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  1.  (6132.1)
    BLDGBLOG is a great blog about Future cities and the like. I think Warren's had a thing or two to say about them in the past. Today, an entry on their site hit home.

    Malfunctioning fire alarms going off inside foreclosed homes have become a major distraction for fire departments in suburban Arizona, according to ABC15 News.
    Fire fighters, however, cannot legally enter a property unless they see smoke or have obtained the owner's permission. But in an era of bank ownership and rampant foreclosure, even finding the owners can take weeks.
    The result is that "neighbors have to listen to the alarm until the battery dies, which can take days."
    First we were surrounded by ruins, and then those ruins began to sing.

    There are all sorts of ways that recession and simple abandonment affect the things we've built. There are little lives in there, made out of things we don't consider. In all the discussions I've had about AI, about cybernetics, about nanotech, all definitions of life seem to come back to the idea of something having the ability to surprise you. Cities are living things, in a way, with personality and attitude.

    I wonder what songs come out of Whitechapel.
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009
    Wow. It's funny that I just started reading my first Asimov book and all these things are suddenly popping up that somehow relate to the concepts that he puts forth. This is such an awesome link. Thanks.
      CommentAuthorCat Vincent
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009 edited
    Which Asimov? His books were my first SF love when I was a kid - my first was The Caves of Steel.

    I used to work just outside Whitechapel (selling plumbing supplies, and reading Tarot in the back of a strip joint during lunch break. Good times.). The song those days was mostly shouts - from barrows, from drunks - with sirens as counterpoint.
    I suspect the Whitechapel of Freakangels song would be... eerie. (Wonder if any of the fine musicians here may try to find it?)
  2.  (6132.4)
    What's interesting is the devastation the mid-century writers all saw was Atomic, not economic. But go look at the human desert that is huge swaths of Detroit and tell me if a nuke would have been any less devastating.

    Why are these empty buildings standing idle while people are losing their homes? The inherent American bias is "Well, I worked hard and my pappy did to, so should everyone else or it's socialism!" is bullshit. Repurpose the McMansions into mult-family homes. Turn condos back into affordable apartments. I live not two blocks from a condo development that is about 70% empty and has been for about 2 years now. The future of the city is communal. Realizing that someone with no where to call home or struggling just to make rent on a shitbox while space goes idle and unused, that's a mental shift that would mean more than any technological advance.

    Hell, that's what's how the FA are living.
  3.  (6132.5)

    I think it will take more than just a paradigm shift in how we view the buildings. Public Housing is not always new construction. It would take a paradigm shift in how we view how the people inside should be treated after we turn the buildings over, and social transformation in terms that go much deeper to make sure there are living thriving neighborhoods - communal or otherwise.

    And that is where I think many of the other ideas come back in and merge into city and community. You can't block parts of the future off and look for the big thing. It is all the little thing coming together in ways we don't see.
    Social transformation is not separate from technological transformation and neither separate from community and civic.

    Why does body augmentation matter other than the neat direct results? Because it impacts health, the cost of health, but also how we view ownership of the body. And redefining ownership of the self helps redefine what is expected in society. Which comes back around to "what do we do with these buildings and who as a right to them," becuase we need different expectations of what is a right, what is understood to be protected and sacred (in the secular or religious) in society.

    Right now the US is incredibly focused on two things being the sacred: hard work and property ownership (yes, yes money. But not really. It is never about money itself or we would save, and we have an intrinsic skepticism of the reality of money we can't see. One reason we have so much debt). Our understanding of neighborhoods is rooted in those two things. You live where your means allows, and that reflects some deep rooted belief in puritan reward. It is nonsense on a number of levels, but it is dogma to the culture. And renting or being transitory is seen as inferior to 30 years or mortgage debt. And where that belief got us, in part, is nowhere good either as we all know.

    Our understanding of communities once was the same, perhaps not anymore. I tend to now know my neighbors very well, I know people on-line instead. But than I am not - and a lot of deep personal bias that is off topic- the biggest fan of online intentional communities as being the natural replacement. I am not sure what the best actual futurist replacement for traditional "your my neighbor, so your my friend" notion is, but then I think the future is organic anyway, so I doubt I would be equipped to say.

    I do think our notions of space and cities will change, and I think the current issue at hand will help to do so. But we won't notice until we are there.
      CommentAuthorAdmiral Neck
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009 edited
    Resistance to the indignity of suddenly finding ourselves forced to live together like Edward G. Robinson and Charlton Heston in Soylent Green will be hard to remove. I think orwells_eyes' idea is brilliant in its simplicity, but then I think, "but not for me, obviously". But then, that's why you're calling it a paradigm shift. A skip back one mental generation to blitz spirit and street parties for the Coronation, if you'll excuse the UK framing. It's a possibility i'd not even considered before, and now I'll keep an eye out for it happening. Thanks for that bit of speculative urban futurism.
    • CommentAuthorIan_M
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009
    @ orwells_eyes: Unfortunately it's not as easy as just refitting the houses and moving in. Those areas are unliveable if you don't have a vehicle or can't afford fuel for a long drive to work or shops. And they're mostly open-plan houses, which makes renovating them a bitch. But if you don't renovate they're expensive to heat/cool depending on climate. A lot of the boom-era houses are poorly built, so they already have problems with mold or bad wiring and plumbing. And a lot of the places have been looted, stripped of plumbing and wiring by entrepreneurial recyclers. You'd have to completely renovate the houses, redesign the neighborhoods, and bring in new infrastructure to make the homes and areas liveable. And somehow convince employers to open up workshops and stores and distribution centres, because if you don't all you've done is rip off Star Trek.

