Continued from Sick of Ruins, from John Cunningham, “Boredom in the Charnel House: Theses on ‘Post-industrial’ Ruins” inVariant No. 42.
This is used to good effect by the artist-photographer Jorge Ribalta who reconstructed and photographed scale models of the ‘urban decay’ of working class districts of Barcelona prior to their gentrification.
As John Roberts writes, this is an elegy to “an area that once had a rich and variegated social and economic history” now designated by capital as “unproductive”. Such an approach mobilises the ‘opacity’ of urban decay – and memory – against the transparent homogenisation that capital desires for city space while emphasising the simultaneous production of both.
As a counterpoint to the earlier post on Budapest’s ruin bars…
From John Cunningham, “Boredom in the Charnel House: Theses on ‘Post-industrial’ Ruins”in Variant No. 42.
I find it easy to share this bored, angry scepticism towards the fetishism of crumbling concrete, cracked windows and hidden wastelands. In the image world of hopefully ‘late’ capitalism the industrial ruin has acquired a fair amount of cultural capital and such spectacular over-determination is a major reason for ennui with corroded concrete.
Psychogeography often functions as an index of dissatisfaction with contemporary urban space… Psychogeography has always thrived upon such juxtapositions between a projected image of the gleaming ‘new’ – heavily regulated spaces sponsored by capital – and the human remnants, memories and ruins of urban space.
[As always, photos hotlinked with image sources]
HAYES VALLEY FARM: Hayes Valley Farm Transition Announcement (March 17, 2013) -
Today the farm bid farewell.
There’s a lot to say about the difference between explicitly interim uses like Hayes Valley Farm and venerable but vulnerable projects like the community gardens of NYC.
I just wanted to say that urban agriculture in cities like San Francisco, like New York, like Los Angeles, show what’s in question more clearly than urban ag in shrinking cities like Detroit. There is no “surplus” land in San Francisco.
So, at the core, these conversations are about how we determine the “best use” of land, do we measure property values or community value? Who gets to determine that their idea of the public interest is the right one, and who is the public that counts?
Dear Supporters of Hayes Valley Farm,
As you may know, Hayes Valley Farm is an interim-use urban farm project. As such, our agreement with the City and County of San Francisco has been to develop the ecology and grow food on the site only until those with prior claim to the land were able to…
From Los Angeles, a much more contested determination of the best use of land.
Aaron Bady, The MOOC Moment and the End of Reform, at The New Inquiry.
Go read it. I’m excerpting just the bit that completely blew my mind. Emphasis added. Image sources/articles are all hotlinked, because who are we really talking about when we say we can’t afford to fund public education.
[California Senate Bill 520]’s sponsor, Senate Pro-Tem President Darrell Steinberg, cites the very real problems of access to over-enrolled courses—and the fact that students are failing to graduate on time, because they cannot get required courses for their majors—and uses this as a rhetorical wedge to argue that MOOCs should actually be acceptable as replacements for normal college classes. As he put it:
“We want to be the first state in the nation to make this promise: No college student in California will be denied the right to move through their education because they couldn’t get a seat in the course they needed.”
But the irony of his formulation is that even he admits that instead of solving a problem which has a very simple definition—which is basically reducible to a number, the fact that there are more students than there are chairs and classrooms—they are simply redefining the problem, imagining into existence a chairless classroom. The problem is real: years of consistent budget cuts have left the public universities without the money to buy “chairs” (and everything that represents), so public universities have shifted the financial burden onto the backs of individual students, whose tuition now pays much more of the cost. Since educating fewer students would therefore cost money, in effect—and it would also cost money to fully staff the necessary courses—there is no solution to the problem that does not require spending more money on chairs, classrooms, and teachers to teach them. MOOCs enter the picture, then, as a kind of fantasy solution to this unsolvable problem: instead of addressing the problem by either admitting fewer students or adding more courses, we will define the problem differently: chairless classrooms! Everyone is happy.
…mandating that a MOOC is the same thing as college—that it can be literally credited as a college class—not only changes what a MOOC is, it changes what college is.
After all, if a MOOC is simply a free educational resource that you can find on the web—which is what MOOCs presently are—then there’s nothing to object to in them, and everything to like. Such a MOOC is an almost wholly good addition to the universe: other than opportunity costs and the costs of a computer—which are not nothing, but they are also not that much—it’s simply a free and useful thing, available to those that want it. But the moment that such a use value becomes legible as a market value, when it becomes something that can be exchanged for the kinds of course credits that students pay very high tuition for, MOOCs become a radically different beast, with a radically different kind of economic value. It’ll be much easier to charge for them, on the one hand, and almost unthinkable that associated costs won’t rise, as they did with the once free California public universities (especially since Udacity and Coursera are literally for-profit enterprises). And on the other hand, they will radically devalue the resource that they can now be used to replace: if you can replace “chairs” (by which I mean, the brick and mortar campus) with a chair-less university—if those things are literally exchangeable—then the market value of “chairs” goes down, at the same time as its actual costs stay the same. If we can’t fully staff our classrooms now, how will we staff them in the future, when they have to compete with free?
