RE: Future Tenochtitlan?

Thanksgiving with both eyes on the future and my feet in the present.

– Samuel Collins’ 2012 entry on alternate futures is relevant today because, on the verge of a global catastrophe, we need to keep imagining alternate versions of reality not only in fiction but also in practical issues like Dr. Jonathan Jae-an Crisman’s imminent speculation concept (https://urbanculturalstudies.wordpress.com/2019/10/14/reimagining-the-city-a-talk-by-dr-jonathan-jae-an-crisman/).

On a side note, while I was unable to find for you an electronic version of The Jaguar House, in Shadow referenced in Dr. Collins’ entry, I learned that the same author, Aliette de Bodard won a Nebula award for best novella. Here are some powerful words from her (you can visit her website and blog here: https://aliettedebodard.com/):

“The truth, of course, is that writing matters. It is frivolous, it is self-indulgent, but it is also necessary. It is breathing space and act of resistance and escapism on my own terms. Stories shaped me as a child and continue to shape me as an adult. And it is a great and potent reminder of how far this particular one has gone to be accepting this award, now.”

Happy Thanksgiving!

urbanculturalstudies

File:Tlatelolco Marketplace.JPG Tlatelolco Marketplace, Wikimedia, Joe Ravi, Creative Commons License CC-BY-SA 3.0

There’s an interesting piece in this year’s Nebula Awards Showcase, a lively short story about an alternative future premised on Aztec culture, “The Jaguar House, in Shadow,” by Aliette de Bodard.  One of the biggest challenges to those of us trying to imagine and evoke alternative futures is precisely what animates de Bodard’s story: can we come up with futures that aren’t already colonized by Western modernity?  As she writes (185):

“Part of the challenge (and what had frustrated me with the earlier attempt) is making sure that “modern” doesn’t end up equating “twentieth-century Western culture”; and equally making sure that the Aztec culture doesn’t turn out to be an ossified version of what the conquistadors saw.”
De Bodard struggles with this premise, ultimately sketching a future Tenochtitlan that is at turns archaeological speculation and Aztec steampunk.  Maglev stations, nanotechnology…

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Concrete & Destruction @ The Guardian

Concrete – Photo by Shivanshu Gaur on Unsplash

As part of its Concrete Week campaign, The Guardian published an article on March this year titled Concrete: the most destructive material on Earth. The article refers to the U.S., Japan, China, and Brazil as study cases relating the production of concrete with environmental, political, and economic issues we currently face all over the world. The article recognizes human activity as the driving force behind the global impact on landscapes, nature, and the environment.

“Chatham House predicts urbanisation, population growth and economic development will push global cement production from 4 to 5bn tonnes a year. If developing countries expand their infrastructure to current average global levels, the construction sector will emit 470 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide by 2050, according to the Global Commission on the Economy and Climate.” – The Guardian

For the full article follow this link. I fully recommend reading it since it is full of links to other intereting information: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2019/feb/25/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth

It is a lengthy article, so if you prefer, The Guardian has also made it available as a podcast as part of its “audio long reads” series: https://www.theguardian.com/cities/audio/2019/mar/15/concrete-the-most-destructive-material-on-earth-podcast

Downtown Oaxaca

Oaxaca City, Photo by Roman Lopez on Unsplash

During the holidays, I will be visiting the city of Oaxaca de Juárez. In addition to visiting touristic places close to the city such as Hierve el Agua, El Árbol del Tule and the archeological sites of Monte Albán and Mitla, I also plan to systematically document the linguistic landscape of downtown Oaxaca. This is a project that I am most eager to start because one way of understanding the essence of a city is through the linguistic signs displayed on its public domain. Oaxaca City is a place where several cultures interact and this diversity is present in a mirad of cultural artifacts, including the presence of English.

