Tagurban

Crack the Surface: Free Documentary Series on Urban Exploration

Crack The Surface – Episode I from SilentUK on Vimeo.

Crack The Surface – Episode II from SilentUK on Vimeo.

Produced in association with:

silentuk.com
sub-urban.com
placehacking.co.uk
prourbex.com

Previously: Urban Exploration

Government Proposes to Forbid London Urban Explorers From Speaking To Each Other for 10 Years

Last year four members of the London Consolidation Crew were caught exploring the abandoned platforms of Aldwych tube station four days before the Royal Wedding. They were let off with a warning. But now Transport for London is trying to stop the group from even associating with each other:

Last month TfL applied to issue anti-social behaviour orders which would not only stop them undertaking further expeditions and blogging about urban exploration but also prohibit them from carrying equipment that could be used for exploring after dark. Extraordinarily, it also stipulates they should not be allowed to speak to each other for the duration of the order – 10 years. [...]

For Garrett, part of the goal is helping to iron out the security loopholes they exploit. But this “service to the city” has proved a double-edged sword. “What this all comes down to is the Olympics because what we’re doing could make London’s security seem weak, which is embarrassing for TfL,” he says.

“But rather than stifling our free speech to tell Londoners there are security weaknesses all over the system, they should probably call us and bring us on as consultants to help fill these gaps.”

Guardian: Underground ghost station explorers spook the security services

See Also:

Place Hacking, a blog on urban exploration with tons of photographs and videos.

Night Vision

This news story on Ningunismo and the late Agent 222 (aka Roy Khalidbahn aka Rodrigo Sierra)

Transhumanist Urbanism GURPS Supplement Co-Written by Anders Sandberg

Transhuman Space: Cities on the Edge

Transhuman Space: Cities on the Edge is a supplement for GURPS and Transhuman Space written by Waldemar Ingdahl and legendary transhumanist Anders Sandberg. It’s meant to be a legitimate piece of futurism in addition to being an RPG supplement:

Tomorrow’s towns in Transhuman Space have certainly evolved from eras past, and there’s no doubt that they’re still vibrant, exciting places. Cities on the Edge is your guide to the dangers and delights to be discovered downtown.

Written by noted transhumanist and futurist Anders Sandberg, with science journalist Waldemar Ingdahl, this gigantic guidebook includes:

  • A tour of cities in 2100, from an overview of what they are and have become, to a look at what makes the towns of tomorrow tick. Unearth the allies and enemies of urban areas. Learn how police, health, disaster management, transport, and trade in the cities of Transhuman Space work. Discover how they’re run, and what happens when it all goes wrong . . .
  • A look at the bleeding edge of advanced architecture. Ultra-modern metropolises include mile-high skyscrapers, giant arcologies, biological buildings, high-density communications, and more!
  • Insight into urban culture: gray-collar crime, animated graffiti, urban AIs, self-configuring hotels, and other elements that make downtown dynamic.
  • A huge worked example: Stockholm in 2100! Visit the capital of Sweden, where eco-engineers discuss the restoration of the Baltic in trendy bistros run by Russian refugees; surrendering your privacy is so last year; and flaunting your naked brain in public is the height of fashion.
  • A sample scenario: “In the Walls,” a murder mystery that centers on Stockholm. Whodunit, and how?

The future is a foreign country, and there’s perhaps no better place to witness the wonders of the world than by visiting the grandest of the global villages. With Cities on the Edge, you’re at the center of excitement!

(via Justin Pickard)

I’m told Sandberg has contributed to a number of RPGs over the years.

See also: Indie Game Designers Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen on Transhumanist RPG FreeMarket

Turning Cell Phones into Urban Supercomputers

Giant cell phone

Another one from me at ReadWriteWeb:

One of the primary ideas behind IBM’s Smarter Planet concept is a web of sensors all over the planet, leading to a data explosion. But what if that web of sensors was more directly under the public’s control? Strategic forecast consultant Chris Arkbenberg hits on an interesting idea in a recent blog post. He muses on the idea of using mobile phones for grid computing, a la  SETI@home, to create massive distributed supercomputers for processing all of this data. “Consider the processing power latent across a city of 20 million mobile subscribers, such as Tokyo,” he writes.

Arkenberg takes the idea further by suggesting that sensors could be built into mobile phones that could monitor air quality or act as a sort of distributed surveillance system. The possibilities are endless. “Consider what could be done with an API for addressing clusters of mobile sensors,” he writes.

