Crowdsourcing Quiet Spaces in the City

For the past month I have been staying in a surprisingly noisy apartment. The neighborhood itself is very quiet, but just my luck to be staying over a night club and all-night grocery store. After this month the importance of being able to find quiet, peaceful places in a city rings all the more true and important to me (and it’s not just the ringing in my ears). From Inhabitat:

Cities have always been bustling environments, and with more and more of us living in them it can be difficult to find a quite place to relax or contemplate. Sound Artist Jason Sweeney‘s winning proposal for the TED Imagining the City 2.0 Prize is a crowdsourcing project that seeks to locate and map the places that provide silence in the urban din. The Stereopublic Project will be a public guide for those who crave a retreat from the crowds.

Based in Melbourn’s city center, Sweeney found himself attracted to tucked-in corners, where the city’s sound fades into the background and where the built environment is experienced as a sound environment. Inspired by his own experiences, he’s looking to create a platform where others can geo-tag and share their favorite quiet space. Sweeney is interested in helping those who are sensitive to noises, with disabilities, or just seeking respite from the constant din of the streets.

The TED City 2.0 prize will help his team develop a digital tool for crowdsourcing those places, adding a new layer of awareness to the cityscape for its occupants.

Cities are large, complex environments and the project is a unique way to understand the acoustic dynamic of city life. Stereopublic is based on active users sharing their findings, but ironically, the project’s success will likely make those quiet spaces busier, further pushing inhabitants to explore new places. The idea may become a failed experiment if it becomes too successful, but it also very well might help create new venues that improve the “sonic health” of a city — adding a vital resource to urban life.

Know of a quiet place in your city? Add it to the list, or leave it in the comments below and I’ll add it for you and if it’s in the Pacific Northwest may just try it out first. You know, for research).

Using the 5 love languages to best show your appreciation for someone

Next week is Halloween, which means in the U.S. the “holiday season” is officially upon us, as well as company bonuses. This is definitely the time of year to show your appreciation for someone or something, and being appreciated is a quick and fast way of feeling better or enriching someone else.

This article was originally written as a gift guide for the impending holiday spending frenzy, but it actually provides some interesting insight into how to enrich the lives of others around you, through giving time, attention, or other enrichment activities:

The Five Love Languages can help you figure out who in your life responds best to which type of gift.

The Five Love Languages are:

  • Words of affirmation
  • Acts of service
  • Physical touch
  • Quality time
  • Receiving gifts

Don’t know your own love language—let alone which one your friends and family speak? “You can pick up cues about your friend or family member’s inclinations during everyday conversations,” explains Dr. Natalie Robinson Garfield, psychotherapist and author of “The Sense Connection”… But in case you’re pressed for time, we’ve compiled this handy guide to help you decode who speaks what—and plot the best gift-giving strategy.

more via Guerrilla Guide to the Holidays: Make Your Gift List | Living Frugally | Love & Money | LearnVest – Where life gets richer.

The Five Love Languages have been around for awhile, but it’s still an important element that is often missed when people are scrambling for the best way to motivate or show appreciation towards others, or even themselves. It is also a nice reminder that we all perceive the world in different ways and need different things.

Thinking by Design: Scientific American

Illustration for Design Portal.

What makes some objects more appealing than others? Image via Wikipedia

One of the biggest pieces to having an enriching, relaxing, invigorating, or overall non-stressful space is what you put into it. There has been lots of research into creating better work spaces, medical spaces and homes, but it can be hard to quantify some of this research; after all, it’s hard to quantify “feeling better.” So it’s nice to read about one team in Vienna that is doing just that, by trying to figure out which objects people like more than others:

Each person’s aesthetic taste seems distinct, and yet that perception belies a large body of shared preferences. Our team at the University of Vienna, among others, has sought to unravel the patterns and principles behind people’s emotional reactions to objects. Although trends drive certain design decisions, scientists have identified fundamental properties of the mind that consistently dictate which products people tend to like and dislike. Psychologists are now better equipped than ever to explain how you came to choose your belongings in the first place. They can also begin to decipher why you continue to love certain purchases long after they have lost their initial shine, whereas others land in the trash.

more via Thinking by Design: Scientific American.

According to their work so far, we like big, round things, but also like things to be symmetrical. It’s pretty well established that we like symmetrical faces, so it makes sense that our tastes in other areas would follow. We also like things that are familiar but not exactly the same, old with a kick maybe.

While none of this is ground-breaking insight per say, it confirms what psychologists, architects and designers have known for years but didn’t necessarily have a good scientific reason when asked why.

I’m curious what other insights other groups have found when looking at design and aesthetics form a neurobiological standpoint. Know of any good ones? Post them in the comments below!

7 Creative Ways to Experience your Local Farm this Spring | Inhabitots

A pastoral farm scene near Traverse City, Mich...

Image via Wikipedia

Where I grew up and where I live now, though focusing on very different kinds of agriculture, were both very farm-focused communities, and I always encourage people to  go out and see what a working farm is all about. It is a great way to learn about where your food comes from, different jobs, and all about nature.

