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John Thackara

The Diminishing Spaces of Childhood [January 2006]


This free monthly newsletter starts conversations on issues to do with design for resilience — and thereby reveals opportunities for action. It also brings you news of Doors of Perception events and encounters. Back issues are now archived on Design Observer. To subscribe to future newletters by John Thackara click here.

OUR PLANS FOR 2006
We will soon start preparing for Doors of Perception 9. The next biennial encounter of the Doors tribe is planned for March 2007 in India. Precise dates, a theme, and a format, will be finalized in a couple of months from now. I am also developing the programme of Designs of the time (Dott), which takes place in the UK through 2007. The climax of Dott will be the Creative Community Awards - “The Commies” – in October-November 2007. We will update the Doors blog, and publish this newsletter, throughout this year. As a subscriber, you’ll be the first to hear as details of activities firm up and new ones are announced.
http://www.doorsofperception.com
http://www.dott07.com

DESIGNS OF THE TIME (DOTT)
A centrepiece of Dott is to be a project, open to all high school students in the region, that involves them in mapping and evaluating the flows of resources in and out of their school, or community. If you know of similar projects, already underway or completed, please send me details.

THE DIMINISHING SPACES OF CHILDHOOD
A fascinating essay by Henry Jenkins explores the changing spaces of childhood. In the nineteenth century, children living on America’s farms enjoyed free range over a space which was ten square miles or more; boys of nine or 10 would go camping alone for days on end, returning when they were needed to do chores around the house. Henry did spend some quality childhood time in wild woods, but his son has grown up in apartment complexes, surrounded by asphalt parking lots. Video games constitute his main playing spaces.
http://web.mit.edu/cms/People/henry3/complete.html

PIG CITY CUBED
If humans can live in skyscrapers, why not pigs and fish? When the Dutch architect Winy Maas first first proposed that 600 metre-high skyscrapers, filled with pigs, could supply most of Europe’s pork needs for a year, he was accused of proposing “concentration camps for animals”. But why should agriculture be restricted to the countryside? Would it not be efficient, and ecologically sounder, to move food production and consumption closer together? The proposal is developed in a 1,400 page book by Maas’ design firm, MVRDV, called KM3. KM3 is about a world supporting ten times more people – 65 billion – than it does today. How much space would be required to service all these people, and how would it be organised? Read more at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2006/01/pigs_in_the_sky.php

SWEDEN TO END OIL DEPENDENCY
Mona Sahlin, Minister for Sustainable Development, reckons Sweden can be independent of oil by 2010. She argues, too, that Sweden can capture huge export markets for alternative energy solutions.
http://www.sweden.gov.se/sb/d/3212/a/51058

SCHOOLS AS GATED COMMUNITIES?
The British government will rebuild or renew every secondary school in England over a 10-15 year period in a seventy billion pound programme called Building Schools for the Future (BSF). Microsoft is making a big push to position itself as a preferred supplier of ICT within this vast programme. Based on the innocuous-sounding proposition that “ICT should be available to a schools as an industrial strength utility”, Microsoft has persuaded Kent Council Council to make its Learning Gateway platform a key part of its ICT infrastructure for multi-school systems. But, as I understand its architecture, Learning Gateway contains proprietory software products for use within a closed system. Doesn’t this turn schools into the ICT equivalent of gated communities? Read more at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2005/12/schools_as_gate.php

ACTIVE WELFARE IN HELSINKI
Emude, a consortium of design schools and research institutions - and Doors - has spent the last two years years looking at social innovation among creative communities in different parts of Europe. Having observed the emergence of what we call “active welfare” in many situations, we reckon that new kinds of social infrastructure are needed to support it. A meeting in Helsinki, on Friday 10 February (probably at UIAH), will develop this idea. Details in our February newsletter (and on the Doors blog).

WIFIVILLE
The most important potential impact of wireless communications will be on the resource ecologies of cities. Connecting people, resources, and places to each other in new combinations, on a real-time basis, has the potential to reduce the amount of hardware - from gadgets, to buildings - that we need. So wireless communication infrastructures need to be pervasive and free. I’m giving a lecture at the Bartlett in London to develop this theme. 18.30h Wednesday 8 March 2006. Darwin Lecture Theatre, Darwin Building, University College London, Gordon Street, London WC1.

SEMIOTIC POLLUTION
Owen Gibson used smart spectacles, connected to a video camera and a recording device, to monitor his exposure to marketing messages: He saw 250 adverts during a 90-minute journey through central London. And the number of adverts he could recall unprompted? One. More at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2005/12/semiotic_pollut.php

BLINDED BY SCREENS
Advertising persons respond to what they call “the clutter problem” by adding to it. Their latest wheeze is to increase the intensity of large, high intensity LED screens of the kind that give people headaches in London’s Kings Cross Station. I'm collecting evidence that these push media in public spaces are bad for our bodies as well as what's left of our minds. If you know about any medical or scientific studies, please let me know.

