This blog has been a bit of a posting backwater, partly because I have been busy in the flesh world, and also because I have recently started contributing to The Pop-Up City, an online magazine that features concepts, designs and innovations from people in cities around the globe.

The Pop-Up City is a project in which we will explore new concepts, strategies and methods for a dynamic and flexible interpretation of contemporary urban life.

More than ever societies are strongly linked to global developments that have a substantial influence on the local scale. Changes take place continuously with more and more acceleration. Today’s world cities deal with many problems related to rapidly increasing international societal, cultural, technologic and economic transformation processes. More variableness in economic, political and cultural patterns leads to new expectations and renewals of dynamic capacities of the city. Our aim is to search for creative solutions regarding flexible urbanism and architecture.

The assignment of dealing consequently with the flexible city contains two important dimensions. On one hand the exploring of opportunities for temporary use of both private and public space which have become obsolete. On the other hand the search for new forms of construction, urban planning and architecture where principles of change, movement, (dis)appearance or extensions are embedded. Our aim is to create a network of a wide range of professionals who are interested in dynamic urbanism.

The idea of a dynamic urbanism is particularly appealing. Often, when we think about living in cities, we picture huge populations of transient, superficial and anonymous citizens living disconnected lives in busy, smoggy, grid-locked slums. However, growing numbers of people refuse to subscribe to this outmoded model of living.

People who strive for connection, but aren’t waiting for governments or corporations to provide the means to connect. Grass-roots, sharing communities are growing in cities across the world. I believe we need more commentary about these growing DIY urban communities and the creative ideas that they are working with. For more, read my Pop-Up City posts here.

Did you know that the 15th of October was the International Day of Rural Women? To celebrate, I thought I would post some facts and figures provided by others about community empowerment when women own land.

Since 2008, the day has recognized “the contribution of rural women, including indigenous women, in enhancing agricultural and rural development, improving food security and eradicating rural poverty”.

Supporting women in rural areas has multiple social and economic benefits, including;

  • Women’s empowerment benefits not only women themselves, but also their families and communities.
  • Farm productivity increases when women have access to agricultural inputs and relevant knowledge.
  • Women are dynamic organizers and participants in grass-roots organizations, and are effective in promoting and sustaining local self-help initiatives.
  • Malnutrition and mortality among both boys and girls are reduced when girls obtain greater access to primary and secondary education.
  • There is a strong correlation between women’s literacy and lower HIV/AIDS infection rates.
  • Women have a strong track record as prudent savers and borrowers in microfinance programmes, using income to benefit the entire household.

“Investing” (note the economic bias in the language) contributes to food security because women work longer hours than men.

According to the World Bank, 75 per cent of the poor in developing countries live in rural areas.11 While women work the land, they often do not hold formal and clear land titles. Less than two per cent of land in the developing world is owned by women, according to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).12 A lack of rights over land makes women extremely vulnerable to eviction and negatively affects their economic options. (WomenWatch)

At a seminar last week in honour of the day, researchers spoke about gender and land acquisition in rural agricultural communities.

The researchers also found that although many women spoke of ‘owning land,’ they, in fact, did not have any real legal rights to it.  Many of the joint-ownership agreements between spouses only included the husbands’ name in paperwork or granted him priority over his wife when making financial decisions.  Even land inherited from the woman’s family was often signed over to the husband without her knowledge. And in many cases, the degree to which a wife had legal protection of land rights depended entirely on the type of marriage arrangement she had with her husband.

Even in a country like Australia, I would suspect that fewer women own land than men, but in India, 70% of the female workforce is engaged in agriculture yet only 10% of women farmers own land.

Despite this attention given to the situation of rural women, discrimination remains rampant, from access to education and health care, to access to and control over land and other productive resources, to opportunities for employment, income-generating activities, and participation in public life. The rights and priorities of rural women continue to be insufficiently addressed – a situation that the International Day of Rural Women will, it is hoped, contribute to remedying.

Swimming Instruction

Last post I wrote about some fabulous projects that bring sharing and learning into communities, making our cities more vibrant places to live and work. This post, I’ll be sharing a few online initiatives. These fabulous websites feature a plethora of resources that you and I can access, anywhere, anytime, completely free!