But once market equivalency has entered the equation, once the market recognizes an equivalence between a MOOC and an in-person class, pointing out the difference that is experienced by the student will be trumped by the equivalence of market logic, which will dictate paying the cheaper of the two. An in-person education will become a unnecessary luxury: like gold itself, it will no longer be the “gold standard,” the basis of educational value, but rather, simply, an ornamental marker of elite status.
If this bill passes, the winners will be Silicon Valley along with the austerity hawks in the California legislature: while the former will have privileged access to the largest student market in the state, the latter will be relieved of the burden of having to educate the state’s young people. And the losers will be teachers and students.
Aaron Shapiro, The Tactics That Be: Contesting Tactical Urbanism in New Orleans, Berkeley Planning Journal.
When local historian and long-time New Orleans resident Christine Horn asked whether anybody really wanted “parkettes” along the St. Claude corridor, the discussion was never really about the small, designer installations in themselves. For Horn, the most outspoken critic of the parkette program, along with her neighbors and fellow long-term residents, the parkettes serve as a stand-in for the much broader, amorphous, and rather uncritically-received tactical urbanism movement.
Whereas previous initiatives to attract capital to New Orleans’ downtown neighborhoods may have proceeded under the banner of cultural sensitivity, tactical urbanism ups the ante by explicitly affording the promise of ongoing community input and engagement in order to keep new design – as St. Claude Main Street manager Michael Martin puts it – “indigenous” and “born out of on-the-ground conditions.” At least, it does so in theory. Community support and indigenous design, the logic goes, might mitigate some of the tensions inherent in neighborhoods undergoing rapid social transformation by gentrification.
Carrying out this promise in practice, however, is much messier. “The community” must be conjured, constructed, and represented, through various practices and technologies, which range from the focus group to civic media platforms for participatory urbanism. Horn’s critique is thus not about the parkettes themselves, but rather about the failure to accurately represent and meaningfully engage with the community during the planning process.
Along with Ann Deslandes’ piece in Global Urbanist on “What do pop-up shops and homelessness have in common?” and Mimi Zeiger’s “The Interventionist’s Toolkit” series, Aaron Shapiro’s critique is a much needed reminder to pop-up/diy/tactical urbanism aficionados that we operate in larger contexts and can often replicate or even exacerbate existing power inequities.
Friends and colleagues have heard an earful from me this year about the need to problematize pop-up urbanism and its potential to truly extend democracy and access. I get worked up when the focus remains only on the aesthetic or the economic impact because the urban intervention folks are my folks: city-loving, community-minded, art-geeky. We have to look deeper.
Get Out of Town: Has the celebration of cities gone too far? -
In 2011, Nicholas Lemann wrote on how ‘‘the new urban optimism leaves a lot of questions unanswered.’’ He also teased the various urbanologists for playground squabbles. ‘‘Edward Glaeser considers Richard Florida’s celebration of cities sentimental and unrigorous compared with his own celebration of cities.’’
The former Sheriff of Bombay had a vision of tree-lined boulevards, fountains and playgrounds. There will be no slums. The streets will be clean with wide pavements unencumbered by hawkers. People will stroll through pedestrian plazas. The night will be brilliant with majestic buildings and fountains (Seabrook, 1996, p. 48).
This vision in fact captures the aesthetic of the civic culture of the middle classes in liberalising India—one that attempts to manifest the image of the new Indian middle class by cleansing the urban city of any sign of the poor or poverty.
This drive has aimed at ‘cleaning up’ public spaces and land such as beaches, promenades, maidans and other public areas. For example, in the affluent suburb of Bandra, one such project spearheaded by Cultural Affairs Minister Pramod Navalkar focused on developing a jogging strip with plants and seats on the seaside promenade.
Consider the following description of the beautification and clean-up drive of Chowpatty, one of Mumbai’s most well-known beaches
Yes, its possible—to now take a relaxing walk along the Mumbai coastline at Girgaum chowpatty. Finally, the sand looks and feels like sand. Years of neglect and unsuccessful cleanliness drives later, the city’s most famed beach is free of muck, debris, urchins, beggars, lepers and hutments, thanks to state culture Minister Pramod Navalkar. The entire 1km stretch of the beach has been bulldozed and cleaned, illegal slums removed, fishermen relocated and dustbins installed (Sharma, 1998).
In this discursive construction, which is an instance of a broader set of public discourses, urchins, beggars and the residents of hut- ments are viewed as interchangeable with the “muck and debris” which must be “cleaned up”.
Text by Leela Fernandes, ”The Politics of Forgetting: Class Politics, State Power and the Restructuring of Urban Space in India” Urban Studies 2004 41: 2415 (PDF available here)
[Click on the images for their original sources]
So I’m a bit too paranoid to use Foursquare but this handy-dandy visualization (via Sunlight Foundation) reminds me that I have wanted to “check-in” at City Hall, the State Capitol, public transit (I’ve met a surprising number of the bus-phobic in Honolulu) and all the other civic/public infrastructure of the city.
And I honestly love it when I see Twitter friends have checked in at Ala Moana Beach. I can see you from my hideyhole in the monkeypod tree.
Your Year in Check-ins