July 28, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 28th 2014 Edition

  • What is public? Anil Dash doing a great job of setting out how public/private isn't a black and white issue. "Ultimately, we rely on a set of unspoken social agreements to make it possible to live in public and semi-public spaces."
  • ‘Hello there’: eight lessons from Microsoft’s awful job loss memo "An experience is something that leaves an impression on you; everyday activities ought to do no such thing, or we would all be exhausted within minutes of waking up. Using your phone, except perhaps when it’s brand new, should not be an experience."

And a video of Bruce Sterling's talk at FAB10:

"I'm a smart city but my brain is run in California"

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July 21, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 21st 2014 Edition

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July 15, 2014

The Toxteth Jellyfish

I live on the edge of Toxteth, a borough of Liverpool. It is "best" known as the location of the riots in 1981 - you can see the Rialto (a landmark point in the unrest) from my front door.

It's more gentrified these days, particularly the town side of Upper Parliament Street, although it still suffered a little in the 2011 flare-up.

I pass through it pretty often, but generally only the through-routes and during the day. Having heard many scare stories over the years, it was with a little trepidation (though not enough to force me onto the main roads) that I ventured off on foot through the side streets as dusk descended.

It was much more animated than I expected. Not busy, but markedly more people out and about than I'd expect, given the time of day. Both walking somewhere, and pottering about in their front gardens or just sitting on the stoop. Very much Jane Jacobs' "eyes on the street".

I was a few minutes early as I neared my destination, and I wondered if those eyes would become suspicious if I ended up loitering, given it was outside an empty shop.

Turning the final corner, I saw there were three other people hanging around there already. As I approached I greeted them with what sounded like a secret service code phrase - "Are you here jellyfish spotting?". They were.

I'd assumed I'd be the only person out to see tonight's unveiling. I'm not quite sure why, this is Liverpool after all. By five-past ten, when the shutters had opened and we could see the luminescent jellyfish in their tanks, the group had swelled to about twenty - arty types; a few dog walkers; drivers pulled up to see what was happening; a couple of mothers, with their young kids, in their dressing gowns, obviously being allowed up late to come and see the show. I even ended up discussing laser-cutting techniques with an artist who'd actually sent us an email about it in the time since I'd left my flat!

The jelly fish are there for The Physical Possibility of Inspiring Imagination in the Mind of Somebody Living, a Biennial artwork by Walter Hugo and Zoniel.

I don't know if it will inspire imagination, but it was great to see so many people drawn into the depths of Toxteth so late in the evening.

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July 13, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 13th 2014 Edition

This week's "Interesting Things" brought to you a day earlier than normal, as there's still a small window of opportunity for UK citizens to contact their MP about tomorrow's vote on the Data Retention and Investigatory Powers Bill. It's easy to send them an email, just head to www.writetothem.com. My letter looked like this.

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July 07, 2014

Interesting Things on the Internet: July 7th 2014 Edition

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July 04, 2014

Planning and the Department of Civic Design

Russell's most recent blog post reminds me of when I first started reading his blog. He had some sort of "planning club", which was very alien to me as I had no idea what this "planning" was - as it seemed to bear little resemblance to any of the planning I'd undertaken or encountered up until that point.

Still, as evidenced in his video, it was all interesting stuff. I think going by his explanation that the most important skill of the planner is to get people to do stuff, I'd like to learn to be more of a planner.

Back when I was choosing my career options at school, it was a toss up between computing and advertising. As crazy as that sounds now, given how badly I seem to do at promoting what I do for a living, it's true. Maybe in an alternate reality there's a version of me who had a career as a planner.

Anyway, the real reason I'm writing this blog post is actually to take issue with a throwaway comment Russell makes at the start of the video - that town planning was invented in the 1960s.

According to a rather interesting little exhibition at the that I never got round to blogging about (back in November 2009 it turns out), town planning was invented much earlier with the first university department for it founded at the University of Liverpool in 1909.

That had the much nicer name of the Department of Civic Design. Maybe that's something we should re-appropriate for a mySociety-style smart city movement?

My favourite bit of the exhibition was finding out that the department was founded with a grant from Lord Lever, he of the soap fame, when he handed over his winnings from having taken the Daily Mail to court for libel.

I took a couple of photos of the exhibition, but it turns out they're mostly uselessly blurry. This one, however, deserves more of an airing - I'm sure it'll come in handy for smart city slide decks...

Five town silhouettes

Update, 9th July 2014: Thanks to Tristam on Twitter for tracking down that the picture was drawn by Patrick Abercrombie in 1913, and then updated in 1933 for his book "Town & Country Planning"

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