Languages in the state of Oaxaca by SIL International [1]

A previous research paper by Sayer [2] analyzed the potential of harnessing linguistic landscape methodology. In his analysis of the uses of English in public displays around Oaxaca City, he discovered six different ways in which people in Oaxaca City used English to convey messages related to:

  • Advance and sophistication
  • Fashion
  • Being cool
  • Sex(y)(ness)
  • Expressions of love
  • Expressing subversive identities

According to my quick search on Google Maps, downtown Oaxaca has an extension of approximately 1.6 by 1.4 kms (around 1 x 0.9 miles), and it is comprised by some 180 blocks (15 x 12) for a total length of 24 kms. I am pretty sure that if I walk 5 kilometers per day, I will be able to document the whole downtown area in five days time. However, I need to remember to save some energy for all of the things I want to do in Oaxaca. Here is a small list of places one can visit around the city:

  • Andador Macedonio Alcalá
  • Ex Convento Betlemitas
  • Ex Convento de la Soledad
  • Iglesia de San Agustín
  • Iglesia del Carmen Bajo
  • Instituto de Artes Gráficas
  • Jardín Antonia Labastida
  • Jardín Sócrates
  • Mercado 20 de Noviembre
  • Mercado Benito Juárez
  • Mercado de Artesanías
  • Museo Casa Juárez
  • Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Oaxaca
  • Museo Regional de Oaxaca
  • Museo Rufino Tamayo
  • Palacio de Gobierno
  • Paseo Juárez
  • Plaza de la Danza
  • Plazuela del Carmen Alto
  • Teatro Macedonio
  • … and so on and so on..

In fact, I found a rather nice guide from Culture Trip on what to do in Oaxaca City which points out several cultural events, foods and places to visit. I fully recommend it if you are interested in the culture of Oaxaca, although I will write a comprehensive guide of my travel to the city later on in January.

The petrified waterfalls of Hierve el Agua, Oaxaca, MX. Photo by analuisa gamboa on Unsplash

Resources

References

  • [1] Eberhard, David M., Gary F. Simons, and Charles D. Fennig (eds.). 2019. Ethnologue: Languages of the World. Twenty-second edition. Dallas, Texas: SIL International. Online version: http://www.ethnologue.com.ezproxy2.library.arizona.edu.
  • [2] Sayer, P. (2009). Using the linguistic landscape as a pedagogical resource. ELT journal64(2), 143-154.

An Open-Source Urban Morphology Measuring Toolkit in Python

Very recently, the Journal of Open Source Software published a paper called momepy: Urban Morphology Measuring Toolkit by Martin Fleischmann, a Ph.D. student from the Department of Architecture at the University of Strathclyde. The momepy toolkit allows researchers to measure spatial distributions (simple and complex) and spatial weights of buildings, blocks, plots, streets, networks, and other urban elements. The name momepy is short for Morphological Measuring in Python.

Fleischmann’s toolkit aims to help spread the use of Urban Morphometrics (UMM) [1], which is the description of urban form “via the systematic and comprehensive measurement of its morphological character” [2]. The issue is that this type of analysis has been lacking general-purpose software that allows researchers to make use of large datasets for the description of urban spaces and structures.

One key feature of momepy is the use of morphological tessellation. The following images illustrate the Voronoi tessellation function using Open Street Maps data from Böblingen (a town in Germany where I did a student internship at IBM):

Tessellation created using the code provided in the momepy User Guide. Although the code is very simple to use, [at first] I could not get it working for larger urban areas[, but Martin Fleischmann helped me figure out a work around this issue. Please see below at the bottom of the article under the Erratum section].
A zoom-in portion from the previous tessellation. The data for these images was gathered from the Open Street Map initiative and it is available under the CC 2.0 license (CC BY-SA). If you use these images or a portion/derivate of these images, please attribute Open Street Map and license your work through https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

The paper and its accompanying software are freely distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License which allows free sharing and adaptation for any purpose as long as the correct attribution is given.

Resources

  • The entire paper is available here.
  • These are the links to the GitHub repository and the User Guide. I strongly suggest reading through the user guide for a brief survey of what momepy can do!
  • To know more about Martin Fleischmann, you can read his student profile here or visit his own website here!
  • The Journal of Open Source Software is a publication aimed to help academics distribute and publish research software.
  • momepy stemmed from current research in the Urban Design Studies Unit at the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow.
  • Pro tip: if you install momepy through conda-forge (which is the recommended way to install it), do it on a separate conda environment where you set the channel priority to strict. You will probably have to install matplotlib through conda-forge as well. Then you can install osmnx using pip if you want to use Open Steet Map’s data.

