everything is ok. An ‘activist toolkit’ enabling you to comment on the visual trappings of security in a site specific location near you. The kit includes postcards, buttons, warning labels, and various caution stickers. The centerpiece is police-style caution tape with the repeated mantra “everything is ok.” One of the designers writes, “The tape is sort of a giant interactive caption that modifies spaces, gatherings, traffic, etc.” See examples of the kit in action in the user gallery. It’s satire in a box, available for sale.

everything is ok
>  26 August 2008 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Bigger Better Bottle Bill

Water BottleYesterday the New York State Assembly passed legislation to update the State’s “Bottle Bill”... with the “Bigger Better Bottle Bill.”

The bill (A-8044-A/Sweeney) expands the five-cent bottle deposit and refund to include non-carbonated beverages such as bottled water, iced teas and sports drinks. Unredeemed deposits will help fund New York’s Environmental Protection Fund. The old bottle bill did not require deposits on non-carbonated beverage containers, nor did it mandate that revenues from unclaimed deposits be paid to the State. Bottled water, teas, juices and sports drinks didn’t much exist when the initial law was passed in 1982, but have since grown to 25% of the market.

From the bill’s accompanying memo:

“New York’s ‘bottle bill’ is one of the State’s most successful recycling and anti-litter initiatives. There is less litter and broken glass in our streets, farm fields, playgrounds, parks and beaches as a result of the bottle bill. It has also reduced the burden of solid waste disposal that is shouldered by local governments and taxpayers.

Since the enactment of the original bottle bill in 1982, non-carbonated beverages such as bottled water, juices, teas and sports drinks have become extremely popular. Millions of bottles and cans from such beverages end up in the trash or littering the environment because consumers lack an incentive to recycle such containers.

Updating the bottle bill to include non-carbonated beverages will provide an incentive to make our environment cleaner and safer by increasing recycling. By requiring beverage companies to provide unclaimed deposits to the State for deposit into the EPF, the bill will also generate new funding for State and local environmental programs. It is estimated that expansion of the bottle bill will result in at least $100 million for deposit into the EPF.”

Watch a two minute video overview on YouTube from the Surfrider Foundation.

The bill was passed unanimously in the Assembly, but faces opposition in the State Senate. The law is opposed by big beverage corporations, grocers and liquor store owners who anticipate higher operating costs. On the other hand, the bill has an impressive list of supporters. NYPIRG has a campaign page up at tracks container deposit laws around the world that require a minimum refundable deposits on beverage containers.

>  12 June 2008 | LINK | Filed in , , ,

Do Artifacts Have Politics?

After much searching I finally found an electronic version of this essay via a dead link and I’m posting here to save it from the memory hole — and have fixed the HTML formatting in the process.

By Langdon Winner, from The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1986. 19-39. This essay first appeared in Daedalus 109 (1980): 121-36.

No idea is more provocative in controversies about technology and society than the notion that technical things have political qualities. At issue is the claim that the machines, structures, and systems of modern material culture can be accurately judged not only for their contributions to efficiency and productivity and their positive and negative environmental side effects, but also for the ways in which they can embody specific forms of power and authority. Since ideas of this kind are a persistent and troubling presence in discussions about the meaning of technology, they deserve explicit attention.

Writing in the early 1960s, Lewis Mumford gave classic statement to one version of the theme, arguing that "from late neolithic times in the Near East, right down to our own day, two technologies have recurrently existed side by side: one authoritarian, the other democratic, the first system-centered, immensely powerful, but inherently unstable, the other man-centered, relatively weak, but resourceful and durable."1 This thesis stands at the heart of Mumford’s studies of the city, architecture, and history of technics, and mirrors concerns voiced earlier in the works of Peter Kropotkin, William Morris, and other nineteenth-century critics of industrialism. During the 1970s, antinuclear and pro-solar energy movements in Europe and the United States adopted a similar notion as the centerpiece of their arguments. According to environmentalist Denis Hayes, "The increased deployment of nuclear power facilities must lead society toward authoritarianism. Indeed, safe reliance upon nuclear power as the principal source of energy may be possible only in a totalitarian state." Echoing the views of many proponents of appropriate technology and the soft energy path, Hayes contends that "dispersed solar sources are more compatible than centralized technologies with social equity, freedom and cultural pluralism."2

