studying the city (Annette Koh)

Apr 20

[video]

Apr 19

Do people in most of Oceania live in tiny confined spaces? The answer is yes if one believes what certain social scientists are saying. But the idea of smallness is relative; it depends on what is included and excluded in any calculation of size. When those who hail from continents, or islands adjacent to continents-and the vast majority of human beings live in these regions-when they see a Polynesian or Micronesian island they naturally pronounce it small or tiny. Their calculation is based entirely on the extent of the land surfaces they see.

But if we look at the myths, legends, and oral traditions, and the cosmologies of the peoples of Oceania, it becomes evident that they did not conceive of their world in such microscopic proportions. Their universe comprised not only land surfaces, but the surrounding ocean as far as they could traverse and exploit it, the underworld with its fire-controlling and earth-shaking denizens, and the heavens above with their hierarchies of powerful gods and named stars and constellations that people could count on to guide their ways across the seas. Their world was anything but tiny. They thought big and recounted their deeds in epic proportions. One legendary Oceanic athlete was so powerful that during a competition he threw his javelin with such force that it pierced the horizon and disappeared until that night when it was seen streaking across the sky like a meteor. Every now and then it reappears to remind people of the mighty deed. And as far as I’m concerned it is still out there, near Jupiter or somewhere. That was the first rocket ever sent into space. Islanders today still relish exaggerating things out of all proportion. Smallness is a state of mind.

There is a world of difference between viewing the Pacific as “islands in a far sea” and as “a sea of islands.” The first emphasizes dry surfaces in a vast ocean far from the centers of power. Focusing in this way stresses the smallness and remoteness of the islands. The second is a more holistic perspective in which things are seen in the totality of their relationships. I return to this point later. Continental men, namely Europeans, on entering the Pacific after crossing huge expanses of ocean, introduced the view of “islands in a far sea.” From this perspective the islands are tiny, isolated dots in a vast ocean. Later on, continental men — Europeans and Americans — drew imaginary lines across the sea, making the colonial boundaries that confined ocean peoples to tiny spaces for the first time. These boundaries today define the island states and territories of the Pacific. I have just used the term ocean peoples because our ancestors, who had lived in the Pacific for over two thousand years, viewed their world as “a sea of islands” rather than as “islands in the sea.” This may be seen in a common categorization of people, as exemplified in Tonga by the inhabitants of the main, capital, island, who used to refer to their compatriots from the rest of the archipelago not so much as “people from outer islands” as social scientists would say, but as kakai mei tahi or just tahi ‘people from the sea’. This characterization reveals the underlying assumption that the sea is home to such people.

The difference between the two perspectives is reflected in the two terms used for our region: Pacific Islands and Oceania. The first term, Pacific Islands, is the prevailing one used everywhere; it denotes small areas of land sitting atop submerged reefs or seamounts. Hardly any anglophone economist, consultancy expert, government planner, or development banker in the region, uses the term Oceania, perhaps because it sounds grand and somewhat romantic, and may denote something so vast that it would compel them to a drastic review of their perspectives and policies. The French and other Europeans use the term Oceania to an extent that English speakers, apart from the much-maligned anthropologists and a few other sea-struck scholars, have not. It may not be coincidental that Australia, New Zealand, and the United States, anglophone all, have far greater interests in the Pacific and how it is perceived than have the distant European nations.

” —

Our Sea of Islands, Epeli Hau’ofa

this essay is life changing.

(via kawahineaihonua)

(via kakaimeitahi)

understanding home

[This is my 1000th post on Tumblr! 1000 posts! I feel like I should have a new nerd merit badge sewn onto my nerd sash.]

As I read more widely on public space, it becomes clear how important it is to understand changing conceptions of private space and especially the potential meanings of home. Shelley Mallett’s 2004 article “Understanding home: a critical review of the literature” in The Sociological Review was especially helpful. 

A more radical critique of the understanding of home as an enclosed, private space – a haven from the outside world is provided by some of the cross-cultural research. For example, Jackson (1995) implies that nomadic peoples, ‘for whom dwelling is not synonymous with being housed and settled’ do not focus on ideas of home as a private place clearly differentiated from the outside world. He states that for the Warlpiri of the Tanami Desert in Central Australia … ‘home is where one hails from … , but it also suggests the places one has camped, sojourned and lived during the course of one’s own lifetime’ (122). Similarly, for the people of Nuakata Island, Papua New Guinea, home is variously translated as matrilineal village(s), or the island itself, and is not a private physical dwelling that is clearly differentiated from an outside world (Mallett, 2003). Rather it equates to the lands and places where one’s matrilineal forbears stayed or dwelled. While these spaces are not private, enclosed dwellings, they are possessed spaces or territories with defined, though not always visible, boundaries that must be observed and respected by those who do not belong there.

image

[A community meeting at one of the summer camps in East Taiga. Photo: Lawrence Hislop, UNEP/GRID-Arendal]

There is a passage in Piers Vitebsky’s Reindeer People that also illustrates this different conception of home.