The Khan Academy was just recently announced as a (very worthy) winner of Google’s Project 10^100, a two-year search for creative, crowd-sourced solutions to improving the planet:

Idea: Make educational content available online for free
Project funded: The Khan Academy is a non-profit educational organization that provides high-quality, free education to anyone, anywhere via an online library of more than 1,600 teaching videos. We are providing $2 million to support the creation of more courses and to enable the Khan Academy to translate their core library into the world’s most widely spoken languages. (read more about the winners in GOOD)

What is brilliant about this site is the content, which is really top notch, covering subjects that appear in various countries’ standardized tests. Even better, each lecture is delivered in a nice bite-sized format but without “dumbing down” the content.

Wiki’s offering, World University, has a mission to

provide a free, wiki-based education platform and, through facilitating the development of broadband worldwide, to make our service accessible to under served parts of the world.

I can’t comment about the quality of the content on this site, but it looks a bit rough and unpolished, and I couldn’t work out how to navigate to any of the subject offerings on my particular area of interest, the visual arts.

A less formalised way of learning is the Forum Network, a collaboration funded by PBS & NBR public media service. This site is less about getting a formal education, and more about

protecting and projecting the public voice and…informing and inspiring that public voice to foster deeper understanding of and engagement in the culture, education, politics, science, and literature of our time.”

A quick search on “visual art” brought up several really interesting lectures which I’ve bookmarked for watching later.

Finally, the mother(father?) of all that is the online lecture, TED. TED’s mission is to

build…a clearinghouse that offers free knowledge and inspiration from the world’s most inspired thinkers, and also a community of curious souls to engage with ideas and each other.

TED started out as an annual conference, and has grown hugely since 2006 when lectures (largely focussed on technology) were first published online. Over 700 talks are available on the website, and once you have endured the ad that appears at the beginning of each lecture, you are in for around 18 minutes of intelligent and inspiring entertainment. Some of the lectures may even blow your mind.

There are many ways to share what you know with others. Here are some alternatives to traditional education that are either free, extremely cheap, or rely on some form of barter or trade.

Shareable features an article this week on a Freeskool in Ithaca, NY:

With classes like Mushroom Hunting, Bike Repair, Know Your Rights with Debtors, and D.I.Y. Movie Making, it’s a refreshing variety of completely free classes for people of all ages. Started only a few years ago and run entirely by volunteers, the Freeskool gives the community an opportunity to share their skills and knowledge.

Another venture, also featured on Shareable, is described as a ‘pop-up’ school, which for a month offered classes for barter. Anyone can sign-up to teach, and the list of classes is esoteric and exciting. Even better, each class has a corresponding blog post, which acts as a perfect refresher if you’ve forgotten some of the basics. From organising an arts festival to caviar. Here’s a quote from Elizabeth, who taught the Caviar Demystified course:

I think Trade School is beautiful – from a design perspective, from the curation and execution. It should live on as a platform for individuals who can’t afford school to have a place to be inspired and then potentially teach too. Or think critically about what they can talk about – It successfully inspires human engagement and education.

Other formats that I have seen include the School of Everything. I signed up, but I haven’t had any bites yet. It may be simply because the site hasn’t had much exposure in Australia (be warned, it loads very slowly). Or maybe the concept is still a bit out there for Aussies? Here’s a lovely posting from their site anyway, which will go some way to explaining the ethos behind the concept.

As we decide what next for School of Everything we’ve been doing a little bit of soul searching and thinking about what we truly believe in (as well as working hard, being nice to people and the power of good chili sauce). Here’s what we’ve come up with – would be great to know what you think.