C.A.P. IN HAND
Is the Common Agriculture Policy (CAP) is a good thing because it protects small-scale local farmers, or a bad thing because it helps anti-local agribusiness? Stefan Magdalinski has launched a website, famsubsidy.org, to help us decide on the basis of hard evidence.
http://www.farmsubsidy.org

CREATIVITY IN BUSINESS
What’s impressive about emerging economies is not where they stand today, but the scale of their commitment to knowledge-intensive industries, including design, in the near future. Most of us in the West and North underestimate the speed with which things are changing. Read more at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2005/12/creativity_in_b.php

CONFUSIONOPOLIS
Singapore’s £158 million creative centre, Fusionopolis, which opens in 2007, will provide “a vibrant work-live-work-play environment”. Fusionopolis is the latest in a series of grandiose Singapore projects that include Biopolis (biotech) and a Technopolis. I fear that these projects will turn out to be bloated and old-fashioned. They are based on a technology-focused, and therefore unsustainable, understanding of innovation. Innovation needs to be situated in reality - not segregated from it. Read more at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/policy/index.php

CAN THIS BE SMART?
On a recent trip to South Korea I also learned about Songdo Intelligent City, the world’s largest privately-run urban development. Less than ten percent of the 125 million square feet development is reserved for public space. The rest is for “knowledge-based information technology industrial complexes”, a digital entertainment cluster, and bio-industry. Free trade and international business are unlikely flourish when so little regard is paid to livability. The excellent mayor of Seoul, who is reinstalling canals and nature zones, understands this. Read more at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2005/12/minor_setback_f.php

MINIHOMPY TALES
For cyber-literate Koreans – ie, nearly everyone there - the fusion of real and online worlds seems to have become normality. 90 percent of Korean twenty-somethings (and one third of the population as a whole) cultivate their own “minihompy” (= mini home page) in Cyworld. A Cyworld minihompy differs from a regular blog by featuring an online “miniroom” which complements the owner’s real world home. Read more at:
http://www.doorsofperception.com/archives/2005/12/seoul_sublime.php

CULIBLOG
Debra Solomon’s Culiblog has been revamped. Recent posts deal with local eating, community supported agriculture,honey, uncooked food, figs, and romance in yurts.
http://www.culiblog.org

SHOPS AS MUSEUMS
In the current issue of Metropolis, Karrie Jacobs discusses "how hard it is to mount a really innovative contemporary industrial-design show these days. The problem is that the products one can find on the shelves of almost any store are likely to be as varied, sophisticated, and inventive as the objects a museum can pull together".
http://www.metropolismag.com/cda/story.php?artid=1688

DIGITAL ARTS IN AFRICA
Unesco has published an online collection of digital arts practice from and in Africa
http://www.unesco.org/culture/digiarts/africa

INFORMATION SOCIETY IN AFRICA
The European Commission is organising a conference in Africa about its concept of an “information society”. IST-Africa conference, 3 - 5 May 2006, Pretoria, South Africa
http://www.IST-Africa.org

PODCAST: SOLIDARITY ECONOMICS AND DESIGN
The podcast of my lecture at the Royal Society of Arts is online at:
http://www.thersa.org.uk/news/news_closeup.asp?id=1271

IN THE BUBBLE: PLEASE PROMOTE A PROFESSOR
Your help getting word out about In The Bubble: Designing In A Complex World has been truly fantastic. May I request your support again? Next month MIT Press will publish the paperback edition and I need the name and full postal address of a teacher or professor to whom you would like us to send a complimentary copy. We’ll make sure your name as the proposer is included.

FACULTY POSITION AT STANFORD
Bill Moggridge tells us that Stanford University seeks to fill a faculty position in design. They are primarily interested in "accomplished designers who do design research and teach design and design methodology".
http://www-me.stanford.edu/faculty/faculty_pos.html

WEB MANAGING EDITOR FOR DOTT
Designs of the time has a vacancy for a web managing editor to be based in Newcastle upon Tyne in England.
http://www.nrgplc.com/printdetail.aspx?id=4518

WHO IS USING WHOM?
The Human Computer Interaction (HCI) community meets at an annual conference called CHI (Computer Human Interaction). Curious eh? Two thousand or more specialists will discuss methods, tools, and strategies to improve the user experience of products & services. Montreal, 24-27 April.
http://www.chi2006.org

IS AMBIENT INTELLIGENCE A THREAT?
This conference on ambient intelligence will discuss the threats to and vulnerabilities in ambient intelligence networks and the safeguards needed to address issues of privacy, security, trust, identity and digital divide. The conference is sponsored by Europe’s SWAMI consortium (Safeguards in a World of Ambient Intelligence). Brussels, 21-22 March 2006.
http://swami.jrc.es

IN PRAISE OF POETRY
Thanks to ghastly Wanadon’t, our internet has again been down for days and we have to access our email by telephone. Your emailed seasonal photos are wonderful - but take hours to download. Next year, would you kindly put them on flikr and send us the url? Or think about sending us a poem rather than a picture?

MAKE 25 OF YOUR CLIENTS HAPPY IN 25 MINUTES
Do you need to send a memorable new year’s gift to your 25 most valued clients and friends? Of course you do. Offer them a subscription to this newsletter. They need never even know that it’s free.
http://www.doorsofperception.com/mailinglist/





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