urbanus vulgaris

urban life & culture / ideas & insights / innovation & development

Category: social sciences

Cultivating complexity

by gailiute

Beautifully written and worth reading:

“We like to think of cities as human artifacts, but they behave like autonomous organisms, subject to growth and decay, health and renewal, that no single power is in control of. For that reason we rightly call them complex and self regulating entities. We should therefore seek to study them the way natural phenomena are studied. Laws of nature reveal themselves by patterns of change and gradual transformation. A similar approach yields knowledge about properties that are shared by all urban fabrics, large or small, historic or contemporary. Changes in an urban environment are caused by human agents in control of specific parts of it. To study this we do not need to know the agent’s identity, nor its intentions, hopes, and priorities, other than what we can deduct from transformations that we observe. The constants that govern the built environment can be learned by patient and detached observation, more or less in the way a person can learn the rules of the chess game by observing the movement of the pieces on the board. The chess game observer deducts two things: ” (J. Habraken, 2013)

Continue reading.

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Today is a great day to publish an insight on creativity.

by jiookrednav

150104_John Cleese on creativity

Well I started to get interested in creativity about thirty years ago, because I went to a conference at Cambridge and I started reading the research and I started comparing it with my own experience and I got very, very interested in it and I also got interested in the fact, that basically once you’ve established one or two principles, that’s all you can say about it, because to sum up something I sometimes take three hours to say:

All creativity comes from the unconscious. If creativity came from logic and intelligence, then all the logical and intelligent people could do it. But they can’t. It all boils down to getting to a playful and relaxed frame of mind. Most of it has to do with relaxation, because unless you’re relaxed you can’t hear the promptings from the unconscious.

Nobody ever had a bright idea when they were attacking a machine-gun-nest. You see what I mean? If you’re occupied with activity -and that is one of the reasons why there’s so little creativity at the moment, because nobody gets any peace any more, because these damn things are ringing all the time, and beep there and you know. You sit down, another e-mail comes in. It’s absolutely poison, because interruptions and anxiety will kill any kind of creativity.

You have to get in an atmosphere where you’re a little bit in a cocoon of you’re own, you close the door or you go sit in the park and you just stay quiet and for 20 minutes nothing happens, because you can only think of the things you ought to be doing: You know, people you forgot to telephone…, so you have to have a little notebook and you write those down and after 20 minutes, the mind starts to calm down, just as it does in meditation, it’s almost an identical process. And then if you start thinking about the subject, not too hard, you don’t want to get tense, play with the thought, and you get little ideas start popping up, but if you’re mind is full of, zoom, zoom beep, beep, you’ll never hear those little ideas, it’ll be drowned out you see what I mean?

This remarkable insight was explained by John Cleese in this interview, starting at about 52 minutes: http://www.npo.nl/college-tour-special-john-cleese/25-12-2014/VPWON_1234760

And here’s some more from Cleese on this blog:

As well as identifying that ideas and breakthroughs percolate in the deep recesses of our brain, Cleese talked about some of the key, practical traits of truly creative people. In doing so he told a story of Brian Bates, a psychology professor at Sussex University. Intrigued by how the creative mind works, Bates chose to study the work practices of architects, because the profession required the combination of two brains in the creation of beautifully groundbreaking yet structurally sound buildings.

“He did a very simple test. He asked various architects to name who, in their opinion, were the most creative architects in the field. He then asked those creative architects to tell him what they do from the moment they wake up to the moment they go to bed. He then went to the uncreative architects—without perhaps explaining that’s why he was talking to them—and asked them the same thing. Then he compared the two. He discovered two differences, and neither was to do with intelligence.”

“The first thing he discovered is that the creative architects knew how to play. They could get immersed in a problem. It was almost childlike, like when a child gets utterly absorbed in a problem. The second thing was that they deferred making decisions as long as they could. This is surprising.”

“If you have a decision to make, what is the single most important question to ask yourself? I believe it’s ‘when does this decision have to be made’? When most of us have a problem that’s a little bit unresolved, we’re a little bit uncomfortable. We want to resolve it. The creative architects had this tolerance for this discomfort we all feel when we leave things unresolved.”

