28 September 2012

Detropia: Documentary about Detroit now in selected theaters

Detropia, an award winning documentary  is now touring selected theaters.  If you are a person interested in urban issues , this should be a film you should see.  (By clicking on the linked name, you will be sent to the documentary's official site.)

Other documentaries about Detroit that might be of interest are:
Deforce and Requiem for Detroit. The latter can be seen online. 

For those teaching urban planning, urban geography, urban policy, urbanism etc. these documentaries would be excellent for facilitating discussion about urban decay, urban morphology, urban revitalization etc..


23 September 2012

Is Detroit the harbinger for things to come in American and European cities? (draft)

The above video is one in a four part series. It was shot by an amateur videographer documenting the personal tragedies and physical decay in Detroit. It has the gritty feel of Michael Moore’s film about Flint, Michigan (a city undergoing the same decline as Detroit)- Roger and Me. However it doesn’t have the ‘charm’ of Moore a modern day trickster. The video series’ appeal is the roughness of the video, having elements of cinéma vérité , and its first person view. The entire video series can be found at Detroit Ground Zero for Economic Collapse  on SuviveAndThriveTV. This is an interesting group that posts a wide and eclectic collection of videos relating to their vision of the future. They state on their site: Survive and Thrive TV is dedicated to sharing this information from our panel of experts and our members to help others cope with the lifestyle changes we will face in the future.  There are also some other videos that might be of interest 

This blog entry is part of a  ‘thread’ contemplating the fate and implications of the decline of Detroit. It had its start in a blog entry on The Urban Flâneur Guidebook, “The urban flâneur view of urban decay: Detroit”,  where I presented a sample of websites that feature the ‘haunting’ photographs of Detroit.  They are haunting because they are a reminder of a city that was once dynamic, growing and prosperous—a pinnacle and symbol of Modernism; now is in ruins. 

This is not the first time that major cities have been abandonded (i.e., Ephesus, Babylon, Miletus, Ani etc.)  Others have not been abandoned, but have lost their relative importance as a global economic/political centers (i.e., Istanbul (Constantinopolis), Vienna, Rome, St. Petersburg, etc.)  While, some have adapted to economic/political changes (i.e., London, New York, Paris, etc.)   All these cities have been associated with global economic and political shifts or globalization. However, in some cases, ther demise was hastened by losing their raison d'être as in the silting of harbors as in Ephesus and Miletus. However, globalization and its
effect on the rise/decline of cities did not arise in the 20th century. It has been here for thousand of years.

There are many who have studied globalization and have made their prognosis. Thomas Friedman ,a Neo-Liberal ‘junkie’, believes he (almost) coined the word globalization and has unraveled for his readers its transformative secret which will result in a better future.  We all just have to get onboard. However, It sells books for Mr. Friedman and gives him a lucrative lecture circuit. The premises of his books appear to be mostly antidotal interlaced with seleted facts. In his defense, he is a journalist, not a scientist.  Of course, his ‘shadow nemesis’, Noam Chomsky views globalization as an imperialist struggle for control of resources with the ‘puppet masters' being corporations and major world players, particularly the United States  in modern times. Here we have two views of globalization, one which presented by Friedman approaches the subject of globalization with a certain Polyanish flair; while Chomsky presents as a drama filled with demons seeking control of the world.  Both Freidman and Chomsky pay little attention to the role of cities as important actors in globlaization.  On another side of the spectrum is Saskia Sassen who views major world cities as linchpins in the global economy. And how can we forget Richard Florida, who conjectures that cities full of the ‘creative class’ is the new future for the worlds cities in this era of increasing globalization. (That’s what is wrong with Detroit, it just didn’t have enough of the ‘creative class.’)  

 Regardless of these author's slant (or of my opinion), these authors present interesting views on globalization and some actually address the role of cities (Sassen, Florida.) All are all worthy of reading further,as they do introduce some interesting concepts. As intelligent and crtical thinkers, we must interpret these concepts and derive our own view of cities in the rapidly globalizing world  There is a large literature in these areas, in this blog entry, I only mentioned a few. 

“Popping out” of the vortex of globalization and cities—it is evident that presently, we are experiencing phenomenal structural change in the political/economic climate which are affecting cities worldwide which is complex, fractal, chaotic and It is apparent that some politicians and workers yearn in the U.S. for the return of these days, but as the American Dream is gone, so is this era of booming factories, high wages for unskilled labor and dramatic changes in standards of living, at least in the developed countries.  The era which spawned U.S. cities in the Industrial Era such as Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg, Birmingham etc. and European cites such as Birmingham , Liverpool , Manchester, Leeds, the Ruhr Valley urban complex, Bilbao, etc. has passed forever. It is delusional that Detroit or other stagnant former Industrial cities will ever regain their former status.

In future blog entries, I will present suggested means Detroit and similar cities can transform themselves.

22 September 2012

Michael Batty's Lecture on modeling the city

Urban planning is being changed by technology.  As indicated in Dr. Batty’s lecture, spatial technologies, particularly GPS tracking, is changing the nature of viewing cities.  The aspect of stakeholders interacting with models is very interesting.  Dr. Batty also mention a emerging trend that of linkage of simulation and models via ‘the cloud.