ReadWriteCloud: Turning Cell Phones into Urban Supercomputers

See also:

My interview with Chris Arkenberg

Green Cities and the Urban Operating System

Photo by Daryl Mitchell

Long, New Interview with Michael Moorcock

Michael Moorcock

In contrast to the rural decencies of Tolkien, Moorcock’s writing belongs to an urban tradition, which celebrates the fantastical city as a place of chance and mystery. The wondrous spaces of M John Harrison, China Miéville, Fritz Leiber, Gene Wolfe and Alan Moore are all part of this, as are Iain Sinclair’s London, Judge Dredd’s Mega-City One, the part-virtual cyberpunk mazes of William Gibson and the decadent Paris of the Baudelarian flâneur. Like these other urban fantasists, Moorcock delights in a kind of sublime palimpsest, in imagining an environment that through size, age, scale or complexity exceeds our comprehension, producing fear and awe. Crucially, the city isn’t a place of moral clarity.

Moorcock’s dislike of authoritarian sentiment has led him in many directions: Jerry Cornelius’s ambiguity is sexual, social and even ontological; one of Moorcock’s most popular heroes, Elric, was written as a rebuke to the bluff, muscular goody-goodies that populate so much fantasy fiction. Elric, a decadent albino weakling, is amoral, perhaps even evil. As a not-so-metaphorical junkie, Elric allowed Moorcock to revel in unwholesomeness, and helped return fantasy to its roots in the late romanticism of the decadents, a literary school close to Moorcock’s heart. In a recent introduction to The Dancers at the End of Time, which is set in a decadent far future, Moorcock claims to have sported Wildean green carnations as a teenager, not to mention “the first pair of Edwardian flared trousers (made by Burton) as well as the first high-button frock coat to be seen in London since 1910″. Elric, much less robust than his creator, who admits his dandyish threads gave him “the bluff domestic air of a Hamburg Zeppelin commander”, is part Maldoror, part Yellow Book poseur and part William Burroughs; within a few years of his first appearance in 1961, British culture suddenly seemed to be producing real-life Elrics by the dozen, as Keith Richards, Jimmy Page and others defined an image of the English rock star as an effeminate, velvet-clad lotus-eater. Moorcock was very popular among musicians, and it’s tempting to see him as co-creator of the butterfly-on-a-wheel character, which still wanders the halls of English culture in guises ranging from Sebastian Horsley to Russell Brand. I ask him whether he felt at the time that the 60s rockers were living out a role he’d imagined. He’s too modest to agree, but tells an anecdote that seems to sum up psychedelic London’s openness to fantasy of all kinds. “I’m in the Mountain grill on the Portobello Road, where everyone used to meet to get on the tour buses. I’m sitting there, and this bloke called Geronimo is trying to sell me some dope. He says ‘have you heard about the tunnel under Ladbroke Grove?’. He starts to elaborate, about how it’s under the Poor Clares nunnery, and you can go into that and come out in an entirely different world. I said to him, ‘Geronimo, I think I wrote that’. It didn’t seem to bother him much.”

The Guardian: When Hari Kunzru met Michael Moorcock

Richard Florida = Lyle Lanley

Lyle Lanley

Willy Staley writes:

The Plot: Springfield comes into a few million dollars from Montgomery Burns, who had been fined by the EPA for dumping nuclear waste in city parks. At a town hall meeting to decide what to do with the funds, Marge suggests they fix up Main Street, and the people of Springfield appear ready to agree on that, until Lyle Lanley steps in from nowhere and sings a song about the benefits of a monorail. Long story short, Lanley sells Springfield a faulty monorail and skips town with the profits. It turns out—like Florida—that he had been doing his song-and-dance routine all over the country.

Now I am not suggesting Florida went from town to town deliberately scamming people just like Lanley did (MacGillis stops just short of doing so). But, his product—shiny and new as it is—simply isn’t a fit for every community, just like Lanley’s monorail.

As MacGillis points out, a “tautology lies at the heart of Florida’s theory that has limited its instructive value all along: Creative people seek out places that draw a lot of creative people.” Worse yet, Florida is now admitting that this is true, and by doing so, he “has now taken this closed-loop argument to another level by declaring that henceforth, the winners’ club is closed to new entrants.” And yet before taking this stance, Florida spent years selling his brand of economic development to places like Elmira, New York and Sackville, New Brunswick.