References

  • [1] Dibble, J., Prelorendjos, A., Romice, O., Zanella, M., Strano, E., Pagel, M., & Porta, S. (2017). On the origin of spaces: Morphometric foundations of urban form evolution. Environment and Planning B: Urban Analytics and City Science, 46(4), 707–730. doi:10.1177/2399808317725075
  • [2] Fleischmann, M. (2019). momepy: Urban Morphology Measuring Toolkit. Journal of Open Source Software, 4(43), 1807, https://doi.org/10.21105/joss.01807

Erratum

Martin Fleischmann graciously helped me to solve my issue on the tessellation of larger urban areas. I was able to tessellate for you the metropolitan area of Vancouver, CA, again using Open Street Map data. I also tried tessellating other larger urban areas, but the process failed on the part of the osmnx Python package. I might later look at this issue or I may not.

Tessellation of Vancouver urban area (‘Vancouver, Canada’) created using data for these images was gathered from the Open Street Map initiative and it is available under the CC 2.0 license (CC BY-SA). If you use these images or a portion/derivate of these images, please attribute Open Street Map and license your work through https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/
Zoom in from previous image
Here we can see the actual Morphological Cells emerging from the image.

As Martin points out, when performing this type of analysis, one should beware the fact that it is resource consuming and the odds are that you will need to have a good computer or use some kind of web service to process your analysis. If you are on the coding/big data side of urban studies and you are interested in Martin’s work, I recommend that you follow him on his GitHub page for the latest news on his work @martinfleis

The Fitzroy Diaries

Dear readers, season two of The The Fitzroy Diaries is out! If you haven’t heard this weird (good weird) audio drama about the Fitzroy suburb in Australia, I do suggest you check it out. Maybe during your commute to work or while you do chores at home. The podcast is a great example of what types of audio drama are out there and the sound design is very very good. Even if you have never listened to podcasts or if you have never been to Australia, I am sure you will enjoy the suburban soundscapes this great podcast offers.
Happy listening!

urbanculturalstudies

Street sign in Fitzroy. Photo byMatthew KwongonUnsplash

The Fitzroy Diaries is an award-winning 8-chapter fictional podcast about the daily lives of the mid-class residents of Fitzroy, an inner-city suburb located in Melbourne. The podcast reflects the experiences, concerns, and lifestyle of its characters in this Australian suburb. Writer and narrator Lorin Clarke captures the essence of Fitzroy, which even after many waves of gentrification it still shows its past on both its landscape and its people. After listening to the full first season, I cannot wait until October this year when we get to listen to more of this podcast’s beautiful sound design and its unique approach to radio drama.

The Fitzroy Diaries is a podcast by the Australian Broadcast Corporation. It is written and directed by Lorin Clarke and produced by Sophie Townsend.

You can subscribe for free to The Fitzroy Diaries on iTunes

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The City Podcast “… if you see a mountain, be suspicious. Landfill!”

Chicago Skyline – Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

The quote above in the title is from Professor Robert Bullard, pioneer investigator of environmental discrimination and father of the concept of environmental justice. He is one of the many interviewees in The City, a podcast by USA Today. The full quote is this: “Chicago is completely flat, so if you see a mountain, be suspicious. Landfill!”

The City is a journalistic reconstruction of the start of the illegal dumpsters in the city of Chicago. In this podcast, creator, host, and executive producer Robin Amer, and her team of journalists tell the story of how one of Chicago’s most prolific criminals (John Cristopher) dumped piles of debris in several black neighborhoods. Robin Amer focuses her attention on the “six-story mountain of rubble in Chicago’s North Lawndale neighborhood” and its ties to an FBI operation (operation “Silver Shovel”) aimed to uncover political corruption in the city.

