Beth Kelley is an applied & digital anthropologist with an overall interest in how people engage with and are impacted by their environments and vice versa. This has manifested itself in many ways, by looking at creativity, playful spaces, built environments, and environmental enrichment, sustainability, design research, and integrative and collaborative models of learning such as through play and hands-on learning.
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.
“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.
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.
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.”
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”
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.
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.
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.”
Hello old friends!
It has been awhile since I’ve written. I’ve missed you all.
I’ve taken on some new projects in my life the last few months that are truly all-consuming. Fun (mostly) but also requiring a lot of time, and frankly the same brain power I normally use for this blog.
I also am considering tweaking the blog a bit – not a lot, just making it more focused. But I’d love to hear your thoughts, what do YOU want to learn more about? What is exciting for you to read and ponder?
I’ve also gone on so many fun, enriching experiences that I want to share here (so much for focusing. 😉 )
For now, I just wanted to share a few photos of my adventures, both big and small.
I suppose I could just check in with more short notes like this – I always strive to create something great, but sometimes just showing up is great enough.
I’ll keep checking in.
The Hartman Group, a market research firm which over the past 30 years has focused on food culture, made a pretty startling discovery in their latest study on health and wellness. For the first time ever, anxiety and stress were the biggest concerns of people, versus obesity or other more traditional “wellness” issues.
It is more important than ever that we start working on reducing stress, anxiety, and build up social support and physical practices.
I feel almost hypocritical writing this as I’m currently suffering from a stiff neck due to a combination of a bad pillow and stress (mostly stress). However, I think it’s important to share this data and point out the fact that this is a wide-spread issue, because we often feel so ALONE in our stress and anxiety; we have this sense that because we brought it on ourselves we need to suffer by ourselves. Stress, anxiety, and depression also make us want to turn inward and feel more lonely.
But it’s NOT our fault, and NOT something we should bear alone. First, anxiety or depression comes from two places – 1) our serotonin receptors are misfiring (not our fault), and/or 2) isolation and feeling overwhelmed, which is the PERFECT time to ask for social support!
Let’s break the cycle! How? As the Hartman article points out, exercise is a great option! Exposure to nature and natural serotonin regulation, not to mention building muscles and clearing your brain both figuratively and literally, as exercise as been shown to reduce the senile plaque that builds up in our brains as we age and is connected to dementia. Also creative endeavors and sleep are hugely helpful.
What things inspire you? Tell me in the comments below.
The National Guard is moving out of its long-time location in Interbay, a historically industrial part of North Seattle. It is near two very posh neighborhoods, close to the tech and business center of Seattle, and right next to the new light rail being developed and built over the next decade.
Seattle wants to be proactive about how they design this new space. There is a sense of inevitability hanging over this project that it will be dominated by high-density condos and be catered to the young urban techies working at Amazon, Google, and Facebook all just two miles down the road.
But it doesn’t have to be. Or rather, that high-density urban development doesn’t HAVE to preclude itself from ALSO including green spaces and playful design incorporated into the end product.
The location itself is also a serendipitous mix amazing natural features like water and parks in a central location to many in Seattle, at least those north of downtown.
Lots of different consultants and teams are already weighing in on what this area could look like.
Plan above from of the KUOW article that cued me into this. Notice there isn’t a lot of incorporation of play structures or green space, other than the trees lining the light rail path and a couple of smaller parks.
Interested to learn more? The city is having an open house Wednesday May 15, 2019, to discuss options. It would be GREAT to have voices go and support the need for open play spaces in the new development, whatever it may look like. Bring your ideas and let your voice be heard: