Jane Jacobs Radio Interview

Jane Jacobs, activist, thinker, and author of, among many books, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, passed away a little more than half a year ago. Here is an interview with Jacobs from New York Public Radio, from 2000. In it, she discusses the ‘organic’ nature of cities, among other things. You can also hear it below.

Time-Lapse Cities

Everyone likes time-lapse photography. Here is a collection of time-lapse films where the growth and development of cities can be clearly seen. First, a building being constructed in London:

Here is a link to another building being built, over the span of eight months (the beginning part reminds me of Mike Mulligan and his Steam Shovel).

Here is a reconstruction of the population growth in the San Francisco Bay Area, also from Playing With Time.

Last is a page about urban sprawl, with a time-lapse depiction of urban sprawl in Baltimore.

City of the Future Contest

The History Channel recently ran a contest entitled The City of the Future: A Design and Engineering Challenge, where architecture firms were challenged to present their views of what New York, Chicago and Los Angeles should look like in 2106. Polis has more about the contest here (with a discussion of which entries took into account water issues). Here are also some pictures of the New York entry, which was created by ARO. (via kottke)

Global City

The Global City Wikipedia article discusses the world’s most important cities (no doubt a contentious issue). An interesting read, especially the part that lists those cities with ‘evidence of world city formation’.

Social Science and Online Games

In a recent Nature news article, Social sciences: Life’s a game, the possibilities of using massively multiplayer online games as laboratories for computational social science is discussed. The article provides a very interesting overview of this concept, and highlights some work by Ed Castronova. Castronova, one of the pioneers in this field, has both conducted a study into how markets arise where they do, and is also working on a game of his own to conduct computational social science experiments. This world called Arden is expected to be up by March, and hopefully should yield some very interesting findings. Here is part of the discussion of Castronova’s findings about market-location:

This cloning of worlds gave Castronova his first chance to do computational social science. Using a survey of EverQuest players (E. Castronova Games and Culture 1, 163–186; 2006), he showed that on each server just one region has become established as a market. Crucially, that region differs between servers, although mountain ranges and cities have identical locations in all the worlds. So there does not seem to be a single prime location for the market; instead, some chance event seeds its creation, and coordination effects then lock it into place. “With no small amount of trepidation,” Castronova writes in a footnote to the paper, “I would venture to claim that this is the first time in human history that a distinct macro-social phenomenon has actually been verified experimentally.”

Possibly some ramifications in these studies for understanding the shaping of downtowns in urban areas (such as the location of financial districts).


Gardens-in-a-Petri are fractal-shaped bacterial growths in petri dishes. More can be found here. Not that city-shaped, but they could provide some insight into how cities grow and form (or how they don’t, based on the differences in physical structure between these and cities).

Canyon of Heroes

I just came back from New York City, and while walking around the Financial District, I learned all about ticker-tape parades. This could be easily done because engraved black granite strips have  been placed along the parade-path with informational tidbits. On thee downside, this causes one to walk face-down, making the readers somewhat of a pedestrian hazard. It turns out that the path taken (from Bowling Green to City Hall), due to its narrow streets and tall buildings, is called the Canyon of Heroes. Such poetry.

Ant City

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A short film (~10 min.) by John Kieran, Ant City is an entertaining stream-of-consciousness discussion of an ant hill as city, with suitable anthropomorphism used.

City Infographics Discussed in the New Yorker

Last week’s issue of The New Yorker had an interesting piece in the Talk of the Town section called ‘Rap Map’, by Lauren MacIntyre. It’s about information visualization, and in this case, about some researchers who look at a block-by-block breakdown of the people who have been put in prison in a specific year. They have even examined (in a visual manner) how long the convicts are in for, and where they end up serving their sentences. The people who did the work are at the Justice Mapping Center, and their information visualizations can be found there. And the graphics are both thought-provoking and really cool to look at, as all good data visualization should be.