“The FBI called this new undercover investigation Operation Silver Shovel. “Silver” like the 30 pieces of silver Judas got for betraying Jesus. And “Shovel” like the bulldozers at John Christopher’s dumps.” – Says Aimer on Episode 5 where she continues to disclose how this FBI operation worsens the problem of unwanted waste in minority neighborhoods by protecting John Christopher as an informer while he still kept dumping in other neighborhoods, presumably without the FBI’s knowledge.

The podcast is not only well documented, but it also offers its listeners a chance to look at some of the concrete evidence used in the investigation, including some transcriptions, pictures and files. It is all available directly in the website under a link that says “DIG DEEPER”.

The City also has a VR/3d model of the North Lawndale neighborhood as it was in 1992. The model is available though the web or contained in USA Today’s app where you can use a VR set to explore the neighborhood. Alternatively, you can check the 3D map directly below by clicking on the play button and moving your mouse around. Make sure to click on the annotations bar that pops up at the bottom so you can get more information about the effects of this massive dump in the middle of a once clean and healthy neighborhood.

As an avid podcast listener, I recommend The City to anyone interested in urban issues, real stories, journalism and high quality podcasts. If you want to give The City a try, here is a 28 second trailer from the first season. The second season was recently released and I will write about it when I’m done listening!

A 28 second trailer from the first season of The City

You can subscribe for free to The City Podcast on ApplePodcasts, Spotify, Himalaya, or wherever you listen to podcasts. While you are there, remember to check out our own podcast: UCS Podcasts – urbanculturalstudies, by Professor Benjamin Fraser from the University of Arizona.

Resources

  • If you would like to learn more about environmental discrimination, make sure to read this article and visit Dr. Bullard’s website here.
  • If you would like to learn more about The City, I recommend this article by Mauricio Peña from the non-profit news outlet Block Club Chicago.
  • If you would like to know more about Robin Amer, you can find her website here.
  • Transcripts from the city are also available at the podcast website here.

The Use of Bicycles Has Doubled in Santiago de Chile

A recent news report from the Chilean news outlet Meganoticias indicates that the use of bicycles has doubled since the protests started in the middle of October this year. The protests, kindled partly because of the increase on public transportation fares, have resulted in the partial closing of the subway service. This and other factors have had an important impact in urban mobility within Santiago de Chile.

Center for Sustainable Urban Development – CEDEUS tweet (Translated by Google) “Tomás Echiburú [ @tomasechiburu ], researcher CEDEUS, found that at least double the flow of bicycles in Providencia compared to weeks ago. How relevant is the use of the bike to decongest Santiago?”

Tomás Exhiburú, a Chilean architect, measured the number of cyclists on one of the busiest streets in Santiago. On Monday, October 20th, 892 cyclists used the Ricardo Lyon bike route per hour, when two months before the number was 450. Since then, Tomás Exhiburú and his team have verified the architects’ initial research.

Tomás Exhiburú’s Tweet (Translated by Google) – Today in the #SuperLunes This note came out in ElMer about the research we are doing on the effect of the crisis on the use of the bicycle. We continue measuring and the hypothesis is confirmed: the demand has doubled.

The architect and his team are looking for ways to expand and make the use of bicycles safer, as well as to figure out new ways of transportation in these times of crisis. There is a call for people in Santiago to fill out an online survey aimed to gather mobility data and preferences.

Tomás Exhiburú’s Tweet (Translated by Google) – [SURVEY] From @CedeusChile We are studying the crisis in public transport and its effect on mobility patterns in Santiago. I ask you to answer this survey: https://forms.gle/kc9QPYg1qpmkLRPz8… It will not take more than 5 min and will provide very valuable information. Thank you. RT

The Slovenian philosopher Slavoj Žižek believes that acts of social discontent such as the protests in Chile are symptoms of our times and they are not going anywhere. In fact, they seem to be here to stay will continue to spread across countries.

Resources

  • The original article by Meganoticias on the doubling of bicycle use can be found here.
  • In case you were wondering, this is Tomás Exhiburú’s Twitter handle: @tomasechiburu He is constantly informing about the latest developments on the protests in Santiago de Chile.