primiti too ta!

Finally, I’ve found one of my favorite ever things: Primiti Too Taa! Created by Colin Morton and Ed Ackerman in 1988, it is a typewriter animation of a Kurt Schwitters sound poem. I saw it at an animation festival in 1989, when I was 17, had it on video, and then lost it.

Finally, yay Internets, there it is again. You can even watch it directly as a movie file. I believe it is also on the film festival circuit again, according to the Primiti Too Taa site.




One year ago, one year later


Originally uploaded by maximolly.

This picture was taken at LAX on May 1, 2005. Enrique picked me up at 10 a.m., and we spent the day together before I flew to London (and then Amsterdam). It was one of the best days I’ve ever spent with anyone.

We didn’t kiss goodbye. But we did take this picture. I think the grinning ebullience says it all. The nicest part is that a year later, it still feels this happy. I love you, Enrique.

My final review is about to start

In about 40 minutes, I’m scheduled to give my final presentation in our year-end review. I’m terrified, since these things are critical and my project needs some tearing into. Here’s hoping that the kind of criticism won’t be like the urban ecologist at my last crit. One hopes that won’t be the case.

In addition, one year ago today, Enrique and I met. One year. Yay us! (Is it fitting that we’re doing our final presentations on our anniversary?)

Jane Jacobs has died

What very sad news. Jane Jacobs has died at age 89. She was especially known for her book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, which had a far-flung impact. Other works, like The Economy of Cities, are cited by people like Ed Soja as being incredibly forward-thinking, for as much as they were dismissed at the time.

I love this picture of her:

The excitable crowd: characterizing social, mobile space

When I wrote the paper on women and mobility a few weeks ago, it put me on track to doing what I’d come to Yale to do. I wanted to look at mobile and ubiquitous technology from within a spatial, urban, architectural framework. For a variety of reasons, I’ve decided to pursue my Berlin and Ostalgie research as a smaller project, and the mobile technology and space project as my thesis.

With that in mind, I’m posting the chapter I just handed in for our end of year review. Parts of this come from the paper I posted a few weeks ago. Nobody offered comments, but I would really welcome yours.

The excitable crowd: characterizing mobile, social space

Off it goes!

Three hours ago, I handed in my thesis chapter for the semester. I even managed to get five hours of sleep last night (2:30 a.m. till 7:30 a.m.) and did include Henri Lefebvre, Michel de Certeau and Bruno Latour in my thesis.

More soon. Now? I nap.

My watershed moment

Well, that was fun.

Sean and I just presented our final boards for our project on Berlin, which examines Richard Rogers’ Daimler-Chrysler Headquarters on Potsdamer Platz, Potsdamer Platz within Berlin, and Berlin within its broader relationship to water.

We’ve been working on it for a while, getting benign feedback from critics. Though we presented a set of maps at three interim crits and two meetings with the studio critic, none of our critique focused on the content of those maps. Nobody suggested that there might be someone on campus we might want to talk to, in order to make sure we understood the elements of this complex ecosystem we were trying to map.

And nobody told us that there would be an urban ecologist on the jury who specializes in water and watersheds.

Sean did fine. I got creamed. I got humiliated in the worst way, when someone asks you to define something the way she wants to hear it, and I didn’t do it right. Her tone of voice was different with me than it was with feedback to other students. Among other points of feedback, she told me that I should go look up watershed in Wikipedia, so rudimentary was my knowledge.

But a few words to my defense. It turns out, my knowledge of these things, while that of a water ecology neophyte, are not as rudimentary as the visiting expert might have had me believe.

My information for this project has largely come from materials in the Berlin Urban Development department. Many of these are good English translations of German materials. In these materials, I’ve come to define the drainage basin as the water catchment area. The materials I’ve been using don’t use the word “watershed.” They use “water catchment.”

So I suppose I’ve been initiated. This is the first class I’ve taken where I have to pin up and discuss my project with a jury. Architecture students go through this all the time, but not history and theory students like me. I got three hours of sleep and I got slammed. I think I can consider myself initiated into architecture school.

Mobile space is women’s space

Almost two weeks ago, I wrote a paper on mobile technology, gender and cities. It’s called Mobile Space is Women’s Space: Reframing Mobile Phones and Gender in an Urban Context.

After looking at different examples of mobile technology and cities in interaction with each other, I’ve concluded that mobile space is women’s space–and not gender neutral or gendered male (as seems to be the assumption with technology. What’s more exciting to me on this is that in that this seems to offer more possibilities for women in disadvantaged situations or in the developing world.

I am a design and architectural researcher, historian and theorist. I’m not an anthropologist or sociologist. But I’d like some feedback. I want to know what inexpensive mobile communication technology means for space and for cities.

  • What other examples should I be looking at? (I left out the HollabackNYC and Thao Nguyen examples of cell phones and flashers).
  • What do I need to be aware of in the types of studies this paper has examined–are there pitfalls in the work I’ve cited?
  • Are there historical precedents to be aware of, perhaps with the cordless phone, the history of the phone booth or its slow disappearance?

I already realize that there’s a globalization studies perspective on micro-loans in the developing world. (In a conversation yesterday with MIT’s Arindam Dutta, he said, “It’s a credit card! A micro-loan is a credit card, at a very high rate!”) And I’d like to not be a techno-utopist about these things. But I would like to pursue this research direction, and so I ask you for your feedback.

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Grups and students who find your blog

Yesterday, one of my students stopped by my desk to discuss her paper. At the end of our meeting, she said, “I found your blog. I felt it’d be dishonest if I didn’t tell you.”

I guess that I’m in luck because the majority of my blog is still missing: Ben still hasn’t gotten the server online again, which means I still don’t have 12 years of my digital life available to me (or for that matter, anyone else). I figure that bored students (or potential client, or boss) will Google me at some point. My personal long tail is offline. It’s like starting fresh, but with a weird sense of amnesia.

In other news, the article “Up with Grups” went out on an email list I’ve been on for over a decade. I am 34, just old enough to see myself in this article. For example:

And then these Clash-listening kids grew up and had kids of their own, and the next generation of kids started listening to music, like Franz Ferdinand and Interpol and Bloc Party, that you might assume their parents would absolutely despise. Except it doesn’t really work that way anymore. In part, because how can their parents hate Interpol when they sound exactly like Joy Division? And in part, because how can their parents hate Bloc Party when their parents just downloaded Bloc Party and think it’s awesome and totally better than the Bravery!


I spoke to an undergrad class at NYU recently. And it was terrifying how much we had in common. I’m looking at these kids who look about 12, and we’re all going to the same movies and watching the same TV shows and listening to the same music. I don’t know if it’s scarier for them or scarier for me.”

Do my students realize I’m 13, 14, 15 years older than them? Do they find this scary? Am I supposed to feel more of a gap, cause I don’t. And it seems that that’s the case with what New Yorker New York magazine (Update: thanks, harriedgirl, for correcting my error… it seemed weird this would be in the New Yorker) is saying about these hipster grownups with low slung jeans and indie rock on the iPod. I seem to be part of a trend. Sigh.