    I'm not saying it couldn't be done. It might even be worth it. But it would take years, cost as much as a small war, and you'd have to deal with the political implications of telling an entire class of people "We've built this area for you. You live here now. The government is your landlord".

    Bad infrastructure decisions endure for decades if not generations. These suburbs and exurbs are poorly designed, poorly built, and nobody even knows who really owns the properties. This is going to take a while to sort out.
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009
    @Cat I'm actually starting out with a fairly basic, but really awesome one. I, Robot. After that I might work my way through the Foundation series because Asimov is such a fucking delight to read.

    What are the chances of squatters moving in to these buildings? I'm not really sure how these things work and perhaps it's different for other areas, but wouldn't there be no security around these buildings making communities of squatters ideal?
  4.  (6132.9)
    After that I might work my way through the Foundation series because Asimov is such a fucking delight to read.

    Oh please do. Everyone should.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009
    Read the Foundation books in order of publication not in order of internal chronology.

    The later prequels Asimov wrote are no where near as good as the first three books.
    • CommentAuthorKosmopolit
    • CommentTimeJun 15th 2009
    When this topic was last discussed, I think someone mentioned the idea of urban homesteading - offering homeless people title in properties in abandoned inner city areas if they moved in, repaired them and resided there for a couple of years and paid property taxes.
    • CommentAuthorJRadley
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2009
    The article Willow linked to instantly reminded me of There Will Come Soft Rains , the Bradbury story in which the computer keeps the automated household running, even though all the people have been turned to shadows on the wall by a nuclear war...
    • CommentAuthorpoor_boy
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2009
    @ TechnocratJT - <blockquote>But we won't notice until we are there. </blockquote>Nobody ever does, my friend.

    <a href="">Nobody ever does.</a>
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2009
    @Ian_M - I disagree. The issue of forced separation is what you're suggesting, I think. Of course that will cause unrest. There's a big difference between saying "Here, you can live here if you want; it's a little cheaper," or saying "You will live here because you're poor and we're making you."

    With regard to the main post, I've heard of some instances of this happening before, where things would happen but the fire department or whomever couldn't address an alarm. I've just never heard it put quite that way before.
  5.  (6132.15)
    @Kosmopolit - yeah, I was wondering for a bit about squatter's rights and reclaiming a home you were never forced to move out of... lots of people, while their homes are being forclosed on, are not actually being forced to move out (mostly because there is just such high volume and no system to deal with it).
    • CommentAuthorIan_M
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2009
    @ rickiep00h: One of the reasons (Among many others) those areas are hollowing out so quickly is that no one really wants to live there. No one really wanted to live there in the first place. There was a ton of housing market research done in the 1990s that found that people didn't really like the suburbs and didn't really want to live there. Developers could churn those suburban McMansions out quickly and cheaply, and zoning ordinances often blocked any other form of development, so it was the only type of property available to buyers. As long as housing prices were going up and everyone else was jumping in on the market people told themselves it was an investment, or that they were buying into a community. But they didn't like it. Just look at the media portrayal of suburbia over the past decade and a half.

    If they don't want to live there - And can't afford to live there, because there are no jobs in the area and they can't buy fuel for long commutes - How do you propose to get the poor to live in these poorly-built gutted-by-looters expensive-to-heat oversized shacks?

    As for urban homesteading and growing your own food, that's great as long as you can afford to haul in topsoil and twice weekly irrigation. Otherwise you'll go hungry.
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2009
    mmm... firefighters can't go in houses unless they see smoke?
    smoke bombs. put it under the deck or the roof eaves. they'll have no choice but to go in.
  6.  (6132.18)
    @dispophoto - I'd be fine with going into an abandoned house to turn off an alarm. Then again, I feel an affinity with abandoned spaces. I think that's something many of us "weird folk" share in common... comfort (and even seeking out) in once-but-no-longer-inhabited space.
  7.  (6132.19)
    I spent most of my teens in one of those boom houses and I can tell you they are just as haunting and sterile as any ruin ringing Detroit. Flint has the right idea, tear it down and let it go back to nature. These houses are, and I know this sounds overly dramatic and angsty, but they are just soulless sucking voids full of plastic consumer crap. Most of them were built on farm land or forests. People are social creatures and our living spaces should reflect that. These boom houses... most of these people are as isolated as the moon. Tear it all down, give it back to nature.
    • CommentTimeJun 16th 2009
    The talk of repurposing gated McMansions as communal living zones (I'm expounding a little) reminds me of some of the tower blocks in Johannesburg's Hillbrow suburb from several years ago - the Afrikaners moved out, the Africans moved in, and then the city turned the power off.

    From what I've seen from pictures and reportage (that isn't by lamenting thick-skulled Afrikaners whining about being kicked out...), it's a case of, "You think Detroit is bad?"