org

Save America’s Clocks

Save America’s Clocks is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to locating, inventorying and assisting in the preservation and maintenance of all of America’s public clocks. By public clocks we mean any and all clocks that the public sees. That includes street (post) clocks, tower and church clocks, digital clocks...you name it. Non-working clocks betray the public trust and send out a message that nobody’s home.¬†When these clocks are left to deteriorate, we all lose part of our rich heritage.”

Not much on the site yet, but there are lots of pictures of public clocks.

Is this ‘Social Design’? More design in the public interest. I should do a more substantive entry on public clocks. In the meantime, three days of meetings in Tokyo and the jet lag is still killing me. Still haven’t quite shaken the grip of U.S. time.

Found via Ruavista.

>  5 October 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

2002 MacArthur Fellows

The 2002 MacArthur Fellows were announced today. Here are a couple of bios of folks involved in projects I’d consider “social design”:

Camilo Jose Vergara is a photographer-ethnographer who uses time-lapse images to chronicle the transformation of urban landscapes across America. Trained as a sociologist, he reaches into the disciplines of architecture, photography, urban planning, history, and anthropology for tools to present the gradual erosion of late 19th- and 20th-century architectural grandeur in urban neighborhoods, their subsequent neglect and abandonment, and scattered efforts at gentrification. Repeatedly photographing, sometimes over the course of decades, the same structures and neighborhoods, Vergara records both large-scale and subtle changes in the visual landscape of cities and inner cities in the United States. Sequences reveal, for example, trees growing in abandoned libraries and decrepit laborer housing swallowed by advancing foliage. Over the years, Vergara has amassed a rich archive of several thousand photographs that are a rare and important cache of American history. These images, monuments to the survival and reformation of American cities, are a unique visual study; they also inform the process of city planning by highlighting the constant remodeling of urban space.”

See some of his World Trade Center related photos on the New York Historical Society site or a couple of photos from the New American Ghetto series.


Paul Ginsparg is a theoretical physicist widely known for creating a computer-based system for physicists and other scientists to communicate their research results. Ginsparg’s document server represents a conscious effort to reorganize scientific communications, establishing a marketplace of ideas of new submissions with minimal editorial oversight and abundant opportunity for commentary, supporting and opposing, from other investigators. Ginsparg circumvented traditional funding and approval mechanisms by developing the software in his spare time and running it on surplus equipment. This system [is] informally known as “the xxx archive,” currently hosted at Cornell University at http://arxiv.org.... All documents are available without charge worldwide through the internet, making the latest results available even for those without access to a good research library. Ginsparg has deliberately transformed the way physics gets done — challenging conventional standards for review and communication of research and thereby changing the speed and mode of dissemination of scientific advances.”

See some remarks about the project he delivered in 1994.


David B. Goldstein is a physicist with a passion for... improving global energy efficiency. His work, which consistently refutes suggestions of inherent conflict between economic growth and environmental quality, touches on a broad spectrum of energy-related issues — from appliance design, to building construction, to governmental policies in developing industrial nations, to housing and transportation planning — and on developing effective policies to address these issues. Goldstein recognized, for example, that early refrigerators wasted a significant fraction of U.S. electrical output due to poor design. He led the effort to hold an efficiency design contest and then successfully lobbied regional and national regulatory agencies to establish energy consumption standards based on the new design, thus creating a market for the more efficient devices. More recently, he has initiated a project to encourage people, through mortgage lending incentives, to minimize the amount of energy they waste driving unnecessarily. Over the last decade, moreover, he has sought to influence and improve building efficiency standards in Russia and China. Throughout his work, Goldstein draws from his scientific training to eliminate political and economic obstacles to greater energy efficiency, with constant attentiveness to the environmental penalties of energy waste....

Since 1980, he has co-directed the Energy Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco.... In addition to his work at the NRDC, Goldstein serves on the boards of the Consortium for Energy Efficiency, the Institute for Market Transformation, the New Buildings Institute, the Appliance Standards Awareness Project, and the Institute for Location Efficiency.”

The mortages mentioned above are run through the Institute for Location Efficiency. The Location Efficient Mortgage is designed for “people who would like to purchase a home in an urban neighborhood and who would be willing to rely on public transportation and to use locally available services and amenities rather than own a personal vehicle.” Definitely not your typical envrionmental NGO.


