Monday, January 31, 2005

Technology and the labour market

Two interesting pieces of research from the LSE...

The first paper We Can Work It Out: the impact of technological change on the demand for low skilled workers by Alan Manning of LSE's Research Laboratory looks at how technology has shaped our working lives. Consensus view is that technical changes leads to an increase in demand for skilled relative to unskilled labour-- most Regional Development Agency policies are based on this (for example). This predicts a bleak future for unskilled workers. However this paper argues that the demand for the least skilled jobs may be growing since employment of the least skilled is increasingly dependent on physical proximity to the more skilled-- this is particularly true in cities (cf Saskia Sassen and globalisation).

The other piece of research by Tim Leung looks at the Yellow Pages to analyse which businesses are in decline and which are growing. Traditional high street businesses are in decline while aromatherapy, cosmetic surgery and dieting and weight control are the UK's most booming business sectors. Well you only have to look at the TV schedules to surmise that these are primary areas of interest. Along with property speculation (although I think that plastic surgery and makeovers seem to be crowding out DIY). Greengrocers, butchers, hardware retailers and farmers all lost out, while therapists (psycho- and hypno- among others) more than doubled. These trends are certainly very visible in London... it's easier to buy scented candles than meat! More details of this research at

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Measuring the impacts of the built environment

I came across a couple of pieces of research on measuring impacts of the built environment on two different areas. The first was a research article (quoted in Regeneration and Renewal magazine) on the impact of the built environment on mental health. The research demonstrated the relationship between various environmental features and the prevalence of depression. The result was that higher levels of depression were associated with the incidence of graffiti, badly maintained communal public spaces, deck access (basically tower blocks since the 1960s). The article appears in the British Journal of Psychiatry in 2002-- it's called 'Mental Health and the Built Environment: A cross-sectional survey of individual and contextual risk factors for depression'.

The other initiative, involving Yorkshire Forward, CABE and the ODPM, seeks to measure the impact of physical regeneration on economic development. Just did a very quick search and couldn't find anything about it on the web (but didn't look very hard)-- I read about it in Regeneration and Renewal. The project is being led by Barra MacRuairi, head of Yorkshire Forward Renaissance Towns and Cities.

Both very interesting projects... the results of which could be used to justify investment in the public realm. Inputs and outputs are very important when seeking funding!

Friday, January 28, 2005


I keep finding conferences... although I've known about this one for a while. DOORS East (brought to you by the energetic DOORS of Perception people) is an event "devoted to social innovation in a network society using ICTs as support". Sounds great. Lots of interesting speakers including Usman Haque, who gave an interesting overview of his work at the Wireless London event and will be presenting at PLAN next week. He does get around.
I particularly like the sound of the following:
- Chris Downs and Lavrans Lovlie from LiveWork-- service designers who will be speaking about systems and infrastructures for car sharing.
- Natalie Jeremijenko. I like the sound of her project Stump– a software programme which rewards users with tree rings each time a tree’s worth of paper is used... nice linkage of the virtual and the physical.
- François Jégou co-producer with Ezio Manzini of the exhibition Sustainable Everyday. The picture that emerged, says Jegou, was that of a ‘multi-local city…a city in the shape of a network of places endowed with totally new characteristics”.
- Younghee Jung-- fostering social interaction in online places
- Stefan Magdalinski founder of FaxYourMP (a great site)... looking at how new applications evolve when communities get Internet access. His blog is here Must read when I get the chance!
- Alex Steffen from
- Esme Vos from
- Jimmy Wales, creator of the Wikipedia
- Suzi Winstanley & Harriet Harriss-- their design practice was set up 'to explore the interaction between people, buildings and technology, especially in the workplace'.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

PLAN conference at the ICA

This topic must be getting fashionable... A conference on locative media and art on at the ICA next week run by the Pervasive and Locative Arts Network. The purpose of the event is to launch the Network "bringing together artists, activists, hardware hackers, bloggers, game programmers, free network builders, semantic web philosophers, cartographers, economists, architects, and university and industry researchers. " Lots and lots of speakers covering a broad range of expertise and projects... Looks like there's some overlap with the Wireless London initiative-- some familiar names.
Unfortunately all the tickets have been sold out! Very disappointing-- looks directly relevant to my interests...

