Robert Moses Vs. Jane Jacobs: we’ve had the book, now the opera, I want the movie!

We’ve had the book:

Wrestling with Moses: How Jane Jacobs Took On New York’s Master Builder and Transformed the American City by Anthony Flint

“The rivalry of Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses, a struggle for the soul of a city, is one of the most dramatic and consequential in modern American history. To a young Jane Jacobs, Greenwich Village, with its winding cobblestone streets and diverse makeup, was everything a city neighborhood should be. But consummate power broker Robert Moses, the father of many of New York’s most monumental development projects, thought neighborhoods like Greenwich Village were badly in need of “urban renewal.” Standing up against government plans for the city, Jacobs marshaled popular support and…”*Version*=1&*entries*=0

and now, the Robert Moses Vs. Jane Jacobs Opera Is Almost Here

It’s a love triangle—with both figures “vying for the love of the city.”

I want the movie!

They’ll rename it, obviously, to not offend the bible belt and Jewish people and the noble wrestling and allied martial arts community. Probably something like “The Heart of the City” so everybody will think its a romcom and avoid it. I want to see Sigourney Weaver as older Jane and Ed Harris (not Tom Hanks please) as Bob Moses. Or, Cate Blanchett and Saoirse* Ronan who were both brilliant in Hanna and are looky-likey. Knowing Hollywood it’ll be Seth Rogen and Cameron Diaz. To direct, please not Roland Emmerich, or Michael Bay (famed for bulldozing city blocks, could appeal to 13 year old boys), maybe Ridley? Or even Mr Harris himself.

But I digress. This one has to already be in development. I want to see this movie!

  • *pron. Sirsha

If you want to ‘support beneficial change’ or ‘help humans’, you need to watch and listen…

Penny Wilson, unsung playwork genius, flaneur, urbanist, author and soon to be celebrity cook,  

found and ‘facebook shared’ this wonderful film, essential watching for both management consultants’ (OD folk and the like), and anyone (like playworkers), who works with humans.

Wikipedia informed me that the film is by…

“William Hollingsworth “Holly” Whyte (October 1, 1917 — January 12, 1999) was an American urbanist, organizational analyst, journalist and people-watcher. After his book about corporate culture The Organization Man (1956) which sold over two million copies, Whyte turned his attention to the study of human behaviour in urban settings. He published several books on the topic, including The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980).[1]

Children, right? Children’s rights and the paradoxical fear of the vulnerable

“The concept of childhood is changed by altering the concept of the street. We now have a deficit model of childhood which sees children as essentially vulnerable in the public realm.”

How the kids of Melbourne fought for their playgrounds

via How the kids of Melbourne fought for their playgrounds – By Design – ABC Radio National (Australian Broadcasting Corporation).


No time to write the essay that I can feel brewing in response to this superb piece.

Quick points:

  • no mention of children’s rights, so these events are presented as quaint history rather than a call to action right now. Rights now!
  • Isn’t it odd that we oscillate between a fear of chaotic kids on the street, causing trouble, damaging our cars and gardens and houses and
  • “…a deficit model of childhood which sees children as essentially vulnerable in the public realm.”

In almost all the debates about children, politically looming menace or poor little mites, this point is missed: children have rights, enshrined in the UN Charter, Article 31. (Google it.) We keep laying responsibilities on them, but never rights.

Let’s have a discussion about the rights and responsibilities of all humans in our public realm. Not just the rights of car drivers to drive too fast down my street.

On meta-design and algorithmic design systems

It’s a bit of a shame he used the now enevilled VW logo as an example of algorithmic design.

Design permeates our world, and often makes it better…

Not just cars, or sofas, or iPhone and toasters, but ways for people to ‘work together better’ as I like to say.

The Chris Argyris memorial column #23: How to blame less and learn more

“Accountability. We hear a lot about it. It’s a buzzword. Politicians should be accountable for their actions; social workers for the children they are supervising; nurses for their patients. But there’s a catastrophic problem with our concept of accountability.Consider the case of Peter Connelly, better known as Baby P, a child who died at the hands of his mother, her boyfriend and her boyfriend’s brother in 2007. The perpetrators were sentenced to prison. But the media focused its outrage on a different group: mainly his social worker, Maria Ward, and Sharon Shoesmith, director of children’s services. The local council offices were surrounded by a crowd holding placards. In interviews, protesters and politicians demanded their sacking. “They must be held accountable,” it was said.