“Why would those two things be importance? The playfulness is because in that moment of childlike play, you’re much more in touch with your unconscious. The second is that when you defer decisions as long as possible, it’s giving your unconscious the maximum amount of time to come up with something.”

Summing it up, he narrows it down to 5 Lessons in this lecture (transcript here). “Creativity is not a talent, it’s a way of operating”:

150104_John Cleese on creativity 02

  1. Space (“You can’t become playful, and therefore creative, if you’re under your usual pressures.”)
  2. Time (“It’s not enough to create space; you have to create your space for a specific period of time.”)
  3. Time (“Giving your mind as long as possible to come up with something original,” and learning to tolerate the discomfort of pondering time and indecision.)
  4. Confidence (“Nothing will stop you being creative so effectively as the fear of making a mistake.”)
  5. Humor (“The main evolutionary significance of humor is that it gets us from the closed mode to the open mode quicker than anything else.”)

 

Die Zeit: New life on the Stalin Allee in Berlin

by jiookrednav

henselmann

“Berlin, this post-war rubble. Today it is mangy and sexy, cheap and showy, brash and noble. A city of contrasts, which is converting towards the most exciting city in Europe. The signs are everywhere. And especially in one particular street. A street whose history reflects the post-war history of Berlin.

The Karl -Marx -Allee begins near the TV tower at Alexanderplatz, extends nearly three kilometres to Friedrichshain and is wider than the Champs- Élysées with 90 meters. “The last great European boulevard built”, said the Italian architect Aldo Rossi about it.

Built as the Stalin Avenue in the early fifties in “Soviet-pastry-house style”, Germany’s first socialist main road should impress the rest of the world. The workers of the GDR should be awed and delighted. A few months later these workers lit the popular uprising of the 17th June 1953 on the Parkway . The Red Army had to help quell the launching revolution.

More than two decades after the street was renamed Karl -Marx -Allee, East Berliners again demonstrated on their boulevard, now for the fall of the wall. Then: the German unification, euphoria, disappointment, unemployment, the rediscovery and Gentrification of the avenue.

There are still people living here, who have experienced it all. And many newcomers. We have visited them. For the portrait of a road.”

Beautiful website by the influential German newspaper “Die Zeit” presenting the Karl-Marx-Allee in Berlin:

http://www.zeit.de/kultur/karl-marx-allee/index.html#prolog

Tip: Google Chrome offers automatic translation!

Your mentality – social class

by gailiute

Screen Shot 2013-04-05 at 1.13.19 PM

Knowing your social class does not change your behaviour or mentality, but sometimes it is interesting just to do these tests to check how average are you :) or how extraordinary. It depends.

There are a few ways to find it out.

1. BBC has created a social class calculator to show your position in a society according to income, interests and social interaction. I did it and actually it did not say my anything interesting. Here it is if you would like to try it yourself.

2. Motivaction has created a test to find out your mentality by analysing your values and lifestyle. This test intends to be used by businesses, designers, organisations, advertising or any other groups that do people related work and need to target them as precise as possible. In deed, this test is quite detailed and precise if done honestly. You can find it here in case you would like to try it.

Of course there are more tests that have similar intentions,  but it is not my intention to bring them all here :)

If you have any one good in particular, please share!

Social Life of Small Urban Places – William H. Whyte

by gailiute

Fellow student from TuD, Ignas, recently showed entertaining movie from late 80s about open spaces and plazas. I had great time watching it, hope you will enjoy as well. It reveals obvious, yet sometimes forgettable principles about truly good spaces.

“This witty and original film is about the open spaces of cities and why some of them work for people while others don’t. Beginning at New York’s Seagram Plaza, one of the most used open areas in the city, the film proceeds to analyze why this space is so popular and how other urban oases, both in New York and elsewhere, measure up. Based on direct observation of what people actually do, the film presents a remarkably engaging and informative tour of the urban landscape and looks at how it can be made more hospitable to those who live in it.” – 

Smart failure or the world after midnight

by gailiute

The world is changing much more rapidly than most people realize, says business educator Eddie Obeng — and creative output cannot keep up. In this spirited talk, he highlights three important changes we should understand for better productivity, and calls for a stronger culture of “smart failure.”

