Some Monday links

by Yule Heibel on May 22, 2007

Via an affair with urban policy, I just discovered CitySkip (the blog), which posted some uncanny YouTube videos.

First, there’s a film by Colourfield Productions (Dortmund, Germany) about Stephen Wiltshire, an autistic man characterised as an “art savant” and “human camera.” The film chronicles how he was taken on a 45 minute helicopter flight over Rome (which he hadn’t seen from the air ever before), after which he spent 3 days recreating the historic centre in its entirety on a 5 yards long piece of paper: At autistic man’s recreation of Rome. (Note: the video was removed from YouTube, but you can find it on this page.)

Next, there’s a film about City Repair Project‘s Village Building Convergence. The video is on the organisation’s main site, and also on YouTube: Transform Space into Place. At one point, Mark Lakeman (of City Repair Project) says, “you travel within the grid and you see where you’re going the whole time, there’s no subtlety or surprises.” The film at this point shows not just a straight road, but also the straight lines of the supermarket aisle. That was very clever (in a good sense).
Lakeman goes on to add a little history lesson about how the grid is based on Roman lay-outs, and that it’s designed not to facilitate interaction. I thought, “hmm, that sounds exactly like Edward Hall’s explication of Humphry Osmond’s work around socio-petal and socio-fugal space” (see my “proxemics” entry earlier this month), which is what I based my last article in Focus Magazine on. As it happens, I’m working right now on an article for the July issue that expands on environmental psychology (this time with a focus on Grant Hildebrand’s ideas — see The Origins of Architectural Pleasure) and possibly biophilia. (It’s pathetic — I only get 800 words per article, so I have to be very selective in organising my material. This should be a series, but then I have to consider how much I can reiterate — rehash — each month, for those readers who didn’t read the previous month’s entry… )

Third, there’s Case for Separated Bike Lanes in NYC (also on YouTube, but via CitySkip). It’s one of the best visuals (and “verbals”) I’ve encountered to strengthen the case for separated bike lanes.

Finally, via CEOs for Cities (blog), a link to a book review by Stephen Shapin in the New Yorker, What Else is New? How uses, not innovations, drive human technology. Shapin reviews military historian David Edgerton’s book, The Shock of the Old: Technology and Global History Since 1900, which Booklist described this way:

The common view of technology as a matter of novelty, of invention and innovation accelerating into the future, is very limited, Edgerton says. To understand technology historically, consider technology in use, and some remarkable facts emerge. Highly touted new technologies, such as the Pill and atomic power, were derailed by unforeseen (AIDS) or unconsidered (nuclear waste disposal) developments and sidelined by the technologies they had supposedly made obsolescent. The huge twentieth-century surge in productivity depended on improving old technologies, and we see the effect in such places as China of the quick succession of technological revolutions that occurred over more time in the U.S. Maintenance consumes a much larger proportion of technological effort than innovation, nations a-building characteristically attempt to control certain technologies for nationalistic purposes, and war and killing are the wellsprings of the most consequential modern inventions. In short, the old ways–power by harness animals, nationalism, warfare, slaughtering for food–don’t fade away. They adapt, and that is the real big story about technology.

That really piques my interest. I checked our local library right away to see if it was available — and darn it, three people are in front of me in the queue to get the book.

Books. Another “old” technology!

Uses. That’s where I come in. Heh.


melanie May 26, 2007 at 11:47 pm

Seems to link to your earlier comments about caves.

Edmund Ng June 6, 2007 at 10:29 am

This film about Stephen Wiltshire totally changes my perspective of the inner thoughts of people who are austic.

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