Network applications

Here's an interesting article from Muniwireless by Greg Richardson about local government networks (mostly in the US). He makes the point that
"The real opportunity for both the profit-motivated private sector and the community-motivated public sector is not getting people on the Internet, but providing additional network services, applications, e-commerce solutions and other value-added services once they get there".

It's true-- networks are becoming commoditised-- the value is the application facing the consumer. But what kind of applications? Perhaps the market will come up with applications linked to place? hopefully not just boring advertisements...

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Wireless London event

I went along to the Wireless London event at the AA yesterday evening. The event comprised a short introduction by Julian Priest, author of the report on Wireless London published last year; a 30 minute talk from Armin Medosch and a further 30 minute talk by Usman Haque. The stated aim was to explore the relationship between wireless technology and architecture. Not sure that this first event managed this as the speakers (though excellent) didn't really engage with each other directly. However this just shows how difficult it is to get a handle on such a nebulous notion...
Armin gave a good overview of wireless technology and sketched out its potential as a technology to allow people to become producers rather than just consumers of content, through building their own free networks. However he was at pains to stress his opposition to the idea of technological determinism-- just because a technology exists doesn't mean that it will be used in a particular way. I agree with this-- too often technology is feted or slated on the basis that it can bring about a particular utopia (or dystopia). This notion disempowers people. Technology is only a tool-- it's what people do with it that matters...
Usman Haque described some very interesting projects building on the idea of fields (electromagnetic and Hertzian). My friend pointed out that he was very much an architect in his desire to make beautiful things (which they were, particularly Sky Ear).
Both speakers gave very interesting talks so it was a little disappointing that they didn't speak more to the intersection between architecture and wireless (even defining that is not easy!). Usman was just coming on to some interesting stuff on RFID and Ubiquitous Computing from an architectural standpoint, but ran out of time.
I think this was reflected in the questions afterwards in that they covered a wide range of topics from the dangers of mobile phones to possible software applications and projects that might run on free networks. (I suggested looking at the Bryant Park project as an example of work in the field). An excellent networking session in the AA restaurant followed with plenty of opportunities to engage with the speakers and fellow audience members. All in all, an interesting evening.
Just came across this-- a summit on Reciprocity, Design and Social Networks at the Banff Centre in Canada last year. Can't find any published material on it. A pity since it seems to address some of the stuff I wrote about last June.

Monday, January 17, 2005

'Wireless London' at the AA

An interesting talk on at the AA tomorrow:

6.30 Lecture Hall
Wireless London and the AA:
Future Urban Infrastrustures
Usman Haque and Armin Medosch
Civic Communcations
Tuesday 18 January
Usage and development of wireless free networks, worldwide and in the UK, especially in London, has grown enormously in the last five years. This modular system will profoundly affect usage of the city, and it is growing into a new area of architectural concern. As the technology becomes more mainstream, the potential scale of these networks will expand into a component of urban infrastructure.

The linkages between wireless technology and the city seem to be gaining currency... a separate event tackling the economic development potential is being organised by BURA for the 2nd February in Huddersfield.

Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Planning tools, technology plan resources and a new book

Four days after the last post I had a baby... hence no new posts since then!
Anyway, I'm going to use this blog to keep track of interesting stuff I come across on the general topics of ICT and regeneration/ planning/ urban design.

In that vein, this is a potentially useful way of using the Internet to allow people to access and use planning information about their localities. Neighborhood Knowledge California is a web-based mapping tool which provides demographic, housing and lending data at the census tract level throughout the state of California. The idea is that smaller actors can have access to similar tools as the professionals.

Here's more from the American Planning Organisation about collaborative planning tools and a write up of one intranet designed for planners. Interesting to compare this with how other industries are already using collaboration tools-- quite a lot of experience already in other fields (e.g. product design where large information intensive documents have to be exchanged and worked on by diverse groups in different locations).

Another one on e-permits-- sounds like similar processes to e-procurement?

List of good technology plan resources here courtesy of Strategic Technology Collaborative.

New book called Digital Infrastructures -- 'Digital Infrastructures addresses how information technologies can be used to manage water, power, transport, and telecommunication systems. '

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