“Many were convinced that the social work profession would improve its performance in the aftermath of the furore. This is what people think accountability looks like: a muscular response to failure. It is about forcing people to sit up and take responsibility. As one pundit put it: “It will focus minds.”

“Should they have been penalised? Or censured? The industry commissioned an investigator to probe deeper. He found that the two switches were identical and side by side. Under the pressure of a difficult landing, pilots were pressing the wrong switch. It was an error trap, an indication that human error often emerges from deeper systemic factors. The industry responded not by sacking the pilots but by attaching a rubber wheel to the landing-gear switch and a small flap shape to the flaps control. The buttons now had an intuitive meaning, easily identified under pressure. Accidents of this kind disappeared overnight.

This is sometimes called forward accountability: the responsibility to learn lessons so that future people are not harmed by avoidable mistakes.”

via How to blame less and learn more | Matthew Syed | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Leadership is a social phenomenon…

What is Leadership? I ask the question, as I believe that most of the time, most people, have difficulty answering this question.

“The difficulty lies in that leadership is a social phenomenon, which appears differently depending on the context. Leadership within a group of fire fighters evacuating a building and dealing with a blaze, will be utterly different to that of a group of academics running a University department. Indeed, precisely what made the fire fighters effective in leadership would make these academics ineffective.

(I make a similar point in my book ‘Navigating Complexity: the essential guide to complexity theory in business and management’ in the chapter called ‘Network and hierarchy’. )

“What if we could define Leadership as the ability to mobilise yourself and others towards a particular focus? How that then shows up will be different in different contexts and different moments in time.

“And how then, do we develop leadership, if it’s different moment by moment and in each different context?

“For me Leadership Development comes down to 4 key elements that” you can read about here:

– See more at:

“You could say we can state the configuration space, since it’s simply a classical, 6N-dimensional phase space.”

This made me smile and then laugh.

“You could say we can state the configuration space, since it’s simply a classical, 6N-dimensional phase space.”

Well, duh.

I often say that. I was in the queue in my corner shop last night and I said it. Always gets a laugh.

“It is important to note how strange this is. In statistical mechanics we start with the famous liter volume of gas, and the molecules are bouncing back and forth, and it takes six numbers to specify the position and momentum of each particle. It’s essential to begin by describing the set of all possible configurations and momenta of the gas, giving you a 6N dimensional phase space. You then divide it up into little 6N dimensional boxes and do statistical mechanics. But you begin by being able to say what the configuration space is. Can we do that for the biosphere?

“I’m going to try two answers. Answer one is No. We don’t know what Darwinian pre adaptations are going to be, which supplies an arrow of time. The same thing is true in the economy; we can’t say ahead of time what technological innovations are going to happen. Nobody was thinking of the Web 300 years ago. The Romans were using things to lob heavy rocks, but they certainly didn’t have the idea of cruise missiles. So I don’t think we can do it for the biosphere either, or for the econosphere.

“You might say that it’s just a classical phase space—leaving quantum mechanics out—and I suppose you can push me. You could say we can state the configuration space, since it’s simply a classical, 6N-dimensional phase space. But we can’t say what the macroscopic variables are, like wings, paramecium detectors, big brains, ears, hearing and flight, and all of the things that have come to exist in the biosphere.

“All of this says to me that my tentative definition of an autonomous agent is a fruitful one, because it’s led to all of these questions. I think I’m opening new scientific doors. The question of how the universe got complex is buried in this question about Maxwell’s demon, for example, and how the biosphere got complex is buried in everything that I’ve said. We don’t have any answers to these questions; I’m not sure how to get answers. This leaves me appalled by my efforts, but the fact that I’m asking what I think are fruitful questions is why I’m happy with what I’m doing.”

This is top quality stand-up, if you are a fan of Sheldon and The Big Bang Theory.