We believe…

  • The real world is better than the internet. Step away from your computer please. Getting out and trying new things is better than being sat at a desk all day.
  • All subjects are important. Learning is learning, and learning is good. Knowing how to rewire a plug is just as valuable as understanding inverse trigonometric functions.
  • Everyone has something to teach. Everyone, yes everyone, has something they can teach someone else.
  • Everyone has their own way of learning. It’s better to learn in the way you want to. You know what suits you best.
  • Learning is better with friends. People are brilliant, inspiring, generous and smart. Being with others makes it easier and enjoyable to learn more.
  • You should never stop learning. You can keep learning whatever your age, far beyond your school days.
  • Education shouldn’t be expensive. With a bit of ingenuity you can learn new things without spending lots of money.
  • Qualifications are overrated. A good education is about the things you learn along the way, not a fancy bit of paper.
  • All of these projects and initiatives are inspiring. I’d love to start some sort of venture based on these models here in Hobart.

    Here in Tassie, the weather has become a bit more unpredictable; wet and windy with a sprinkling of snow. Yes, we are very nearly at the official end of winter.

    The comfort food I have been indulging in has broadened my waistline. My evenings are still mostly spent in. I sleep long, but awaken refreshed.

    But the odd springlike day has me thinking of upping my exercise and downing my alcohol and food consumption. I tend to crave more fresh greens and less the steamed ones. I start to dream of summer fruit. Not so much of the tropical fruits, but rather of cherries and berries, which will be plentiful in the Tasmanian summer.

    I have been observing seasonal changes in my surroundings and wondering what it would be like if I mirrored these seasonal patterns in my own life.

    If I lived seasonally, perhaps I wouldn’t be working every week. Perhaps sometimes I would work in the office or studio a number of days in a row and then break for a month to tend gardens and friendships. I probably wouldn’t adhere to a nine-to-five routine. Possibly, if I lived seasonally, I’d spend my winters somewhere warmer, returning each spring to Tasmania.

    Here are links to a few websites that discuss seasonal living:

    Living With The Seasons: What Are You Doing Right Now? A nice post about seasonal living, Ziggy ends by asking: “What would it look like if we all lived more seasonally? What would you be doing right now?”

    James likes to get his gear off, and he also talks about living seasonally here: James’ Diary by James Strawbridge

    Cooking seasonally: Naturally Simple Blog

    Living in Season: slow time, seasonal celebrations, holidays This is a whole website devoted to seasons, and while I’m not really fond of the design, it features some interesting recipes and links (for example Nocino or Walnut Liqueur!)

    If you have seasonal living experiences you have blogged about or would like to share, please email me enquiry[at] or post a comment on the blog.

    red treeplaceblog’s most recent post about maps talks about how artists are drawing on mapping conventions to question territory and re-imagine place.

    In the daily life of cities, people are always on the move and always heading somewhere in the random harriedness of the streets; passengers anxiously straining to catch sight of their bus heading towards them. Looking into these works, there is the lure of other kinds of movement – of journeying elsewhere – while simultaneously straining to know our place. In tracing their pathways, we might end up in the middle of nowhere, though not before exploring that unquenchable longing to be if not somewhere then somewhere else.

    I’ve said it before, mapping is so hot right now, and it seems that the link between urban living and mapping is particularly strong.

    Last post, I talked about the work of fallen fruit and a project that I love, public fruit maps.  I also wrote that I would be looking at some Australian sites and projects that use food to build community. While it seems that Melbourne plays host to a particularly vibrant food-community-activism scheme, I couldn’t find much in the smaller cities at all, and sadly, there also aren’t many that involve art activism. I’m not sure what that says about our artistic community.

    Certainly here in Hobart I haven’t heard of a formal food mapping project, but local knowledge about food-sharing is around. So far, by talking to locals, we’ve discovered the location of trees laden with apples in autumn, and fresh hops for beer-making.

    So here are some Aussie examples from the web:

    The VEIL Food Map is an online, urban food production map of Melbourne. Examples of urban food production include: community gardens, commercial production and market gardens, shared private gardens, and food produced on public space.

    The Sharehood is all about sharing resources within your neighbourhood and helps you to meet and make friends with people in your local area. All sorts of things can be shared, such as sewing machines, vegetables, wheelbarrows, tools, cars, books and computers. Skills can be shared too: gardening help, bike fixing, accountancy, language skills, childminding, how to make wine or dance the tango.

