anthropology · behavior · community · creativity · culture · happiness · mental health · Social

Social Cohesion in a time of Physical Distance

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This is an odd time for the world. For the first time in a century we are faced with a novel virus that we don’t yet know all that is involved with keeping it at bay and keeping ourselves safe. Many nations are asking or demanding their citizens maintain “social distance” and/or quarantine themselves in their homes.

A friend pointed out an important distinction – we should be calling this “physical distance” not social distance, as this is a time when we need social cohesion and support more than ever.

And what a glorious age that we live in that we can still do this?

My kids can still call grandma on video calls, even though she is 1000’s of miles away. I can write an email or send pictures to my friends in a nanosecond.

I live in King County, one of the epicenters of the outbreak in the US, and immediately after schools closed parents created a Facebook group dedicated to supporting each other, sharing online resources for videos, workbooks, and fun online activities for kids to do while they were out of school. I’ll post a few of my favorites below.

Music and science groups also started offering their materials live, including free concerts and events. Authors have started offering “virtual” book signings and draw-alongs for kids and adults alike.

There are numerous organizations offering free resources – classes, books, videos – and even free Live events that will encourage our Netflix-enabled on-demand culture to schedule some time to tune in and all watch the same experience at the same time. The magic of the early Television age will be renewed as we will all be able to experience a concert together in real time, granted on channels like Facebook Live and Instagram, Zoom, and other channels.

Italy is demonstrating this social cohesion better than any nation currently. They have had impromptu sing-alongs, flash mob concerts, and just plain rebellious screaming from the balconies of their apartments in Naples, Rome, Sicily, and Florence.

 

 

We do not need to feel alone or isolated.

We can create solidarity among our neighbors with symbols, music, and messages.

My kids and I are going to spend the afternoon creating art and then decorating our front yard with art, just to remind everyone we are here, we are alive and well, and we are a community.

 

There are NUMEROUS opportunities for online learning, these are primarily Resources for online book readings, live events, and other free media that help support social cohesion and reducing feelings of isolation (although if you need those resources, here are just a few):

If you have others please share them and I will post them!

 

 

architecture · behavior · community · Social

A São Paulo Street Becomes an Urban Living Room

Great write-up from ASLA blog The Dirt:

How can a street encourage people to explore, play, and hang out? How can art, plants, and furniture be combined to create a sense of place?

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In São Paulo, Brazil, a design collaboration between Brazilian firm Zoom Urbanismo Arquitetura e Design and furniture designers at LAO Engenharia & Design shows how. All Colors Sidewalk draws people in with its funky, organic charm.

In ArchDaily, the firms tell us that most streets in this mega-city, with a population of 12 million, are “very narrow, with irregular or no maintenance, and present many obstacles that discourage the circulation of pedestrians through the city.”

Through their re-imagining of the street landscape, the firms sought to show what an accessible space rich with layers would look like.

Along the 4,500-square-foot street, what grabs attention first is the flexible, wood street bleachers, which offer seating at street level and then perches above. The firms arranged them to create different views for people sitting, and flexible options for groups hanging out. At certain points, the bleachers rise up and form an arbor; at others, they become aerial structures for plants.

It is important to think about the ways we can continue to support neighborhoods and communities to make them friendly and shareable.

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Playful meditations: Walking at night

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Photo by Min An on Pexels.com

Sometimes enriching moments are the quietest ones; the times we find ourselves alone, quiet, with nothing to do or think about other than what is immediately in front of you. A meditation on what is happening now.

I got to experience that tonight. I have been working from home this week and so my normal routines have been disturbed, meaning I have not been taking my normal short walks in the morning and afternoon. The first time I really got to go walk tonight was after the kids were asleep, just after 8pm. It seemed late but I needed to get out, so I strapped on my sneakers and jacket and headed out the door.

I walked briskly to stay warm, although the air was not as cold as I had expected. The street lights were enough that I did not need a flashlight, but still dark enough that I felt the blanket of dark surround me.

There is something much more meditative about going for a walk late at night rather than staying inside and exercising to a TV or on a treadmill. I breathed in the air deeply, smelling the wood fire smoke coming from a fireplace. I could feel the quiet of the night envelop me, I could hear only my own breath, and feel the solitude of the night.

It reminded me a little bit of staying out late in high school and community college. We lived near a beach town, and on summer nights we’d stay out on the beach until well after it officially closed, basking in the dark and fog and solitude and freedom.