Brian Tucker is a seismologist whose work focuses on preventing readily avoidable disasters in the world’s poorest countries by using affordable civil engineering practices. He founded GeoHazards International (GHI) after recognizing that multi-story residences, schools, hospitals, stores, and offices built from adobe, stone, or unreinforced masonry in many regions of the world are death traps when earthquakes strike. GHI is the only not-for-profit, non-governmental agency dedicated to preventing structural failures in developing countries. Tucker works on-site with local governments, artisans, and citizens to implement cost-effective measures to construct or upgrade schools and other public service buildings and to educate residents about damage-prevention measures. He is an expert at adapting techniques used by developed countries in risk-mitigation projects so that they fit within the social, political, and economic constraints of at-risk communities in the developing world. GHI’s principal focus on schools is particularly important because their typically poor construction makes them a common source for earthquake casualties. His current work to develop and apply a Global Earthquake Risk Index is designed both to estimate risk and to motivate risk-reduction measures. His efforts have dramatically reduced the potential for death and injury to children and others from earthquakes in vulnerable cities around the world.”


Stanley Nelson is a documentary filmmaker with over 20 years’ experience as a producer, director, and writer.

“His award-winning film, The Black Press: Soldiers without Swords, synthesizes biography and history, bringing clarity and dimension to the often neglected role of black journalists in chronicling American history. In Marcus Garvey: Look for Me in the Whirlwind, Nelson examines an enigmatic African-American icon, illuminating character and cultural context. With Puerto Rico: Our Right to Decide, he probes still farther afield, considering the implications for political democracy arising from the historical trajectory of confluence and conflict among Anglo, Spanish, African, and indigenous social structures. He is currently working on a documentary about the murder of Emmett Till; other projects include the heritage of the African-American middle class on Martha’s Vineyard and on the international anthropology of the transatlantic slave trade.”

More of his film credits are listed here.

>  25 September 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , , , ,

Grapus

“An offspring of the May ‘68 student revolt, Grapus design collective was founded in 1970 by Pierre Bernard, Gerard Paris-Clavel and Francois Miehe. They were joined in 1974-5 by Jean-Paul Bachollet and Alex Jordan; with Miehe’s departure in 1978, the main core was set.

All members of the French Communist Party (PCF), they concentrated their early efforts on the new society visions of the Left, producing cultural and political posters for experimental theatre groups, progressive town councils, the PCF itself, the CGT (Communist trade union), educational causes and social institutions. At the same time, they rejected the commercial advertising sphere....

For 20 years they provided inspiration to graphic design students all over the world, with their idealistic principles (of brining culture to politics, and politics to culture), and their highly distinctive form of image-making: an accessible and unpredictable mixture of child-like scrawl, bright colors, sensual forms and high-spirited visual pranks.

Throughout their history, Grapus remained Communists and idealists and continued to operated collectively: all work left the studio signed ‘Grapus’ even when their studio numbers had grown to around 20, operating in three separate collectives. They finally disbanded in January 1991, splitting into three independent design groups.”

From Liz McQuiston, Graphic Agitation: Social and Political Graphics since the Sixties, Phaidon, p. 56.

This article on the AIGA NY Web site emphasizes role of “the artistic” at the expense of “the political” in the breakup of the organization. Instead, I read it as the group wrestling with their relationship to the State and the establishment. Grapus member Pierre Bernard, on his design for the Louvre:

“‘I didn’t want to support the cliché that the Louvre was a place of order, reverence, and boredom,’ says fifty-six-year-old Bernard, ‘At the same time, I wanted to claim the wealth of the museum as the property of the French people, not the property of a cultural elite.’

Although he is a former member of the Communist party, this is not strident leftist rhetoric. Bernard’s approach to graphic design is more artistically than politically driven....

The Louvre assignment was a turning point in Bernard’s career. His fellow designers at Grapus believed the collective should turn down the job. ‘We used to argue all the time about who we should work for,’ he says. ‘Unlike other members of the group who only wanted to design for political causes, I believed that graphic communication could be an instrument of social change when applied to cultural institutions and so, in 1991, I went my way and formed the ACG, short for Atelier de Creation Graphique.’”

The piece further attributes the the downfall of the collective to the adoption of social design by the mainstream:

“The 1980’s were a time of cultural euphoria in socialist France. Jack Lang, minister of culture, supported a wide range of avant-garde art projects, and graphic expression was one of them. Every socialist city, town and village had to have its logo. All the government agencies felt compelled to acquire a graphic identity. And the Georges Pompidou Center had just mounted an exhibition called Images d’utilite publique (Images for Public Use) that defined, for the first time, the role of graphic design in modern democracies. Most important for French Designers, a coherent graphic design theory was beginning to emerge. But instead of helping Grapus mainstream its revolutionary message, this sudden surge of public interest in graphic design challenged their very raison d’etre. No longer in the opposition, the members of the collective felt that they were betraying their subversive mission. Like the [Situationist International], who disappeared as a group in the confusion of the student uprising they had fostered, Grapus dissolved when it’s confrontational ideology was successfully co-opted by the cultural establishment....