    Live Local is a place to share stories about improving our communities. Use the website to document your neighbourhood experiments – your stories about your experiences and adventures meeting neighbours, discovering neighbourhoods, improving your local economy, saving energy and making our air and water cleaner.

    And of course, there is the vibrant Transition Towns movement, which has reached most regions of Australia. If you know of a local example of food-art-activism-community-building, drop me a line.

    Last post I talked about the community collaboration potential in underground supper clubs. I think they are one expression of a growing movement that uses food to build community.

    Well, it looks like there are actually a few supper clubs in Melbourne and Sydney. A recent article in the Australian, while rather trite, talks about how

    Young food-lovers with “restaurant fatigue” are turning to word-of-mouth recommendations – on food blogs, or elsewhere on the internet, usually – to join these secret assignations. We’re talking inner-city folk in their 20s and 30s who are looking to socialise with like-minded people. As one underground diner says, “The food is usually pretty good at these things, but it’s more about community and sharing – sitting next to a stranger and becoming friends over a meal, like it used to be.” I ask if he fears getting stuck next to a loud-mouthed bigot for four hours. “Sure, you’ll have your annoying guest, but most people are cool. They’re interesting and they’ve lived a bit, because the people who seek out these dinners aren’t people who reckon a $10 parmigiana is a top meal – it’s hard [to find them] on purpose.”

    Meanwhile, another phenomenon I am observing is in the art scene: the rise of art activism and community driven art projects that involve food. They are hot right now.

    In Somerville in Massachussets, a spaghetti dinner and theatre event in May:

    Performers included the following artists, thinkers, and doers :

    • Milan Kohout is a member of the Mobius artists’ group. He is a political street performer as well as a visual artist. Originally from the Czech Republic, he now teaches Tufts University and performs in the Boston area.
    • John Bell is a co-founder of the HONK! Festival in Davis Square as well as the NYC-based theater company Great Small Works–as well as a co-organizer of these dinners! He will be taking a historical perspective on the theme, looking at how our relationship to public space and performance in that space has changed over time.
    • kanarinka, a.k.a. Catherine D’Ignazio, an artist and educator, will discuss her project It takes 154,000 breaths to evacuate Boston, and examine the role that fear can play in public space, especially in the form of public transport awareness campaigns, terror simulations in public space, and so on.

    18 reasons engages the community through food and art. They offer an ongoing programs of wine tastings, art shows, community dinners, food classes and interactive workshops.

    In Toronto, Hart House Social Justice Committee, Art Committee and Farm Committee explored the connection through a panel discussion, “From Field to Art: Discussing the Link Between Food, Art and Social Justice.”

    Finally, the fallen fruit project, created as part of an artistic collaboration by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young is

    Using fruit as our lens, Fallen Fruit investigates urban space, ideas of neighborhood and new forms of located citizenship and community. From protests to proposals for new urban green spaces, we aim to reconfigure the relation between those who have resources and those who do not, to examine the nature of & in the city, and to investigate new, shared forms of land use and property. Fallen Fruit is an art collaboration that began with creating maps of public fruit: the fruit trees growing on or over public property in Los Angeles.

    Over time they have expanded. Projects now include:

    • Public Fruit Jams in which we invite the citizens to bring homegrown or public fruit and join in communal jam-making;
    • Nocturnal Fruit Forages, nighttime neighborhood fruit tours;
    • Community Fruit Tree Plantings on the margins of private property and in community gardens;
    • Public Fruit Park proposals in Hollywood, Los Feliz and downtown LA; and
    • Neighborhood Infusions, taking the fruit found on one street and infusing it in alcohol to capture the spirit of the place.

    Here’s a good overview of the community garden scene from the Guardian:

    Artists are engaging with issues around the environment and society. Suddenly, there is an abundance of projects that seem to be affecting the way America’s cities think about themselves…”What artists do is seed things. They plant ideas,” says Michaela Crimmin, head of the RSA Arts and Ecology Centre. Which maybe explains why these cheap, relatively small-scale projects like Franceschini’s can have such an influence.

    Next post I’ll talk about local projects and organisations.