I ended up not being the only one out this evening, but with a nod and a smile, all half dozen of us seemed to silently acknowledge that we were each aware of the comfortable quiet companionship of the night.

Sometimes the quietest activities are the most enriching. I need to try and find other opportunities for it.

What has worked for you? What are your quiet enrichment moments? A cup of coffee? Driving home in the car? Knitting? I’d love to get some more ideas. Leave it in the comments below.

behavior · community · creativity · culture · design · happiness · health · Nature · Social

AARP awards annual grants to build communities

Know a spot in your community that could use a little love?

The application period for the 2020 AARP Community Challenge is open!

The AARP Community Challenge provides small grants to fund “quick-action” projects that can help communities become more livable for people of all ages. Applications are being accepted for projects to improve housing, transportation, public space, technology (“smart cities”), civic engagement and more.

In an era when Americans, especially older Americans, are lonelier than ever in history, it’s great to see the AARP creating funding opportunities for organizations to create third spaces of all kinds.

wood bench park autumn
Photo by Gratisography on Pexels.com

AARP will prioritize projects that aim to achieve the following outcomes:

  • Increasing civic engagement with innovative and tangible projects that bring residents and local leaders together to address challenges and facilitate a greater sense of community inclusion and diversity. (Although this category is targeted to local governments, nonprofit organizations can apply for and receive a grant in this category provided they demonstrate that they are working with local governments to solicit and include residents’ insights about the project or to help solve a pressing challenge.)
  • Create vibrant public places that improve open spaces, parks and access to other amenities.
  • Deliver a range of transportation and mobility options that increase connectivity, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding, access to transportation options and roadway improvements.
  • Support the availability of a range of housing that increases accessible and affordable housing options.
  • Demonstrate the tangible value of “Smart Cities” with programs that engage residents in accessing, understanding and using data, and participating in decision-making to increase the quality of life for all.
  • Other community improvements: In addition to the five areas of focus, AARP wants to hear about local needs and new, innovative ideas for addressing them.

Read all about it at the AARP site.

 

Hat tip to The Dirt for sharing this out, including a feature about last year’s winner:

In Los Angeles’ Westlake/MacArthur Park neighborhood, Golden Age Park shows the power of placemaking. With support from AARP, a property that was vacant for 30 years was transformed by landscape architect Daví de la Cruz into a community garden with a children’s play area and outdoor fitness space for adults.

behavior · brain · design · mental health · Social

Google Experiments with Digital WellBeing Projects

Google is pretty famous for supporting “side projects” with its employees. Several of the ones focused on digital well-being and balancing screen time and down time have been curated into one spot on their Experiments With Google blog.

picture apps

“A collection of ideas and tools that help people find a better balance with technology. We hope these experiments inspire developers and designers to consider digital wellbeing in everything they design and make. All the code is open sourced and helpful guides and tips are available to kick start new ideas. Try the experiments and create new ones. The more people that get involved the more we can all learn about building better technology for everyone. “

From a “paper phone” to a digital walk along the Camino Frances, the different concepts are all interesting ideas and approaches to unplugging and reminding ourselves to get away from screens.

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Check out more of their experiments here.

architecture · design · environment · happiness · Nature

The interplay of space and spirit

daylight forest glossy lake
Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger on Pexels.com

People often talk about the feeling that a natural space evokes for them – feeling calmed by a sunset, wowed by a thunder storm, awed by being on a mountain top. Even more so, we often describe  feeling close to God or something bigger than themselves when we are out in nature. Whether we are hiking or sitting still, these natural places are often described as “holy”, “sacred”, and provide a deep connection and meaning to the people who experience them.

Elizabeth Boults, ASLA, a landscape architect and educator, recently presented on this idea at the ASLA 2019 Conference on Landscape Architecture in San Diego, CA. She discussed how rather than relying on big data trends to inform landscape design or even public initiatives, it is valuable to understand the spiritual feelings or significance that a place has.

From the ASLA DIRT blog:

With her husband Chip Sullivan, FASLA, a professor of landscape architecture at the University of California at Berkeley, who is a passionate proponent for honoring and designing with the unseen forces that shape landscapes, Boults outlined how one method that sounds a bit wacky at first — tarot cards — can actually be a thoughtful design tool for understanding the genus loci (spirit of place), which is so central to landscape architecture.

Boults believes that landscape architecture is a mix of art and science. Art relates to the “mysterious, non-linear, subjective” process of design, while science is about “rational structures, categories, and typologies.”

