:

  1. improve the science literacy of everyday citizens through active participation in basic scientific principles
  2. provide professional scientists with access to richer, finer-grain data sets for modeling and analysis
  3. create new experiences and usage models for the mobile phone as a tool for grassroots participation in government and policy making
  4. by choice of sensors and software create a deeper and more informed understanding and concern for our climate and environment – hopefully effecting positive societal change

Mobile phones are rapidly becoming the computer platform of choice in developed and developing nations.  These mobile phones already shape our culture – collapsing space and time by enabling us to reach out to contact others at a distance, to perform just-in-time coordination of events, and to purchase, play, and game “on-the-go”.  While there is a growing research space around sensor based activity inferencing and a wealth of existing location applications in the market, we claim that our mobile phones still fall short in their ability to enable us to measure and understand the real world around us.

We carry mobile phones with us nearly everywhere we go; yet they sense and tell us little of the world we live in.

 

Look around you right now.

 

How hot is it? Which direction am I facing? Which direction is the wind blowing and how fast? How healthy is the air I’m breathing?  What is the pollen count right now?  How long can I stay outside without getting sunburned? Is the noise level safe here?  Were pesticides used on these fruits? Is this water safe to drink? Are my children’s toys free of lead and other toxins? Is my new indoor carpeting emitting volatile organic compounds (VOCs)? Now look to your phone for answers about the environment around you.  What is it telling you? For all of its computational power and sophistication it provides us with very little insight into the actual conditions of the atmospheres we traverse with it.  In fact the only real-time environmental data it measures onboard and reports to you is a signal to noise value for a narrow slice of the electromagnetic spectrum (i.e. “how many bars do you have?

 

Certainly, one could imagine accessing the web or other online resource from their mobile phone to find an answer to some of these questions.  But much of that online data is calculated and published for general usage, not for you specifically.  For example, the official weather station for a city may report that the temperature is currently 23ºC by taking one measurement at the center of the city or averaging several values from multiple sites across town.  But what if you’re in the shade by the wind swept waterfront where it is actually 17ºC or waiting underground for the subway where it is a muggy 33ºC. The measurement that means the most to you is likely to be the one that captures the actual conditions you are currently experiencing, not citywide averages.

Imagine you are deciding between walking to one of two subway stations and could gather live data from the passengers waiting on the platform at each stop about the temperature and humidity of each station at that very moment?  What if you were one of the 300 million people who suffer from asthma and could breath easily as you navigated your city with real-time pollen counts collected by your fellow citizens?  What if you could not just be told the level of noise pollution in your city but measure and publish your own actual decibel measurements taken in front of your home?  What if you were one of the more than 3 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, that burned solid fuels, including biomass fuels (wood, dung, agricultural residues) and coal, for their energy, heating, and cooking needs indoors and yet had no way to monitor the health effects of the resulting pollutants on yourself and your family even though nearly 2 million people die annually from indoor air pollution?

Mobile phones are allowing us to communicate, buy, sell, connect, and do miraculous things.  However, we claim that this mobile technology, coupled with new sensing and software, can enable us to go beyond finding friends, chatting with colleagues, locating hip bars, and buying music. Our research aims to expand our perceptions of mobile phones as simply a communication tool and to research our envisioned understanding of them as personal measurement instruments capable of sensing our natural environment and empowering collective action through everyday grassroots citizen scienceacross blocks, neighborhoods, cities, and nations.

Our near term goal is to build and study a series of mobile devices outfitted with novel sensors along with an infrastructure that provides public sharing and remixing of these personal sensor measurements by experts and non-experts alike.  The overall long-term goal is to develop new communication paradigms that empower communities to produce credible information that can be understood by non-experts, in order to effect positive societal change.

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