Today, the members of the Grapus collective are practicing their craft, each on their own terms. None have sold out. Paris Clavel designs award-winning, leftist posters under the Ne pas plier monkier (a pun on the "Do Not Fold" warning on mailing envelopes containing graphic material, the name suggests an inflexible state of mind), Miche teaches at the Ecole de Arts Décoratifs. Alex Jordan, who had joined Grapus in 1976, formed Nous travaillons ensemble (We Work Together), another design collective known for it’s social involvement. Fokke Draaijer and Dirk Debage, two Dutch graphic designers who stayed on with Pierre Bernard to form ACG, also eventually left to create their own studios.”


See also Hundreds of Grapus Posters Online!

>  15 September 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Self Help Graphics

“Incorporated in 1973, Self-Help Graphics & Art has been the leading visual arts center serving the predominantly Chicano community of Los Angeles. Self Help Graphics’ mission is to (1) To foster and encourage the empowerment of local Chicano artists, (2) To present Chicano art to all audiences through its programs and services, and (3) To promote the rich cultural heritage and contribution of Chicano art and artists to the contemporary American experience.

Key artistic programming endeavors include Self-Help’s Printmaking Atelier, which offers resources for artists to create and produce unique serigraphs; the Exhibition Print Program, which brings print-work exhibitions to local, regional, national and international audiences, and the Professional Artists Workshop Program, which provides artists with the opportunity to develop professional experience while experimenting with a variety of techniques and mediums. Self-Help’s services are free of charge. Without these efforts, many local artists would not have the exposure and resources to be self-supporting.”

Work from the Printmaking Atelier is in museum collections around the world. Self Help Graphics has also exhibited more Chicano Art in Mexico than any other U.S. center.

>  14 September 2002 | LINK | Filed in ,

La Lutte Continue

The posters produced by the ATELIER POPULAIRE are weapons in the service of the struggle and are an inseparable part of it. Their rightful place is in the centers of conflict, that is to say, in the streets and on the walls of the Factories. To use them for decorative purposes, to display them in bourgeois places of culture or to consider them as objects of aesthetic interest is to impair both their function and their effect. This is why the ATELIER POPULAIRE has always refused to put them on sale. Even to keep them as historical evidence of a certain stage in the struggle is a betrayal, for the struggle itself is of such primary importance that the position of an ‘outside’ observer is a fiction which inevitably plays into the hands of the Ruling Class. That is why these works should not be taken as the final outcome of an experience, but as an inducement for finding, though contact with the masses, new levels of action, both on the cultural and the political plane.”

Statement by the Atelier Populaire, Paris, 1968.

>  2 September 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Burn All GIFs

“CompuServe released [image file format format] GIF as a free and open specification in 1987. GIF soon became a world standard, and also played an important role in the internet community. It was well supported by CompuServe’s Information Service, but many developers wrote (or acquired under license) software supporting GIF without even needing to know that a company named CompuServe existed. GIF was relatively simple, and very well documented in books, articles and text files.

GIF images are compressed to reduce the file size. The technique used to compress the image data is called LZW (after Lempel-Ziv-Welch) and was first described by Terry A. Welch in the June 1984 issue of IEEE’s Computer magazine. Unisys [once a well-known computer company with a long history] holds a patent on the procedure described in the article, but the article describing the algorithm had no mention of this. The LZW procedure was simple and very well described, and it soon became a very popular technique for data compression (just as GIF would become a standard in its own field). It appears that neither CompuServe, nor the CompuServe Associate who designed GIF, nor the computer world in general were aware of the patent....

At the end of December 1994, CompuServe Inc. and Unisys Corporation announced to the public that developers would have to pay a license fee in order to continue to use technology patented by Unisys in certain categories of software supporting the GIF format. These first statements caused immediate reactions and some confusion.” From The GIF Controversy: A Software Developer’s Perspective.

“[Currently,] Unisys is charging web sites $5000 or more... if the software originally used to create the GIFs was not covered by a Unisys license.... The catch is that it appears to be difficult or impossible to get a Unisys license to use LZW in free software that complies with the Open Source Definition or in low-volume proprietary software. [Instead, Unysis requires a yearly license fee directly from Web site operators.] The fact that Unisys was able to patent LZW is due to a flaw in the US patent system that makes even pencil-and-paper calculations patentable.... However, Unisys’s actions are legal under US law, so the only reasonable alternative to paying the ‘Unisys tax’ on the web is to upgrade graphics from GIF to PNG format, or MNG format for animations.” From Burn All GIFs.

Burn All GIFs is a campaign encouraging Web developers to stop using the GIF format. Burn All GIFs also promotes Burn All GIFs Day to both further the campaign and to protest Unisys’s licensing practices. Burn All GIFs is a project of the League for Programming Freedom, an organization that opposes software patents and user interface copyrights.

PNG is a lossless image compression format that is free from patents and royalties. It also compresses better than GIF, supports interlacing, and true alpha transparency. It became a W3C standard in 1996 and is supported by most browsers (though some have not implemented full alpha transparency.) You can convert your GIFs to PNGs with some of the tools listed here.

>  31 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Mapping Manhattan Surveillance

For the exhibition “We Love New York: Mapping Manhattan with Artists and Activists,” the Institute for Applied Autonomy and the Surveillance Camera Players led workshops on surveillance cameras, public space, and civil liberties. Participants then took to the streets to document the city’s surveillance cameras. The findings were mapped onto an 80 foot map of Manhattan. The group also led walking tours of the City. “Participants [moved] through the city in small groups, using handheld devices to document surveillance camera locations. The cameras will be added to the iSEE community database that allows pedestrians to track the ‘path of least surveillance’ between any two points in Manhattan.”

>  29 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,

Blue Screen of Death

Where do old PC’s go to die? In February 2002, the Basel Action Network the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition released the report “Exporting Harm: The High-Tech Trashing of Asia” which reveals that “huge quantities of hazardous electronic wastes are being exported to to China, Pakistan and India where they are processed in operations that are extremely harmful to human health and the environment.”

Four villages in Guiyu, Guangdong province (about 4 hours drive from Hong Kong) have been turned into toxic waste dumps.

“About 100,000 poor migrant workers are employed breaking apart and processing obsolete computers imported primarily from North America.... The operations involve men, women and children toiling under primitive conditions, often unaware of the health and environmental hazards involved in operations which include open burning of plastics and wires, riverbank acid works to extract gold, melting and burning of toxic soldered circuit boards and the cracking and dumping of toxic lead laden cathode ray tubes. The investigative team witnessed many tons of the E-waste simply being dumped along rivers, in open fields and irrigation canals in the rice growing area. Already the pollution in Guiyu has become so devastating that well water is no longer drinkable and thus water has to be trucked in from 30 kilometers away for the entire population.”

The United States is the only developed country in the world that has not ratified the Basel Convention, a UN treaty which bans the export of hazardous wastes from the worlds most developed countries to developing countries.

The report features stunning photographs from Jeroen Bouman. You can find some of his photos and audio commentary as part of the BBC’s Disposable Planet? site.

Found via Slashdot

>  23 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , , ,

The Gauntlet and The Happy Place

San Francisco’s Boeddeker Park was “designed with safety and security in mind, but in all the wrong ways.” The 2.6-acre park is cut off from the streets by fences and walls, thouch “meant to provide safety instead make the place feel like a cage.” “The main, bench-lined walkway through the park became known as ‘the Gauntlet’ after it was colonized by drug dealers a year or so after the park’s 1985 opening.” In contrast, Harlem’s El Sitio Feliz incorporates “water play, swings, slides and a small picnic pavilion with community gardens, [the site] has become well-known for its creative combination of activities for children and adults. The most popular play equipment is a simple garden hose, which kids use to spray each other and keep the slide slippery. The playground is flanked by community gardens, tended regularly by local residents who seem to enjoy the frequent interaction with children.” Check out Great Public Spaces and the Hall of Shame at Public Buildings & Civic Design, a site with lots of bite-sized case studies brought to you by the Project for Public Spaces, “helping people to grow their public space into vital community places.”

>  13 August 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Road House

Pilot projects in Fife, Scotland and on the South Downs outside Brighton, UK are building low-cost housing from old tires. 40 million tires are discarded each year in Britain alone “enough free building material to construct 20,000 low-cost homes a year.” Known as “earthships” The new houses are “capable of functioning entirely independent of mains services such as electricity, water and sewage.” Read more from the Low Carbon Network and the Craigencalt Farm Ecology Centre, the organizations working the projects.

Found via Also Not Found in Nature.

>  21 July 2002 | LINK | Filed in , , , ,



page 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Older »