Beyond art and science though, there is also the spiritual aspect of landscapes. “Across cultures, people shape landscapes based on their beliefs.” Many cultures have had “gods and goddesses who are guardians of the spirit of places.” For example, Romans believed each home had a genius, which were honored through a shrine.

Prehistoric peoples were attuned to the “atmosphere, the flora, animal life, and geological formations; they listened to the trees, wind, and moon.” Boults wondered: “Are we still listening today?”

Some stubborn ancient beliefs are still alive and well in modern practices such as Feng Shui in China, Vastu Shastra in India, and landscape cosmologies among Native people and across many cultures. Within these cultural approaches to the landscape, it’s always important to “consult the genus loci of a place before starting a design process.”

You can read the full post here.

I am intrigued by the use of physical, tangible symbolism to help illustrate, explain, and solidify for ourselves to better understand what we mean, as well as explain it to other people.

What do you think? I’d love to read your comments below.

 

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“A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic”

Books make us think, feel, and wonder.

Lost and Found Books

Illustration by Ezra Jack Keats via Every Child A reader Illustration by Ezra Jack Keats via Every Child A reader

Carl Sagan (1934-1996), astronomer and book lover:

“What an astonishing thing a book is. It’s a flat object made from a tree with flexible parts on which are imprinted lots of funny dark squiggles. But one glance at it and you’re inside the mind of another person, maybe somebody dead for thousands of years. Across the millennia, an author is speaking clearly and silently inside your head, directly to you.

Writing is perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs. Books break the shackles of time. A book is proof that humans are capable of working magic.”

~excerpt from the 11th episode of Carl Sagan’s 1980s Cosmos series, titled “The Persistence of Memory”

More information about this illustration at http://www.rmichelson.com/Artist_Pages/keats/Ezra-Jack-Keats.html

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5 things that make me fulfilled

  1. Taking photos
  2. Getting outside into nature
  3. Creating playful spaces
  4. Creating experiences that can be shared
  5. Designing home spaces or outdoor spaces

What are the things that make you feel not just happy, but fulfilled, truly that feeling of inspiration and completeness?

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Putting children at the heart of urban planning: a call for action

Focusing on designing and making a city kid-friendly has been found to be make a city more friendly and usable for all!

Rethinking Childhood


Authors: Tim Gill, Adrian Voce, Darell Hammond and Mariana Brussoni

Cities around the world are failing children. 30 years after the launch of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – which aimed to make children’s needs and views central in policy making – most cities are hostile if not life-threatening places for their youngest inhabitants.

The global death toll of children on the roads is surely the most shocking illustration of the failure of urban planning. Road traffic is the leading global cause of death among people aged 15–29, and the second highest single cause of death for children aged 5–14.

Dangerous hilly road with cars and pedestrians, Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota Ciudad Bolivar, Bogota

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From The New Yorker: In France, Elder Care Comes with the Mail – Carriers for La Poste have a new job: checking in on the aged.

A mail carrier in Lomita, CA will knock on the door of my 95 year old grandmother every day there is a mail delivery, just out of the kindness of his heart. With this new service in France, postal carriers will also notify the elders’ families of any updates. It is so good to see this natural kind of fit become more structured and organized, and doing more to keep elders connected to their community and family members.

For less than 40 euros a month Monique Jaspart receives weekly home visit from her mail carrier Aurore Raquet through a program called Veiller Sur Mes Parents - Watch over my parents
From the New Yorker: For less than forty euros a month, Monique Jaspart receives weekly home visits from her mail carrier, Aurore Raguet, through a program called Veiller Sur Mes Parents (“Watch Over My Parents”).

From The New Yorker:

In a sense, Watch Over My Parents was created by accident. The service began in 2013, after a heat wave, when a number of overburdened city halls asked their local post offices to check on vulnerable and elderly residents. Éric Baudrillard, the director of V.S.M.P., told me that there has always been a “natural link between the French and their postal workers.” At first, La Poste was happy to do the check-ins for free. Soon afterward, though, it proposed a paid version of the program, called Cohésio, for insurance companies and municipal governments. The service was extended to the general public in 2017, under the name V.S.M.P.

In France, as in many developed countries, people are living longer than ever before. By 2035, a third of the population will be over sixty. Millions of people over the age of seventy-five already live alone. As the population ages and disperses, with more young people moving away from their birthplaces, traditional safety nets—family, community, the government—may not be enough to support the elderly. V.S.M.P. is a response to this grim prognosis; La Poste sees opportunity in “la silver économie.”

Read the entire article Here .