Monday, June 25, 2012

Urban research: The laws of the city

This intriguing article on modern data collection and urban research, city planning and management relates to Mountainair only distantly and mostly through the classic "city and country" contrast image that first appears in Western literature in the work of Theocritus, who originated both pastoral poetry and city comedies. 

To echo the distinctions of Greimas's semiotic square, "here" is not just "not city" but about as un-city as possible in an era highways and high connectivity, have not been city since . Still, it reminds me of past city research (representation of urban space in literature) and leads me to wealth of "cityspace" links and new resources.

NO FACE looks alike, but human bodies and their genetic make-up are almost identical. Cities too have distinctive charms—but are surprisingly alike behind their façades. Regardless of size, their populations grow at the same average rate everywhere in the world. A city twice as large as its neighbour is likely to be 15% richer. The mix of green space and built-up areas tends to be equal everywhere. 
Such findings reflect a recent shift in urban research. Better technology has turned cities into fountains of data that confirm known regularities and reveal striking new patterns....
For example,
Twitter messages reveal a city’s structure and its activity. London has one centre, near Piccadilly Circus; New York has several, including near Times Square, City Hall and in Brooklyn. Tweeting correlates negatively with greenery, particularly in Central Park.

Application and implications abound...
City planners, too, may have to rethink their work. If cities indeed develop organically along certain lines, pushing them onto another track may be futile. Instead of trying to limit growth, planners should “make room”, says Mr Angel: be realistic when projecting urban land needs, set generous metropolitan limits, protect some open space and provide an arterial grid of roads. This is pretty much what New York did in the early 18th century. It is what some Chinese cities are doing now. 
Yet the most immediate impact of urban data will be on how cities are managed. 
So how will this change cities? Their nature or inherent "citiness," has held surprisingly constant through centuries and technological changes, from ancient Alexandria and Rome to medieval, renaissance and early modern (e.g. 1600's) cities, through 19th century industrialization and rapid urbanization to a world more urban than not. The tone of this article echoes city planning and management as science. Been there done that ~ more than once too ~ without making a dent in the essence of city. 

Read the complete article, Urban research: The laws of the city, in The Economist

Friday, June 8, 2012

The Library of Utopia

Libraries are places... as much or even more so than books, their inhabitants. Places inhabited by books and their guardians, visited by readers and other seekers. Special places, real or imagined ~  Borges' Library of Babel, Eco's in the Name of the Rose, the lost Library of Alexandria (which lives in legend and on its own Facebook page, perhaps refound beneath the sea), the new one... others...
Google's ambitious book-scanning program is foundering in the courts. Now a Harvard-led group is launching its own sweeping effort to put our literary heritage online. Will the Ivy League succeed where Silicon Valley failed?
In his 1938 book World Brain, H.G. Wells imagined a time—not very distant, he believed—when every person on the planet would have easy access to "all that is thought or known."