Some months ago I was asked to write a contribution to the new edition of Barcelona Metropolis magazine. This monograph is devoted to smart cities and includes a number of articles with different perspectives exploring the benefits and perils for urban living. My article, which is finally entitled Intelligence at the service of people, tries to set the case for a new understanding and a new narrative on the intersection of digital technologies and urban life in the networked society.
Medialab-Prado (Madrid), one of the most remarkable examples worldwide of citizen labs in the intersection of culture, technology and arts, is at risk. A proven track record and recognition seems to be nothing to institutions unable to understand there is life beyond this crazy run for public expenditure cuts cuts and the falsest model of public-private partnerships (sic). In fact, public spending is just the excuse for this and many other policies. This is the way they do it here in Spain, 2014.
MediaLab-Prado, located here in Madrid, is on the cutting edge of investigative practises related to Free Culture and the Commons. It’s also one of the collaborative spaces where the initial gestalt of the 15M movement was born.
7 million Euros of public funds was invested by the local government in the rehabilitation of an historic building in Madrid (the Sierra Belga), in order to house MediaLab. The building was leased as a public space for the development of the lab’s activities, projects and openly accessible workshops.
On Friday, April 4th, Madrid’s local government’s plan was revealed. They intend to rent out this public space – again, paid for with public funds and for public use – to Telefónica. The irony is rich: Telefónica was Spain’s nationalised public telecommunications provider, later privatised in 1997 under the neo-liberal government of Jose María Aznar. Today, Telefónica is a private global telecommunications conglomerate, and the fifth-largest mobile network provider in the world.
Follow the updates on MediaLab’s newly created Twitter account for its defense: @savethelab
OuiShare Fest 14 will explore “The Age of Communities”. Connected by shared values, knowledge, resources or by digital and physical spaces, communities are transforming cities, organizations and civic action everywhere in the world.
An online map that marks and records public Internet-Of-Things projects around the world:
Thingful is a discoverability engine for The Public Internet of Things, providing a geographical index of where things are, who owns them, and how and why they are used.
Today, millions of people and organisations around the world already have and use connected ‘things’, ranging from energy monitors, weather stations and pollution sensors to animal trackers, geiger counters and shipping containers. Many choose to, or would like to, make their data available to third parties – either directly as a public resource or channeled through apps and analytical tools.
Thingful organises ‘things’ around locations and categories and structures ownership around Twitter profiles (which can be either people or organisations), enabling citizens to discuss why and how they are using their devices and data. Because, the ‘who’, ‘why’ and ‘where’ are ultimately far more important in The Public Internet of Things than the ‘what’.
Explicitly built for people, communities, companies and cities that want to make the data from these ‘things’ available and useful to others, Thingful aggregates and indexes public information from some of the major IoT platforms and data infrastructures around the world, providing direct links to datasets and profile pages for the public things that it knows about.
While this is interesting to see the scope of a potential future of internet-controllable objects … you can’t help think that there would be a huge vulnerability and scale of cyber-attacks to home devices that would be unsettling (such as this story where a baby monitor was accessed by a hacker).
Unlike like Emperor Kuzco, I was actually born with an innate sense of direction. If you’re like me, and you use the Sun to navigate, you probably appreciate cities with gridded street plans that are oriented in the cardinal directions. If you know that your destination is due west, even if you hit a dead end or two, you’ll be able to get there. However, not all urban planners settled on such a simple layout for road networks. For some developers, topography or water may have gotten in the way. Others may not have appreciated the efficiency of the grid. This visualization assesses those road networks by comparing the relative degree to which they are gridded.
To generate the graphic, I first calculated the azimuth of every road in ten counties (plus one parish and D.C.). I tried to choose consolidated city-counties to keep the focus on urban centers, but for larger counties, I opted not to clip the shapefile to the city boundary. All calculations were made in a sinusoidal map projection using the central longitude of the area of interest. I then graphed the angles on rose diagrams (wind roses) using bins of 5° to show relative distributions for each area. The plots were scaled such that the maximum bar height was the same on each rose. To ensure rotational symmetry in the plots, each azimuth was counted twice: once using the original value and once using the opposite direction (e.g., 35° and 215°). As such, all streets, regardless of one-way or two-way traffic, were considered to be pointing in both directions.
The plots reveal some stark trends. Most of the counties considered do conform to a grid pattern. This is particularly pronounced with Chicago, even though much of Cook County is suburban. Denver, Jacksonville, Houston, and Washington, D.C., also have dominant grid patterns that are oriented in the cardinal directions. While Philadelphia and New York are primarily gridded, their orientations are slightly skewed from the traditional N-E-S-W bearings. Manhattan is particularly interesting because it has a notable imbalance between the number of streets running the width of the land (WNW to ESE) and the length of the land (NNE to SSW). New Orleans and San Francisco express some grid-like forms, but have a nontrivial proportion of roads that are rotated in other directions. Downtown Boston has some gridded streets, but the suburban grids are differently aligned, dampening the expression of a single grid on the rose diagram. Finally, the minimal geographic extents of the grids in Charlotte and Honolulu are completely overwhelmed by the winding roads of the suburbs, resulting in plots that show only slight favoritism for certain street orientations.
If you want to see more detail, a full-resolution version of this graphic can be downloaded here: