Saskia Sassen [brief video]– the gap between data and urban knowledge

“If knowledge is about the city … then you are beginning to tell an urban story”

Great short video on how data is different from knowledge (“knowledge is not simply a data set”); getting knowledge from data requires an interpretation, an experience in a way that data does not. The video comes from the Picnic festival: Life in Readable Cities hosted by the European Journalism Center.

Here’s also her piece on “Why Cities Matter”.

Toward an Urban Cultural Studies [video posted online]

For anyone interested in watching it here is a link to the lecture–or rather to the exercise in organized rambling–I gave at the University of Kentucky, now on UK vimeo:

“Toward an Urban Cultural Studies: Henri Lefebvre, Space and the Culture(s) of Cities”

To watch video, click above or go here:

Thanks again to the Department of Hispanic Studies there. The prezi itself can be seen in the background on the screen, but as announced before can also be viewed here. See also this previous post for more general information about the talk.

Make_Shift: The Expanded Field of Critical Spatial Practice

For those of you in Berlin on October 6, 2012:
“Make_Shift: The expanded field of critical spatial practice
International conference
TU Berlin, Institute for Architecture, Straße des 17. Juni 152, A151
October 6, 2012, 11 am – 7 pm
“Makeshift” is a term usually associated with a politically expedient or resourceful solution – temporary or permanent – for something missing. Here the term is also split to emphasize the two components that are key to our central theme of self-generated, informal planning agendas: namely the DIY aspects of making, and the paradigm shifts that can result from this. “Makeshift” also presupposes a condition of scarcity; of shrinking resources. Situated within the expanded field in question are appropriations and transformations of urban space that encompass planning, civic engagement, artistic practice and activism. In short, a re-imagination of the city space and its potentialities….”


Progressive Geographies

Revise and resubmit. This decision from journals has recently been discussed on the New APPS blog, and Peter Gratton has responded here. Here is my take on this – this refers to no specific case, but is the product of six years as an editor, and more as an author, referee and board member:

Yes, revise and resubmit is usually a good thing; and certainly not a moment to despair. It is not a reject, but nor is it an accept, however conditional. You are being given a chance, with guidance on what to do. If that guidance isn’t clear – ask for clearer guidance from the editor.

It is not sensible to argue with an editor that has given you a ‘revise and resubmit’ decision, seeking to get them to turn it into an ‘accept with revisions’ decision. You as author don’t know the whole picture, the identities…

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Contemporary Cartographies. Drawing Thought

“Contemporary Cartographies. Drawing Thought” – CaixaForum Barcelona (July 25-October 28, 2012)

I find this to be a compelling image that speaks to the relationships between body, mind, and space. It forms part of an exhibition currently at CaixaForum in Barcelona. I have loosely translated from Spanish the following text found on CaixaForum’s website (

The exhibition presents maps generated by artists of the twentieth and twenty-first century who interrogate and question systems of representation. They are cartographies of physical and mental spaces that generate new meanings and new insights about different types of spaces (heterotopias, utopias, invisible or virtual). Thus, we become aware of the prevalence of the simulacrum of reality, of our difficulties to represent the contemporary world and notions of ideology and power implicit in the act of representing.

“Contemporary Cartographies. Drawing thought” shows how artists have subverted cartographic language, from the map of the world of the Surrealists to the cartographies of Art & Language of Artur Barrio. It also includes the transformation of cartography in life by the Situationists and the bodily cartographies of Carolee Schneemann, Yves Klein and Ana Mendieta. It addresses mind maps, from Lewis Carroll to Erik Beltran, the lived experience of On Kawara, the different concepts of space and also works that respond to the cartographies of power, like those of Marcel Broodthaers, Alighiero Boetti, Thomas Hirschhorn or Francis Alÿs.

The site also supplies very interesting links to different types of cartographies.


Jane Jacobs Medalist Omar Freilla: Green Worker Cooperatives and the South Bronx

[reblogged from]

Jane Jacobs Medalists

Omar Freilla

Photo of Omar Freilla
Photo by Rob Bennett

Even though only 34, Omar Freilla has already brought fresh hope and new ideas to the South Bronx, an area that was a national icon of urban decay in the 1970s and 1980s. Ironically, the reason for this blighted image can be traced back to many of the issues that Jane Jacobs fought against: the construction of highway projects that tore through neighborhoods, cold and imposing housing projects, and slum clearance. Omar and his parents, Zoraida Martez and Jose Freilla, who settled in the Bronx after emigrating from the Dominican Republic in 1960s, were firsthand witnesses to this deterioration and the burning of the Bronx. Continue reading

CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture

CFP-edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture

Submissions are invited for an edited book on Marxism and Urban Culture that has received initial interest from an international publisher known for their strength in Marxian-themed series and titles.

While all abstracts using a Marxian framework to approach culture in urban contexts are welcome, it is anticipated that submissions will conform to one of two subtypes reflecting the division of the book into Continue reading

Victor Serge and the Journey into Defeat: The Case of Comrade Tulayev

Delivering searing criticism on the psychosis of absolute power, Victor Serge’s fifth novel to be featured in my personal blog, For the Desk Drawer, is a masterly work. The Case of Comrade Tulayev was written in 1942 and is situated in the context of the Great Terror in Soviet Russia orchestrated by Joseph Stalin. In the sequence that constitutes the ‘defeat-in-victory’ trilogy (preceded by Midnight in the Century [1939] and succeeded by The Long Dusk [1943-5]), the novel intersects in several subtle ways with Serge’s other books. The Case of Comrade Tulayev is a chronicle of the Moscow arrests and show trials in the 1930s that pulls in a myriad of characters as well as the overbearing appearance of ‘the Chief’, Stalin himself. It does so by offering at least two intersections to aspects present in Serge’s earlier novels. First, it offers a set of intersecting elements linked to specific characters that appear in the earlier books; second, it offers direct intersections on the theme of space and the state. How the spatial logistics of the state, how the modern state organises space, and how the state engenders social relations in space are thus a quintessential feature of The Case of Comrade Tulayev.

Continue reading

Beyond Zuccutti Park

Beyond Zuccotti Park


A number of scholars have participated to produce this new text that tries put the Occupy Wall Street movement into the context of scholarly work on public space, democracy, and social change. Just getting started on it, so I can’t comment to extensively, but I am impressed by the wide range of disciplines represented and the astonishing number of scholars (nearly three dozen) that are represented.