Next American City: Richard Florida’s Monorail

Staley goes on to cite approvingly Matthew B. Crawford’s Shop Class as Soulcraft on economic development.

My thoughts on Florida, and his rival Joel Kotkin, are here and here.

Video: Kowloon Walled City Documentary

A German documentary on the Kowloon Walled City from 1989.

(via Theoretick)

For more on Kowloon, see Justin Bolland’s guest post on the subject.

Green Cities and the Urban Operating System

PlanIT

PlanIT is building a city in Portugal as a test of its “Urban OS” concept, hoping to sell “instant cities” in China and Inida in the future.

“It’s a bit of a bloodbath really,” says Lewis, who began studying it while still at Microsoft. “They’re using techniques older than God. All of the technology is being used on the design end. No one can look into the future and ask ‘If I put better glass into this building, what does that do for energy efficiency down the road?’ You have developers building to do a quick flip, and eventually the building becomes so inefficient and so expensive to fix they have to knock it down. There’s no process and no lifecycle management. The industry is fragmented and the consolidation that’s happened everywhere else hasn’t happened here.”

A Harvard Business School case study (pdf) published earlier this year echoed this view. Despite being a $4.6 trillion global industry, construction firms have had little incentive to integrate, consolidate, or otherwise become more productive. While non-farming industries have made productivity gains averaging 80% since the 1960s, the construction industry has become 20% less productive over that span. “Studies suggested that up to 75% of construction activities typically added no value,” the authors noted.

A City in the Cloud: Living PlanIT Redefines Cities as Software

PlanIT plans to make constructing buildings, and cities, as efficient as manufacturing automobiles.

Buckminster Fuller, thou art avenged.

PlanIT will have competition from open_sailing‘s open source SwarmOS, which open_sailing co-founder Cesar Harrada considers a spiritual successor to The Walking City.

See also:

Cybersyn

Bruce Sterling Interview on Modern Cities

Bruce Sterling

The state of modern cities, with Bruce Sterling and Boing Boing guest editor Chris Arkenberg (I interviewed Chris a few months ago):

The obviously dangerous aspect of modern cities is urban organized crime, narcoterror, low-intensity warfare, war in urban terrain, favela shoot-‘em-ups, whatever faddish name the trouble has this year. Baghdad, Mogadishu, Grozny.

But I’d also like to point out that large financial centers in certain cities around the planet are certainly going to kill millions of us by destroying our social safety networks in the name of their imaginary financial efficiency. You’re a thousand times more likely to die because of what some urban banker did in 2008 than from what some Afghan-based terrorist did in 2001. *Financiers live in small, panicky urban cloisters, severely detached from the rest of mankind. They are living today in rich-guy ghetto cults. They are truly dangerous to our well-being, and they are getting worse and more extremist, not better and more reasonable. You’re not gonna realize this havoc till you see your elderly Mom coughing in an emergency ward, but she’s going there for a reason.

Boing Boing: Bruce Sterling Interview: Cities

The Totalitarian Buddhist Who Beat Sim City

Vincent Ocasla claims to have “beaten” SimCity by creating an amazing city with population of 6 million and no roads (only subways) that lasts for 50,000 years.

I’ve a quote from one of your Facebook status updates here: “The economic slave never realizes he is kept in a cage going round and round basically nowhere with millions of others.” Do you not feel that sums up the lives of the citizens of Magnasanti? (And you might want to set your Facebook to private by the way.)

Precisely that. Technically, no one is leaving or coming into the city. Population growth is stagnant. Sims don’t need to travel long distances, because their workplace is just within walking distance. In fact they do not even need to leave their own block. Wherever they go it’s like going to the same place.

Heavy.

There are a lot of other problems in the city hidden under the illusion of order and greatness: Suffocating air pollution, high unemployment, no fire stations, schools, or hospitals, a regimented lifestyle – this is the price that these sims pay for living in the city with the highest population. It’s a sick and twisted goal to strive towards. The ironic thing about it is the sims in Magnasanti tolerate it. They don’t rebel, or cause revolutions and social chaos. No one considers challenging the system by physical means since a hyper-efficient police state keeps them in line. They have all been successfully dumbed down, sickened with poor health, enslaved and mind-controlled just enough to keep this system going for thousands of years. 50,000 years to be exact. They are all imprisoned in space and time.

Viceland Games: The Totalitarian Buddhist Who Beat Sim City

Vincent Ocasla’s site

Ocasla was inspired in part by the Kowloon Walled City

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