Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Habitat JAM

Interesting online event happening tomorrow through to Saturday... called Habitat JAM, it's a free online event that allows people across the world to discuss sustainability under various themes. It's sponsored by the Government of Canada and IBM, and organised under the auspices of UN-HABITAT. The outputs will provide “ideas to action” for the World Urban Forum 3 and they say, help make our cities more sustainable. 100,000 people are expected to participate.
Interesting for two reasons-- 1. the scale of the participation, 2. the actual content. I've registered (hopefully will get a chance to log in!).

Register now at:

Monday, November 21, 2005

Irish Community Spirit

I see in the Irish Times that a task force is being set up to look at ways of fostering community spirit. Apparently rates of volunteerism and civic participation are falling and the Taoiseach wants to do something about it...

Reasons for the decline are given in the article as long commutes, dual income families (ie little time), growth in materialism (which I don't really buy). I guess it would be worth carrying out a proper survey to see what the barriers are to volunteering, and trying to probe a bit further when people say that they don't have time. The Special Olympics were held in Ireland in 2003 and there was a huge response from people in terms of the amount of time they were able to give to it. A feature of that event would be that it was an event, so was time-limited. People often have little bags of time that they can donate, what is needed is some way of brokering that. The Internet can be a good broker (cf. ebay) so perhaps something worth looking at would be how volunteer organisations could tap into a network of people with a bit of time to help. I'm not sure if anything exactly like this exists?

Worth looking at how the Internet can be harnessed to promote community spirit and volunteerism. A few examples from the UK:
Pledgebank allows people to attract support for various initiatives
Timebank publishes volunteering opportunities -- can be searched by postcode
WriteToThem allows people to get in touch with their elected representatives

The survey or consultations should also highlight if indeed people are so ground down by commuting and work that they have no time. It's important that those things are tackled as well-- implementing the spatial strategy and helping families to reap the benefits of flexible working (not just employers) might spill over into community life. There is a big debate about childcare at the moment-- why not also look at how carers can be helped to look after their kids and work in way that is feasible and rewarding for family and employers? A bit of a digression but it's important.
An embarrassment of posts today by current standards. Two! (Although this one a trifle threadbare)

This is from Justin's blog- a post on how mobile phones are maintained in India. Interesting. Also good link to what seems like an excellent blog by Jan Chipchase about mobile phone culture in the developing world.

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Virtual property market booming

From the BBC News:

A gamer who spent £13,700 on an island that exists only in a computer game
has recouped his investment, according to the game developers.

The idea is that it's another channel to sell advertising and music... Clever...

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Viability of Urban Social Technologies

Interesting paper on the Viability of Urban Social Technologies from Jens Pedersen and Anna Vallgarda from the University of Copenhagen. Urban Social Technologies are defined as "information technologies applied in urban settings and with a social purpose". They make the point that urban designers and planners have not always been successful in designing spaces that serve a benign social purpose, that it is difficult to plan in the face of the huge number of variables that such spaces represent. This is undeniably true. However I think one of the opportunities presented by 'urban social technologies' is that people can potentially build their own spaces. it is easier to build virtual space than physical space (arguably). Applications like Foundcity, built on Google Maps allow people to annotate space, and in some sense interact with that space. Hybrid spaces formed through interactions between virtual space and physical place are also open to many people to 'design'.

There are of course many threats to this DIY Internet culture, not least big business ownership and control, government anti-privacy legislation, as well as the fact that it is not open to everyone yet-- knowledge and tech-skills are required.
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