some emergent markets

Infrastructural Ground by Daphne Lasky
July 12, 2010, 9:43 pm
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Spend enough time wandering Parisian markets, and you’re bound to notice the pop-up electrical outlets that dot the market plazas. Standard, well-functioning outlets, like the yellow one below, are all well and good, but I love it when I see an outlet cover that’s been pried up, sitting haphazardly at some odd angle.

We’re toying with some initial grasshopper investigations, and one thing I’ve been thinking about is how the ground plane might reveal the infrastructure buried underneath. If electricity is accessed through a field of point sources, might increased loads at certain points cause the ground to thicken?

The above drawing shows individual points shifting independently of one another. What if, however, heavily-used points began to subsume more minor access locations, meta-ball-style? One result (shown below in section) might be a faceted surface with a complex substructure:

Finally, are these operations additive only, or might they also become subtractive? For every action…

Market Activity by Daphne Lasky
June 16, 2010, 5:49 pm
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At first glance, it seems all too obvious that everyone comes to the Campo de Fiori for the market. With its fruits and vegetables aplenty, tourists and locals alike must flock to the campo in search of whatever’s fresh and seasonal.

In reality, however, the market accounts for only 8 hours of campo activity a day. Why, then, is the piazza full of people ’round the clock?

I think the answer is that, as a painting teacher of mine used to say, people like to look at people.

When the market vendors arrive in piazza in the morning, the place is deserted. As they begin to set up and display their wares, a few brave souls venture out to make some early purchases. Over the course of the morning, the crowds grow, and the neighboring cafes open up. Pedestrians ogle the market goods, while seated espresso-sippers ogle passers-by.

By the time the market vendors begin packing up around 1:00, a lunchtime crowd packs the cafes. Once the piazza is empty, it is the cafe patrons themselves who are the performance for pedestrians to enjoy. This mutual people-watching continues through the aperitivo hour, and far into the night.

In all of this, the market plays the role of a catalyst, creating enough human activity that, by the time the sun grows hot, it has done its job, and can go home for a nice, cool rest.

[Poor definition-management skills means that the gh component to this post is a bit out-of-hand at the moment. Keep a look-out for a separate post with the definition download and some thinking about strategies for nesting actions…]

(good) rules are good by Daphne Lasky
April 19, 2010, 2:35 pm
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Steven Johnson’s recent op-ed in the Times suggests that the restrictions that Apple places on its App Store might actually be a good thing for developers:

The App Store must rank among the most carefully policed software platforms in history. Every single application has to be approved by Apple before it can be offered to consumers, and all software purchases are routed through Apple’s cash register. Most of the development tools are created inside Apple, in conditions of C.I.A.-level secrecy. Next to the iPhone platform, Microsoft’s Windows platform looks like a Berkeley commune from the late 60s.

And yet, by just about any measure, the iPhone software platform has been, out of the gate, the most innovative in the history of computing. More than 150,000 applications have been created for it in less than two years, transforming the iPhone into an e-book reader, a flight control deck, a musical instrument, a physician’s companion, a dictation device and countless other things that were impossible just 24 months ago.

Perhaps more impressively, the iPhone has been a boon for small developers. As of now, more than half the top-grossing iPad apps were created by small shops.

Those of us who have championed open platforms cannot ignore these facts. It’s conceivable that, had Apple loosened the restrictions surrounding the App Store, the iPhone ecosystem would have been even more innovative, even more democratic. But I suspect that this view is too simplistic. The more complicated reality is that the closed architecture of the iPhone platform has contributed to its generativity in important ways.

The decision to route all purchases through a single payment mechanism makes great sense for Apple, which takes 30 percent of all sales, but it has also helped nurture the ecosystem by making it easier for consumers to buy small apps impulsively with one-click ordering. People don’t want to thumb-type credit card information into their phones each time they download a game to distract the kids during a long drive in the car. One-click purchase also supports lightweight, inexpensive apps, the revenue from which can support small software teams.

Consumers are also willing to experiment with new apps because they know that they have been screened for viruses, malware and other stability problems as part of the App Store’s approval process.

The fact that the iPhone platform runs exclusively on Apple hardware helps developers innovate, because it means they have a finite number of hardware configurations to surmount. Developers building apps for, say, Windows Mobile have to create programs that work on hundreds of different devices, each with its own set of hardware features. But a developer who wants to build a game that uses an accelerometer for control, for example, knows that every iPhone OS device in the world contains an accelerometer.

If good limits are generative, what does that mean for urban public spaces? Which organizational tools help places become sites of exchange, and which tools limit growth?

a great crowd by Daphne Lasky
April 19, 2010, 2:27 pm
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precedent | emergence experiment by jhuang
April 19, 2010, 2:20 pm
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Self-organization is a process of organization that is not directed by any external force or factor, but by the character of the basic unit itself.  Although unpredictable in outcome, this process could produce the most efficient systems as witnessed in an experiment conducted by the architect and structural engineer Frei Otto.  He produced a geometrical system of paths by connecting all the points (i.e. targets such as houses) on the circumference of a circle (or any other form) using wool.  Due to theoretical “detours” people often take, the wool was given some slack.  He then dipped the entire system in water, shook it and then removed it.  The wet wool began to gather and merge, eliminating some of the paths that previously existed.  The total length of all the paths was shortest in the final stage of the experiment.  Contrary to what most might believe, an orthogonal geometric system is not the most efficient system.