This research project revisited the primary city of writer William H. Whyte’s Street Life Project and seminal study The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980). It sought to understand how the types of new public spaces have changed some 40 years after he published his book and companion film, what has changed in how people use public realm spaces, and what makes well used spaces.
I think it’s interesting to juxtapose their findings with the expectations created by architects, urban planners, and similar when making mockups of their planned spaces. (Expectations versus reality.) Also interesting to think about how this could be applied not just for building more effective spaces, but for presenting more realistic crowd scenes in film or other types of performance.
I’ve recently done some backend maintenance and moved hosting services. I’m fairly certain everything is migrated properly, but please let me know if you notice anything behaving oddly.
One thing that did come up during the migration is that my Jetpack install started having issues, and in the process of troubleshooting that, my site stats and email subscriber list were wiped. I’ve raised a ticket with WordPress/Jetpack, but I suspect they’re just gone. If you were subscribed via email, I’d recommend resubscribing (you can do so from the sidebar).
I’m at Squam Lake this week, which means it’s time for another annualramblingsummation of what’s been happening in my world. I’ve always found it a nice time to reflect. If you’re not particularly interested, no offense taken if you decide to bounce to something else. Without further ado:
Back in May, I adopted a young puppy that I’ve named Cecil! He’s a sweetheart, though also still a puppy and getting up to puppy-ish mischief. I’ll write more later (I’ve got several drafts sitting waiting to be finished, but have been – perhaps understandably – a little distracted), but seeing as I’m at the IndieWeb Summit this weekend, it seemed like a good time to post something new on the site. 👋
What is workism? It is the belief that work is not only necessary to economic production, but also the centerpiece of one’s identity and life’s purpose; and the belief that any policy to promote human welfare must always encourage more work.
Homo industrious is not new to the American landscape. The American dream—that hoary mythology that hard work always guarantees upward mobility—has for more than a century made the U.S. obsessed with material success and the exhaustive striving required to earn it.
No large country in the world as productive as the United States averages more hours of work a year. And the gap between the U.S. and other countries is growing. Between 1950 and 2012, annual hours worked per employee fell by about 40 percent in Germany and the Netherlands—but by only 10 percent in the United States. Americans “work longer hours, have shorter vacations, get less in unemployment, disability, and retirement benefits, and retire later, than people in comparably rich societies,” wrote Samuel P. Huntington in his 2005 book Who Are We?: The Challenges to America’s National Identity.
It looks like I managed to completely miss February on here. The best laid plans, eh? Well, I’m still alive, for what it’s worth. Life has been low-key stressing me out for the past month+, but should be getting back to some semblance of normalcy soon. (The 30 second version: at the start of the month, we discovered a slow leak in the kitchen plumbing, which had started to warp the flooring. Various mitigation measures were brought in — drying mats and industrial dehumidifiers and the like — but ultimately they ended up needing to pull up the flooring. And the counters. Neither of which they could match, so now they’re replacing the entire floor downstairs and getting new counters. Hurrah for home insurance!)
Not much else to report. I’ll be sure to get back to posting random links and writing the occasional screed soon. Thanks for sticking around.
My heart goes out to the journalists at the multiple organizations laid off this week (and more). Something like a thousand laid off in the space of a week. Fast Company has a solid (and scathing) article about the recent Buzzfeed layoffs: BuzzFeed’s layoffs and the false promise of “unions aren’t for us”. It paints a pretty bleak picture of where things are at, why, and what we can expect more of in the future.
But as an outlet largely dependent on social platforms like Facebook, BuzzFeed was forced to follow platform trends. When Facebook announced it was focusing on video content, BuzzFeed turned its resources just to that. Brands like Tasty were born, which force-fed ubiquitous birds’-eye view videos of generally unappetizing food to the masses. And for a while, this seemed to work. Videos were performing well, thanks to Facebook’s algorithmic push, and BuzzFeed once again looked like a digital trailblazer. But this bet was predicated on the whim of a social network known for pendulum strategy shifts at the expense of its clients; this pivot didn’t take into account what would happen if Facebook changed course. It shouldn’t come as a shock that Facebook did precisely that.
I’ve talked about this with a number of people, about why I’m perfectly happy to live somewhere that is grey and rainy but almost never drops below 40 degrees (F), and a lot of the winter is spent right around 50. Hank is dropping some truth bombs here, on how to make the most of living in a cold climate.
He’s right though: try to enjoy it. Gotta find the good parts while you can.
Over at Lost Garden, Daniel Cook has a fantastic piece looking at how to create “human-scale” online games, and why that’s a better approach to MMOs. This is some really fantastic, well thought out stuff, and not just for games: what they’re really talking about is how to build community.
One way of thinking about the constraints suggested by Dunbar’s Layers is to imagine you have a budget of cognitive resources that can be spent on relationships. The physical limits of your human brain mean that you only have enough mental budget for a total of roughly 150 relationships.
Humans have developed a few tools that have expanded our ability to organize into groups well past our primate cousins—most notably language—but also large-scale systems of government and economics. In the early 2000s, people assumed that new technologies like online social networks could help break past Dunbar’s Number; by offloading the cost of remembering our friendships to a computer, we could live richer, more social lives, with strong relationships to even more people.
We now have copious data that this is not the case. Studies suggest that there’s still a limited budget of cognitive resources at play and even in online platforms we see the exact same distribution of relationships.
If anything, social networks damage our relationships. By making it possible for us to cheaply form superficial relationships (and invest our limited energy in maintaining them), such systems divert cognitive resources from smaller, intimate groups out towards larger, less-intimate groups. The result is that key relationships with best friends and loved ones suffer. And, unfortunately, it is the strength of these high-trust relationships that are most predictive of mental health and overall happiness.
It’s a long read (which you might have guessed by the size of my pull quote), but well worth it.