Continue reading "Do Artifacts Have Politics?" »

>  10 June 2008 | LINK | Filed in , ,

Knit-in for Peace

On March 19, the Granny Peace Brigade met in the rain in front of the military recruiting station in Times Square to mark the 5th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, “knitting ‘stump socks’ for amputee veterans, baby blankets and other items for Iraqi families.” There were a lot of great protest actions Wednesday, but the forceful assertion of care here is striking. Grannies vs. generals; slow, manual creation vs. fast, technological destruction — this is not just non-violence, but perhaps an opposite of violence. Here’s another short video.

Every Wednesday from 4:30 to 5:30 pm Grandmothers Against the War holds a vigil at Rockefeller Center. All are welcome.

>  21 March 2008 | LINK | Filed in , ,
Seattle Bans Bottled Water. No more bottled water at city facilities and events. See also San Francisco ban and Chicago tax. Happy World Water Day!
>  21 March 2008 | LINK | Filed in ,
Bananas in Germany. “For the early postwar generation, many of whom as children knew of bananas only through the reminiscences of their elders, the fruit still evokes memories of humiliation, deprivation, and even famine. Ever since hunger overtook war-torn, occupied Germany in the mid-1940s when even basic foodstuffs were unobtainable, bananas have symbolized luxury to both West and East Germans.” (via MeFi)
>  14 September 2007 | LINK | Filed in
Plate aids diabetes weight loss. “The researchers tested the effect of using a calibrated dinner plate and breakfast bowl that helps people to eat healthy sized portions.... Lead researcher Dr Sue Pederson said the results were comparable to those achieved by taking expensive weight loss drugs.” (via)
>  13 July 2007 | LINK | Filed in ,
Architecture students build 'hub' for disaster relief. “The prototype, called a ‘clean hub,’ is made from an old, 20-foot-long storage container and houses a bathroom complete with a composting toilet and a solar shower, a 4,400-gallon water tank, a foot pump-powered sink, and water collection and filtration systems. Running on two solar panels and a 1500-watt battery, the hub also provides sufficient electricity to power itself, with enough left over to run a small appliance, such as a laptop.
‘It’s completely off-grid.... If you look at the cost of a FEMA trailer, it’s ridiculously expensive and has a very short lifetime.... This is something that can provide a lot of the things a FEMA trailer doesn’t, like power and self-contained sanitation, and be substantially cheaper.’”
For more about the project see articles on Minnesota Public Radio, Shelter Architecture, and the Activist Architect blog. (Thanks, ravenmn!)
>  14 May 2007 | LINK | Filed in
Design for the Other 90%. Opening at the Cooper-Hewitt, this exhibition features “30 humanitarian design projects, all addressing basic needs in the areas of shelter, health, water, education, energy and transport.” The focus on economical, “low-tech” projects addressing such fundamental needs is a (self-consciously) stark contrast to the ultra-techy buzz fest of the recent design Triennial (though the One Laptop per Child appears in the current show.) So does this mark a fundamental shift in priorities? Will the values expressed here affect the way the Cooper-Hewitt evaluates design? From here it seems more like more a cabinet of curiosities than a paradigm shift. I’m also wary of how “The Other” is addressed, but see for yourself: a slideshow of a few examples. Update: Mark Vallen has a critical writeup here. The exhibition site is up now, too.
>  2 May 2007 | LINK | Filed in
Shared Phone Practices. Results of a field study into shared use of mobile phones in Uganda. “[In] places like India and Africa and for many new consumers their first mobile phone experience is a shared one.... What happens when people share an object that is inherently designed for personal use? And based on how and why people share in what ways can devices and services be redesigned to optimise the shared user experiences?”
>  22 February 2007 | LINK | Filed in

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