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The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

  • This “street area calculator” could be really useful in determining context-specific redevelopment…
    Price has created a “street area calculator,” that allows you to plug in a street width and block size. Using this tool, you can come up with some basic figures to compare different grids and how they apportion a city’s land. To take two of the extreme examples calculated by Price using rough figures gleaned from Google maps, Portland, Oregon, has streets that are 60 feet wide (building face to building face, including the sidewalk) and blocks that are 200 by 200. Compare that to Salt Lake City, where the streets are 130 feet wide and the block are 660 by 660.

    These configurations mean that Salt Lake is using its space more efficiently by one measure, with only 30.2 percent of area devoted to streets, which must be maintained and are not “productive” in terms of tax revenue. Portland, in contrast devotes nearly 41 percent of its area to streets. Most street space goes to cars, with sidewalks taking up a relatively small fraction.

    But when you look at how much street frontage a city’s grid creates within a half-mile walk of a certain point – one potential measure of walkability – Portland has nearly 160,000 feet, while Salt Lake has just under 60,000.

    tags: street_usage street_grid andrew_price atlantic_cities

  • More than 10 years ago I said that continually pumping more PhD graduates into a rapidly downsizing job market, as academic leaders everywhere were doing, was immoral. This excellent essay backs me up from yet another angle.
    The academic job market is structured in many respects like a drug gang, with an expanding mass of outsiders and a shrinking core of insiders. Even if the probability that you might get shot in academia is relatively small (unless you mark student papers very harshly), one can observe similar dynamics. Academia is only a somewhat extreme example of this trend, but it affects labour markets virtually everywhere. One of the hot topics in labour market research at the moment is what we call “dualisation”[3]. Dualisation is the strengthening of this divide between insiders in secure, stable employment and outsiders in fixed-term, precarious employment. Academic systems more or less everywhere rely at least to some extent on the existence of a supply of “outsiders” ready to forgo wages and employment security in exchange for the prospect of uncertain security, prestige, freedom and reasonably high salaries that tenured positions entail[4].

    tags: academia alexandre_afonso socialcritique

  • I just started reading Vaclav Smil’s latest book. Good stuff.
    His conclusions are often bleak. He argues, for instance, that the demise of US manufacturing dooms the country not just intellectually but creatively, because innovation is tied to the process of making things. (And, unfortunately, he has the figures to back that up.)

    tags: vaclav_smil wired_magazine manufacturing economysocialcritique

  • The real reasoning behind Amazon’s drones?
    …if Amazon can become the first company with significant resources to invest in consumer drones, it could corner the market on cheap unmanned aerial vehicles the way it’s cornering the market on cheap computing power. And so far, investors have rewarded Bezos for putting long-term, wide-ranging ambition before short-term profits. Which means that however distant they are right now from Amazon’s core business, drones could become a much larger part of it.

    tags: amazon drones quartz

  • This article is about planning and placemaking and stuff, and also deeply philosophical. Good read.
    When I covered sports as a newspaper reporter, I got into a discussion with a highly successful football coach about his obsession with control. By the time a coach reaches the upper tiers of his profession, he or she has experienced hundreds of ways to lose. So they become students of failure, of where they missed opportunities to choose a better way to prepare a team or respond in a game situation. They hate surprises, even though they can’t think of many contests where they weren’t surprised at some point. They know that talented players will at some crucial moments in a contest improvise with success, perhaps even with game-winning success. But that’s not something they can control. And coaches are control freaks. So they drill their teams for near-instinctual responses to situations in order, they hope, to minimize the necessity for innovation. To control what’s within their power to control.

    I remember what the football coach told me about strategies for optimizing flexibility, for withholding commitment to rules, for keeping an open mind. “Well, I guess an open mind can be a good thing,” he told me. “But you have to be careful that your mind’s not so open that your brains fall out.”

    tags: flexibility predictability planning placemakers

  • We knew this already (well, some of us did), but this article is really worth a close read.
    This points to an emerging disaster in street psychology. As suburban retailers begin to colonize central cities, block after block of bric-a-brac and mom-and-pop-scale buildings and shops are being replaced by blank, cold spaces that effectively bleach street edges of conviviality. It is an unnecessary act of theft, and its consequences go beyond aesthetics, or even the massive reduction in the variety of goods and services that results when one giant retailer takes over a block. The big-boxing of a city block harms the physical health of people living nearby, especially the elderly. Seniors who live among long stretches of dead frontage have actually been found to age more quickly than those who live on blocks with plenty of doors, windows, porch stoops, and destinations. Because supersize architecture and blank stretches of sidewalk push their daily destinations beyond walking distance, they get weaker and slower, they socialize less outside the home, and they volunteer less. Studies of seniors living in Montreal found that elderly people who lived on blocks that had front porches and stoops actually had stronger legs and hands than those living on more barren blocks. Meanwhile, those who could actually walk to shops and services were more likely to volunteer, visit other people, and stay active.

    tags: atlantic_cities street_appeal cities biophilia facades built_environment charles_montgomery

  • Powerful article.
    Perhaps the greatest danger today is that of fatalist apathy. People do not think there is a viable alternative. They are wrong.

    On the technological side, techniques such as anonymization and pseudonymization allow the development of personalized services that don’t invade privacy on a mass scale – yes, targeted investigations can extricate identifying information out of such masked data, but we want targeted investigations to remain possible. Indiscriminate dragnet surveillance is the problem here.

    Technologists and developers need to implement privacy by design. They need to minimize the data they collect, because their advances are the very tools that can be turned against people. They need to mask that data where they can, and make it 100 percent clear to their users what data is being collected, why it’s being collected, and what’s going to happen to it. Also, we need encryption everywhere.

    tags: privacy surveillance gigaom police_state

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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