studying the city (Annette Koh)

Apr 11

condominium living - emancipation or consumption?

As a companion to the podcast on how the apartment complex took over South Korea, I wanted to discuss Leslie Kern’s article, “Reshaping the boundaries of public and private life: gender, condominium development, and the neoliberalization of urban living” in Urban Geography 28.7 (2007). 

This paper on gender and condominium development uses Toronto as a case study for how the shifting types of housing “may affect the nature of people’s attachments to, or engagements with, city life and local issues.” Much as in Honolulu, discussions about “smart growth” and sustainability have been framing ongoing projects to increase density and intensify urban land use, especially in areas formerly devoted to industrial or light-industrial uses. As Kern writes, “It is meant to serve as both a spatial and a social fix.” 

Single women comprise the largest group of condominium owners in Canada (2001 census data showed that 10.7% of female one-person households own condos, double the rate for households in general) and are estimated to make up 40% (!) of condo purchases in Toronto in particular. The discourses of security and independence feature prominently in Kern’s in-depth interviews with women condominium owners. She concludes that while “emancipation” may be one desired goal/outcome for women owners, this freedom must be understood in a context where urban life and urban citizenship is increasingly defined by ideas such as privacy, autonomy, and consumption.

Excerpts from Kern’s article:

The social aspects of intensification have not received a great deal of public attention, although a recent article in the Toronto Star (Cotroneo, 2006) drew attention to both the social challenges of intensified living and the ways that condominium communities form and interact. Residents were attempting to translate the common ownership structure into a common social structure by setting up activities and events within their condominium community. However, the impacts of this privatized form of community in terms of the effects on broader engagements with the city requires further investigation. The common ownership structure and monthly fees mean that residents have a vested interest in their own amenities, and fewer requirements for open and accessible public space, public recreation, or entertainment, or public provision of family programs (Fincher, 2004). The question remains, does intensification facilitate the formation of healthy urban communities, or are these communities so narrow and exclusive that the scale of “local” citizenship practices is reduced from the city or neighborhood to the individual, private condominium building?

How do women engage with the neighborhoods in which their condominiums are located? In this study, several women articulated a sense of community within their buildings, but this did not seem to translate into attachment to the neighborhood as a whole. Indeed, the condominium lifestyle may make neighborhood connections redundant for many.

image

[“This is KINGSCLUB – an exclusive condo for member’s only – your key to the ne plus ultra of condominium living in one of Toronto’s most premier locations.”]

They [developers] also wanted to have an area where people could get together, and kind of entertain, and meet other people and socialize. So those were the big things for the facility, the rooftop garden, the barbeque area, and I think the way that they created it was very much like a common area, so you feel like you’re at home and you get to meet new people. (Jillian, age 30)

It hasn’t got a whole bunch of shops along there, so it doesn’t get a lot of foot traffic. It feels like your space when you get home, you’re not sort of sharing it with everybody. (Jennifer, age 29)

So without wanting all the responsibilities of a house, I still wanted it to feel a little bit like a community….We actually had a barbeque where it was like all the owners, kind of a seasonal barbeque kind of thing where everybody could get together and meet each other, which is I guess something that tends to happen at street parties. So I think it’s kind of nice to have that sort of feel in a building..

[Bliss Condo: “This neighbourhood is full of possibilities with a complete cross section of the city all living together from groovy hipsters to strait laced Bay St. financiers.”]

“Taking advantage” of urban amenities is a way of relating to the city that is not a straightforward form of gendered emancipation; rather, this process interlocks with class privilege to promote a mode of urban living where consumption is the new citizenship. Condominium dwellers are courted by the city because of their potential to bring economic benefits to the downtown core. These benefits of downtown living are premised on a definition of quality of life that focuses on spectacle and consumption, rather than on improving equitable access to the public realm.

Apr 10

The Sound of Civil Rights: 19 songs that kept the movement going -

“Does the public interest lie in having houses built in such a way that they are not prone to excessive noise or vulnerable to flooding?Or, does the public interest lie in producing less expensive housing? The answer to both questions is yes, and therein lies the problem.” — Stuart B. Proudfoot, “The Politics of Approval: Regulating Land Use on the Urban Fringe”  Canadian Public Policy / Analyse de Politiques, Vol. 7, No. 2 (Spring, 1981), pp. 290.

Apr 09

[video]

How Did Korea Become A Land of Apartments? -

A talk (in English!) by Valérie Gelézeau on her research for “The Republic of Apartments” (아파트공화국) for the Korea Society in 2007. Upon her arrival in Seoul for her dissertation fieldwork, Gelézeau was struck by how South Korea had embraced the apartment building, particularly by the wealthy and the middle class. In France, concrete slab apartment complexes conjure visions of immigrant poverty and banlieue riots. She promptly switched her dissertation topic from public space to apartment buildings. Unfortunately there is no English-language edition of her book that I’m aware of, but there are both French and Korean-language versions.