Though place names were important, the Eveny vocabulary for relative positions focused not on the places themselves but on one’s own movement through them. The word dyu means ‘home’, one’s present camp site. A site is a destination for only a moment before it becomes home and the starting point for the next migrations. Amdip, dyu, erimken: previous site, present site, next site. Today’s erimken becomes tomorrow’s dyu, and the previous dyu slips back to the status of amdip, yesterday’s site. Granny was around seventy years old. Allowing for a few years at school, I calculated that she must have changed the location of her dyu some 1,500 times. (p 117-118)

Cited books

Apr 18

Shrinking Cleveland, and Why The Garden Club Couldn't Save Youngstown -

Posting this link because I came across economic sociologists Sean Safford's work over the weekend. His book Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown: The Transformation of the Rust Belt is described as “a compelling account of the very different paths taken by Allentown and Youngstown in response to the ‘rust belt’ crisis of the 1980s.”

There appears to be a portion of his research available as a working paper via MIT: “Why the Garden Club Couldn’t Save Youngstown: Civic Infrastructure and Mobilization in Economic Crises.”

[Ohio Historical Society archival photo of a demolition of a portion of the Ohio Works, U.S. Steel in Youngstown, Ohio on August 7, 1983, via Ohio History Central]

Apr 17

Honolulu. Ala Moana Beach. 

Honolulu. Ala Moana Beach. 

grupaok:

John Latham, Art & Culture, 1966-7

A kind of anti-library post? I wouldn’t dissolve library books myself but in this instance, I think the demise of the book was justified by the art created. 

grupaok:

John Latham, Art & Culture, 1966-7

A kind of anti-library post? I wouldn’t dissolve library books myself but in this instance, I think the demise of the book was justified by the art created. 

[video]

Apr 16

Anonymous asked: The picture of the man and the tank comes from the 1989 Tiananmen Square uprising in Beijing, China. As I recall, Beijing is pretty damn far away from Rio de Janiero. Thanks for spreading dumbassery and stupidity.

My first nasty anonymous comment! And from someone who apparently didn’t read the actual post as I wrote in explanation of the image under discussion:

"Three images taken from a FAVELissues post on (Occupy Cabral hosts a movie night in front of the governor’s apartment; Viral image of a teacher confronting police paired with the iconic Tiananmen Square photo; Free Hugs Day by the black block contingent in Rio)

Tyranny/Transformation: Power and Paradox in Participatory Development -

Just started reading the excellent volume Participation: The new tyranny? edited by Bill Cooke and Uma Kothari (Zed Books, 2001) and in looking for the publisher’s page for the book came across a thorough review essay of the book.

Participation: The New Tyranny challenges the pervasive belief that participation is unequivocally good. In eleven chapters written by academics and practitioners who have extensive experience in international development, the authors provide analyses, supported by detailed descriptions of development fieldwork, to support their assertions. These contributions, drawing from psychology, sociology and critical theory, assert that participation in practice is nowhere near the participatory, bottom-up, open process that it is commonly held to be. [4]

The New Tyranny demonstrates that the theoretical ideal of participation is often not functioning as the tool for liberation and distribution of power that its rhetoric suggests. Instead, efforts embracing participation are described as largely maintaining existing power relationships, though masking this power behind the rhetoric and techniques of participation. This masking, therefore, represents the tyranny of participation. [5]

COOKE and KOTHARI, in the opening chapter, identify three types of tyranny. First, the dominance of multinational agencies and funders exists just beneath the rhetoric and practices of participation. This tyranny addresses the enduring decision-making control held by agencies and funders. Second, the emphasis on participatory practices obscures many limitations and manipulations that suppress local power differentials; in fact, participatory practices sometimes contribute to the maintenance and exacerbation of local power differentials. This tyranny is a group level tyranny and addresses the well-known social psychological dynamics of group functioning which are largely ignored in the participation literature. The third form of tyranny addresses the dominance of the participatory method, noting that the overwhelming acceptance of participation, particularly the goals and values expressed, has limited dialogue and even consideration of other methods for cultivating development.

