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.

Steven Johnson’s talk, “The Urban Web,” at Yale

I’m listening to Steven Johnson talk about his new book The Ghost Map. It’s the first time he’s discussed it publicly. In this talk, he’s tying this work to Emergence.

Steven starts by talking about the John Snow map — if you’ve read Tufte, you’ve probably encountered it — the map of the 1854 cholera epidemic in Soho, London. But the primary tenets you’ve heard are false: Snow’s map didn’t solve the problem, it was instead Whitehead (I blanked on his first name) who had the local knowledge and the intimacy with people in the neighborhood. Snow and Whitehead were both amateurs and locals. This is the strength of the situation.
He then breaks down this mechanism into three functions: local knowledge, the swerve, and pattern recognition. For those familiar with webness, there are few surprises here. As an example of local knowledge, he talks about the blog boom (25 million blogs, compared to very few a mere two years ago)… and also, 311 in New York. The swerve is the serendipitous stroke, whether you’re in Jane Jacobs’ Greenwich Village or following a link on a blog. And finally, pattern recgnition: Google making relevance of all the possible search results. How do these translate back to the city? Steven asks. This, he sorts into another three aspects: face-to-face (Meetup), streetblogging (neighborhood information), and geo-tagging (ala Google maps).
These things are not news to me… and it’s amusing to see this talk a few weeks after our panel at South by Southwest on online/offline place. It’s also good that this is going to hit the mainstream. It’s certainly good to be hitting a group of architects who probably aren’t terribly familiar with blogging — and for Steven, it’s good that it’s not an audience of bloggers and geeks. For us here at Yale, when we’ve brought Eric from Stamen here last week, and Anne Galloway this week, I’m hoping we can discover how this affects our design and research into the digitally connected, information-rich world.
My messy notes follow below.

Continue reading “Steven Johnson’s talk, “The Urban Web,” at Yale”

My dream, only better, with hamsters

My last day in Texas, I woke up and told Enrique about the dream I had, no doubt influenced by the things I’d been doing over spring break. I made a point of remembering it. It went something like this:

“It’s Sudoku, only it’s done through Flickr, and it’s showing the posters from Flatstock.” I made a note to myself to remember it, and thought to myself, that’s really not a bad idea. I should blog that. Maybe somebody would know how to make it.

Today, as Eric was present Stamen’s work in my 21st Century Infrastructures class, I googled “Flickr mashups.” That’s where I found Hamster Sudoku. Apparently, someone read my mind, but instead of using fine-printed posters of rock shows, it was hamsters. A better idea, too.

To clarify, SXSW was wonderful, just way too big

First of all, let me clarify something — I had a wonderful time at South by Southwest. I always do. As I’ve mentioned previously, this was the ninth time I’ve attended and spoken, and look forward to my tenth year next year. I’ve always loved Austin during South By because it’s so personable. But the size made that a lot more difficult to find this year. Conversations with the team putting on the conference yielded unofficial information, like this was maybe 500% bigger than last year, that there were more panels than even the music conference. It proved harder to get into official interactive parties than to secret, cool, music parties. Since when was geekiness ever exclusive? A velvet rope for Break Bread with Brad?

I enjoyed meeting new people, seeing some of my favorite people that I don’t see enough, others I’ve met the last several years, reconnecting with people I should have been in touch with (also insert Max Whitney here as I can’t find a link for her) and catching up with old, old friends. A GIGANTIC shout out goes to the wonderful Justin Cox, who I met last year, and who offered Enrique and I his bedroom for a full six days, not far from the SXSW action. And the biggest of high fives to Hugh Forrest, who has led SXSW all the years I’ve known it. He does an amazing job.

Add to all of this the bonus of running into Andrea Troolin and Dan Connelly during Flatstock yesterday. Andrea and I met at a winter German language camp when we were in 8th grade. We went on to date the same Jasons in high school and college, and still have friends in common. She’s put out some of my favorite music. Dan? I babysat him. He was best friends with my brother Andy growing up; his brother Sean was best friends with my brother Ben. He’s now national director of radio promotion for EMI. Though I didn’t speak to her, Dan was walking down the street with Norah Jones and two others. Go Dan.

Final events before getting out of town: discovering it was Grand National that we were hearing at the Austinist party, and seeing the Go! Team at Waterloo Records (who rocked for a brief five song set, down to high kicks in tube sox, God, I love them). It struck me that you really could have an enjoyable time at SXSW without paying for a music wristband — you could just go to day shows and after parties.

We’re now back in San Antonio, attacking the heap of schoolwork that needs completing before we return to New Haven: a stack of blue books to grade, a book to finish for Gender, Territory and Space, a Perspecta proposal, and a paper for my theory class, which I’ll write on postmodernism, nostalgia, camp and memory. It shouldn’t be hard — I’ve been bouncing around the ideas in my head for a while. Enrique’s brother, Fran, shows up today as well — they are best friends and I’ve never met him. We fly back on Sunday. Maybe by then, I’ll have my voice back!

Final random thoughts? I feel like posting to my website for the first time in a long time. And it struck me that maybe, a video blog would be fun to do. I have a camera, the university has good mics, and I like my friends. Is this a crazy idea?