Apr 08

How Fear of Vaccines Fueled the Resurgence of Preventable Diseases (NPR)

How Fear of Vaccines Fueled the Resurgence of Preventable Diseases (NPR)

[video]

Apr 07

Iron Man Fights Income Inequality (Or, How Mankiw Went Off the Rails) -

Posted here mostly for the quotes from economist Greg Mankiw (originally known for his widely used Principles of Economics textbooks). In February, he offered a jaw-droppingly inane and illogical defense of financial industry salaries:

In 2012, the actor Robert Downey Jr., played the role of Tony Stark, a.k.a. Iron Man, in “The Avengers.” For his work in that single film, Mr. Downey was paid an astounding $50 million.

Does that fact make you mad? Does his compensation strike you as a great injustice? Does it make you want to take to the streets in protest? These questions go to the heart of the debate over economic inequality, to which President Obama has recently been drawing attention.

“The Avengers” was a blockbuster with worldwide box-office receipts of more than $1.5 billion… Of that amount, only about 3 percent went to pay Mr. Downey. In other words, if you bought a matinee movie ticket for, say, $8, about 25 cents went to pay for Mr. Downey’s acting. If you have seen the movie, you might be tempted to say: “He gave a great performance. I’m happy to pay him a quarter for it.”

A similar case is the finance industry, where many hefty compensation packages can be found. There is no doubt that this sector plays a crucial economic role. Those who work in banking, venture capital and other financial firms are in charge of allocating the economy’s investment resources. They decide, in a decentralized and competitive way, which companies and industries will shrink and which will grow. It makes sense that a nation would allocate many of its most talented and thus highly compensated individuals to the task.

In addition, recent research establishes that those working in finance face particularly risky incomes. Greater risk requires greater reward.

“He sighed profoundly, and flung himself—there was a passion in his movements which deserves the word—on the earth at the foot of the oak tree. He loved, beneath all this summer transiency, to feel the earth’s spine beneath him; for such he took the hard root of the oak tree to be; or, for image followed image, it was the back of a great horse that he was riding, or the deck of a tumbling ship—it was anything indeed, so long as it was hard, for he felt the need of something which he could attach his floating heart to; the heart that tugged at his side; the heart that seemed filled with spiced and amorous gales every evening about this time when he walked out. To the oak tree he tied it and as he lay there, gradually the flutter in and about him stilled itself; the little leaves hung, the deer stopped; the pale summer clouds stayed; his limbs grew heavy on the ground; and he lay so still that by degrees the deer stepped nearer and the rooks wheeled round him and the swallows dipped and circled and the dragonflies shot past, as if all the fertility and amorous activity of a summer’s evening were woven web-like about his body.” — from Orlando by Virginia Woolf (via failure33object)

Apr 06

nitanahkohe:

finished draft 1; not at all an exhaustive list of massacre sites, much less contemporary violence—aimed more towards making a connection between allegedly unrelated ecological and cultural/physical destruction on the river, spanning 150 years of history. because many of us who have lived in the area for generations and generations carry these histories with us even on the day to day, i’m presenting the timeline with absolutely no dates—the year doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that it happened and that it’s remembered in our collective intergenerational consciousness (especially considering that each of these events have legacies that continue to play out today). the background photo is a famous shot of salmon washed up dead in the massive fish kill (point 10 on the timeline). 

I’ve been meaning to reblog this as a reminder to myself to read more about the Klamath River and then the University of Hawaii library system got Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability (2011, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman) which includes the chapter “A Continuing Legacy: Institutional Racism, Hunger, and Nutritional Justice on the Klamath” by Kari Marie Norgaard, Ron Reed, and Carolina Van Horn. The first two paragraphs are excerpted below. 

Karuk people have relied directly on the land and rivers of the Klamath Mountains for food since “time immemorial.” So vast was the abundance of salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, lamprey, and forest food resources that the Karuk were among the wealthiest people in the region that would become known as California. These foods flourished in conjunction with sophisticated Karuk land management practices, including the regulation of the fisheries and the management of the forest through fire. Ceremonial practices including the First Salmon Ceremony regulated the timing of fishing to allow for escapement and thus continued prosperous runs. Forests were burned to stimulate production of food species, especially acorns and bulbs. Burning also influenced the local hydraulic cycles, increasing seasonal runoff into creeks. The diversity of available food resources provided a safety net should one species fail to produce a significant harvest in a given year. Thus while salmon were centrally important, other food resources were consumed fresh and preserved to provide throughout the seasons.

With the invasion of their lands by European Americans in the 1850s, the life circumstances of Karuk people changed considerably. Today, Karuks are among the hungriest and poorest people in the state. Median income for Karuk families is $13,000, and 90 percent of tribal members live below the poverty line… Yet despite dramatic events that took place during the Gold Rush, the testimony of elders about foods they ate until recently indicates that considerable changes have also occurred within the last generation, suggesting that contemporary circumstances, as well as historical ones, produce Karuk hunger. Even tribal members in their early thirties recount significant changes in the number of fish in their diet since childhood. Four dams on the Klamath River figure centrally in this fact. Since 1962, these dams have blocked access to 90 percent of the Spring Chinook salmon spawning habitat. When the Spring Chinook population plummeted in the 1970s, Karuk people attained the dubious honor of experiencing one of the most recent and dramatic diet shifts of any Native tribe in the United States.

nitanahkohe:

finished draft 1; not at all an exhaustive list of massacre sites, much less contemporary violence—aimed more towards making a connection between allegedly unrelated ecological and cultural/physical destruction on the river, spanning 150 years of history. because many of us who have lived in the area for generations and generations carry these histories with us even on the day to day, i’m presenting the timeline with absolutely no dates—the year doesn’t matter nearly as much as the fact that it happened and that it’s remembered in our collective intergenerational consciousness (especially considering that each of these events have legacies that continue to play out today). the background photo is a famous shot of salmon washed up dead in the massive fish kill (point 10 on the timeline). 

I’ve been meaning to reblog this as a reminder to myself to read more about the Klamath River and then the University of Hawaii library system got Cultivating Food Justice: Race, Class, and Sustainability (2011, edited by Alison Hope Alkon and Julian Agyeman) which includes the chapter A Continuing Legacy: Institutional Racism, Hunger, and Nutritional Justice on the Klamath” by Kari Marie Norgaard, Ron Reed, and Carolina Van Horn. The first two paragraphs are excerpted below. 

Karuk people have relied directly on the land and rivers of the Klamath Mountains for food since “time immemorial.” So vast was the abundance of salmon, sturgeon, steelhead, lamprey, and forest food resources that the Karuk were among the wealthiest people in the region that would become known as California. These foods flourished in conjunction with sophisticated Karuk land management practices, including the regulation of the fisheries and the management of the forest through fire. Ceremonial practices including the First Salmon Ceremony regulated the timing of fishing to allow for escapement and thus continued prosperous runs. Forests were burned to stimulate production of food species, especially acorns and bulbs. Burning also influenced the local hydraulic cycles, increasing seasonal runoff into creeks. The diversity of available food resources provided a safety net should one species fail to produce a significant harvest in a given year. Thus while salmon were centrally important, other food resources were consumed fresh and preserved to provide throughout the seasons.

With the invasion of their lands by European Americans in the 1850s, the life circumstances of Karuk people changed considerably. Today, Karuks are among the hungriest and poorest people in the state. Median income for Karuk families is $13,000, and 90 percent of tribal members live below the poverty line… Yet despite dramatic events that took place during the Gold Rush, the testimony of elders about foods they ate until recently indicates that considerable changes have also occurred within the last generation, suggesting that contemporary circumstances, as well as historical ones, produce Karuk hunger. Even tribal members in their early thirties recount significant changes in the number of fish in their diet since childhood. Four dams on the Klamath River figure centrally in this fact. Since 1962, these dams have blocked access to 90 percent of the Spring Chinook salmon spawning habitat. When the Spring Chinook population plummeted in the 1970s, Karuk people attained the dubious honor of experiencing one of the most recent and dramatic diet shifts of any Native tribe in the United States.

Apr 05

I still think tangrams are an acceptable auntie gift. Yes, I am that adult who likes to give educational gifts to small children.
visualizingmath:

The United States Illustrated in Tangrams by Midnight Umbrella
Ryan Arruda on his work:

"Well, I guess they’re not tangrams precisely, because the shapes vary in size. However, they feature the geometric components of traditional tangrams—squares, triangles, and parallelograms. Anyways, this was really fun to create; Nebraska was the easiest to illustrate, the hardest was either West Virginia or North Carolina."

Learn more about tangrams here!

I still think tangrams are an acceptable auntie gift. Yes, I am that adult who likes to give educational gifts to small children.

visualizingmath:

The United States Illustrated in Tangrams by Midnight Umbrella

Ryan Arruda on his work:

"Well, I guess they’re not tangrams precisely, because the shapes vary in size. However, they feature the geometric components of traditional tangrams—squares, triangles, and parallelograms. Anyways, this was really fun to create; Nebraska was the easiest to illustrate, the hardest was either West Virginia or North Carolina."

Learn more about tangrams here!

Apr 04

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, many companies, facing increasingly restive capital markets, shed activities deemed peripheral to their core business models: out went janitors, security guards, payroll administrators, and information technology specialists. But then came activities many of us would assume were more central to these well-known businesses: the front desk staff at hotel check-in; the drivers for the package delivery companies who come to our homes or offices; the tower workers who help assure uninterrupted cell phone service promoted in the commercials (and for which we pay a premium).

The new organization of the workplace also undermines the mechanisms that once led to the workforce sharing part of the value created by their large corporate employers. By shedding employment to other parties, lead companies change a wage-setting problem into a contracting decision. The result is stagnation of real wages for many of the jobs formerly done inside.

Laws originally intended to ensure basic labor standards and to protect workers from health and safety risks now enable these changes by focusing regulatory attention on the wrong parties. Core federal and state laws that regulate employment, often dating back to the first half of the twentieth century, often assume simple and direct employee/employer relationships. They make presumptions about responsibility and liability similar to those we make as customers, presumptions that ignore the transformation that has occurred under the hood of many business enterprises.

” — Vignettes from the Modern Workplace from David Weil’s The Fissured Workplace: Why Work Became So Bad for So Many and What Can Be Done to Improve It