The Re-Emerging Art of Funding Innovation -

One emerging research interest is the role of foundations in social change and urban development. In the origin story of community development corporations, the role of foundations is key, especially Ford Foundation’s Local Initiatives Support Corporation and the Enterprise Foundation, which was started by festival marketplace developer James Rouse. I have only skimmed this super long article from the Stanford Social Innovation Review but found it an interesting snapshot of current trends. The article acknowledges the vogue for contests and competitions as funding mechanisms has many drawbacks. “Funders who have tried using contests and competitions often find it difficult to boil down challenges to a simple, solvable problem… and it remains unclear whether contest “winners” end up exceeding the quality of more traditionally sourced grantees.”

newpublicsites:

Platzgeist Shards Array on Flickr.

New Public Sites engages in what the artist Graham Coreil-Allen calls radical pedestrianism and creative cartography. This project Shards of Site is a collection of ”shredded pavement souvenirs servings as mementos of place serve as both intriguing found objects and legible linguistic forms.” The labels read (L to R) top: Terrain Violence; Sub/urban Ambiguity; Impulsive Newness; bottom: Playscape, Urban Sublime, Historical Uncanny.
I found this via risenapes' post on their typology “that seeks to name all of the nothings we encounter everyday.” You can download this typology and some of the other projects as a 100 pg+ PDF field guide.

Typology of New Public Sites organizes the invisible public spaces of our everyday environment into a system of sites, components and qualities, indexed and described through terms and definitions. The field guide not only represents a system of classification, but also a playful yet serious linguistic intervention into the discourse of architecture and planning. Through invented and appropriated language, this reference book / manifesto poetically challenges the authority of how public space is represented.

newpublicsites:

Platzgeist Shards Array on Flickr.

New Public Sites engages in what the artist Graham Coreil-Allen calls radical pedestrianism and creative cartography. This project Shards of Site is a collection of ”shredded pavement souvenirs servings as mementos of place serve as both intriguing found objects and legible linguistic forms.” The labels read (L to R) top: Terrain Violence; Sub/urban Ambiguity; Impulsive Newness; bottom: Playscape, Urban Sublime, Historical Uncanny.

I found this via risenapes' post on their typologythat seeks to name all of the nothings we encounter everyday.” You can download this typology and some of the other projects as a 100 pg+ PDF field guide.

Typology of New Public Sites organizes the invisible public spaces of our everyday environment into a system of sites, components and qualities, indexed and described through terms and definitions. The field guide not only represents a system of classification, but also a playful yet serious linguistic intervention into the discourse of architecture and planning. Through invented and appropriated language, this reference book / manifesto poetically challenges the authority of how public space is represented.

Apr 15

More National Library Week thoughts! I’m having fun taking a little time each day to ponder the role of libraries in my life. As the only child of a librarian, I willingly spent part of my summer vacations at my mom’s workplace, the university’s Art & Architecture department’s slide library. I will confess that I have no facility for doodles, got a C+ in the one graphic design class I took, and can only critique art on the basis of whether I’d hang it up in my living room or not. But I think spending summers alphabetizing slides of the most referenced art and architecture (child labor law violations, yes we know) must have had some lasting imprint on me and my layman’s love of planes and portals, lines and lintels.
Louis Kahn's architectural spaces are secular cathedrals of the 20th century — full of light and reverence and geometric calm. (Frankly speaking, I'm no fan of the Hadid and Gehry style of swooping curves.)
there-is-no-there-there:

Louis Kahn by Andreas Levers

More National Library Week thoughts! I’m having fun taking a little time each day to ponder the role of libraries in my life. As the only child of a librarian, I willingly spent part of my summer vacations at my mom’s workplace, the university’s Art & Architecture department’s slide library. I will confess that I have no facility for doodles, got a C+ in the one graphic design class I took, and can only critique art on the basis of whether I’d hang it up in my living room or not. But I think spending summers alphabetizing slides of the most referenced art and architecture (child labor law violations, yes we know) must have had some lasting imprint on me and my layman’s love of planes and portals, lines and lintels.

Louis Kahn's architectural spaces are secular cathedrals of the 20th century — full of light and reverence and geometric calm. (Frankly speaking, I'm no fan of the Hadid and Gehry style of swooping curves.)

there-is-no-there-there:

Louis Kahn by Andreas Levers

(Source: nprfreshair, via rchtctrstdntblg)