Why you should listen to him:

Because he knows how to fail and be rewarded for that! :)

 

on ted: http://www.ted.com/talks/eddie_obeng_smart_failure_for_a_fast_changing_world.html

The Netherlands a Manufactured Landscape

by svoosten

Following the posts ‘Manufactured landscapes’ and ‘Who’s your neighbor’ I would like to recommend the series ‘Nederland van Boven’ by the VPRO, that captures impressive imagery of the Netherlands and combines it with attractive data visualizations. Providing insight in the daily though sometimes not ordinary ‘organisation’ of the urban, industrial and cultural landscapes of the Netherlands.

For those whomwere not already convinced, this series will make you understand that the title ‘manufactured landscape’ could also rightly be applied to the Netherlands, or at least to the Rotterdam Harbor, an exemplary case study when it comes to the man- made landscape.

http://nederlandvanboven.vpro.nl/afleveringen/handel-video.html

The Century of the Self (2002), a BBC documentary by Adam Curtis

by vytasvulgaris

This series is about how those in power have used Freud’s theories to try and control the dangerous crowd in an age of mass democracy. Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, changed the perception of the human mind and its workings profoundly.

His influence on the 20th century is widely regarded as massive. The documentary describes the impact of Freud’s theories on the perception of the human mind, and the ways public relations agencies and politicians have used this during the last 100 years for their engineering of consent. Among the main characters are Freud himself and his nephew Edward Bernays, who was the first to use psychological techniques in advertising. He is often seen as the father of the public relations industry.

Freud’s daughter Anna Freud, a pioneer of child psychology, is mentioned in the second part, as well as Wilhelm Reich, one of the main opponents of Freud’s theories. Along these general themes, The Century of the Self asks deeper questions about the roots and methods of modern consumerism, representative democracy and its implications. It also questions the modern way we see ourselves, the attitude to fashion and superficiality.

Part 1. Happiness Machines. Part one documents the story of the relationship between Sigmund Freud and his American nephew, Edward Bernays who invented Public Relations in the 1920s, being the first person to take Freud’s ideas to manipulate the masses.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lhxfArTAcfM

Part 2. The Engineering of Consent. Part two explores how those in power in post-war America used Freud’s ideas about the unconscious mind to try and control the masses. Politicians and planners came to believe Freud’s underlying premise that deep within all human beings were dangerous and irrational desires.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tOL_B4GHdmk

Part 3. There is a Policeman Inside All of Our Heads, He Must Be Destroyed. In the 1960s, a radical group of psychotherapists challenged the influence of Freudian ideas, which lead to the creation of a new political movement that sought to create new people, free of the psychological conformity that had been implanted in people’s minds by business and politics.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsbORjWqRzw

Part 4. Eight People Sipping Wine In Kettering. This episode explains how politicians turned to the same techniques used by business in order to read and manipulate the inner desires of the masses. Both New Labor with Tony Blair and the Democrats led by Bill Clinton, used the focus group which had been invented by psychoanalysts in order to regain power.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3IBGgWLF5qE

(film description from http://topdocumentaryfilms.com/the-century-of-the-self/)

Ron Eglash on African fractals

by vytasvulgaris

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/en/ron_eglash_on_african_fractals.html

Thanks justina, for posting 3 great pieces of documentary.

Following the amazing latest BBC documentaries hosted by Marcus du Sautoy, here some more  insights on the numbers and patterns and culture  from Ron Eglash, at TED, 2007. “Ron Eglash is an ethno-mathematician: he studies the way math and cultures intersect. He has shown that many aspects of African design — in architecture, art, even hair braiding — are based on perfect fractal patterns” (http://www.ted.com/speakers/ron_eglash.html).

Tim Harford: Trial, error and the God complex

by vytasvulgaris

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford.html

http://www.ted.com/talks/tim_harford.html

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