Beyond simply stopping by to view the animals at your local farm, there are many other hands-on and creative activities you can do with your family — and the spring is a great time to go. Visiting your local farm during the spring comes complete with baby animals, plus the weather is warming up and it’s the perfect opportunity for outdoor learning time with your children. To get the most out of your springtime visit to the farm, you’ll want to explore it with a different lens and look at your local farm as more than just a place that keeps animals and agriculture. Read on to learn seven creative ways to experience your local farm this spring with your family.

more via 7 Creative Ways to Experience your Local Farm this Spring | Inhabitots.

Children’s past role and identity as worker

Children in Jerusalem.

The role of children has changed significantly over the past 100 years. Image via Wikipedia

This call for paper submissions from the The Society for the Study of Childhood in the Past got me thinking about how actively children used to participate in the daily household and economic life of families, from general maintenance like sweeping the kitchen to vital income by helping during harvest time.  Children used to have to help out on the farm, and later work in factories, in order to help their families make ends meet. While some of the work was dangerous and unhealthy, some of the work was beneficial to both the kid and the family. Kids felt like they contributed to their family, and learned skills from farming to general entrepreneurship. I wonder what kids are missing out on by not having as many daily chores to do, or summer jobs like mowing lawns and lemonade stands, and how children fit into our idea of work now.


In 2011, the themed session will be on children and work. The aim of the themed papers will be to bring together scholars from a wide range of academic disciplines who are studying any aspect of children and work in the past – children as economic contributors, children as slaves, elite children taking on adult roles, children as carers, children as consumers, the impact of working in childhood on children and society. The aim will be to advance cross-cultural knowledge and understanding of childhood and children in the past, and in particular to evaluate the varying nature and impact – social, economic, cultural, medical – of work performed by or for children in the past. Archaeology, history, literature and other sources will be explored.
In providing this opportunity for scholars of childhood to present their work to an international, interdisciplinary audience, the SSCIP International Conference aims to generate new perspectives on existing knowledge and to stimulate new avenues of research for the future.

I’d be interested to hear what jobs you had growing up, before the age of 18. Did your parents encourage you to work? Did you get an allowance or did you get paid by the job, or were you just expected to “earn your keep”? How is it different with your own kids, or nieces and nephews?

How The Mundane Can Produce Creativity

I subscribe to this business blog, The 99 Percent (Success is 1% inspiration, 99% determination), that typically offers business strategies and stuff, but this article I found really interesting; the idea that having a ritual around your day actually allows your brain to focus on being creative:

You follow the same routine, sipping your coffee, browsing your email, skimming through the same blogs, the same news pages, the same social networks. As your colleagues arrive, you exchange the same greetings, the same gripes and gossip. As you drain the cup, you get the same itch for the same music, take your headphones out and plug yourself in. You open the same blank document, give it the same hard stare. The music kicks in.

Now you can begin.

If that sounds anything like your morning routine, you’re in good company. Over the years, as a coach and trainer, I’ve heard a similar story from hundreds of creative professionals. Of course, the details will vary – if you’re like me, your trip to work will be the “30 second commute” known to freelancers the world over, and you’ll be making your own coffee. You may incorporate meditation, or other exercise into your morning routine. And you may use a camera, easel, guitar or whatever instead of a computer.

But the chances are you’re living proof of one of the great paradoxes of creativity: that the most extraordinary works of imagination are often created by people working to predictable daily routines. There’s even an entire blog (sadly now on hold) devoted entirely to accounts of the Daily Routines of writers, artists, and other interesting people.

more via How Mundane Routines Produce Creative Magic :: Tips :: The 99 Percent.

It says the 3 common threads of these rituals are:

  1. Uniqueness – it should be something (or a combination of things) you don’t associate with other activities, otherwise the effect will be diluted.
  2. Emotional intensity – the kind you experience when you’re really immersed in creative work.
  3. Repetition – the more times you experience the unique trigger in association with the emotions, the stronger the association becomes.

Athletes, actors, and even accountants have these rituals, so why not creative types? What about you, what behaviors or rituals do you have to help you concentrate on being creative?

What Makes People Happy? The Economics of Happiness | The Art of Manliness

dad July 26 1936

Image by liberalmind1012 via Flickr

 

A very nice essay about what it takes to be a happy, healthy man, woman, or general human being:

Men have a certain innate restlessness. We’re always looking for a new adventure, wanting to feel like we’re progressing in life, and wondering if the grass might be greener somewhere else.Our ever-searching nature can be a good thing if it’s channeled into pursuits that really lead to greater happiness and satisfaction. But restlessness can also get us terribly off track if we expend our energy journeying down avenues that are really dead ends.

…the key to finding the truly greener pastures is to concentrate on going after the right things-the things that really will make you happier-instead of expending your energy in pursuit of a happiness mirage.

This is where the economics of happiness comes in. Numerous studies have revealed what factors in life are correlated with greater happiness. Now granted, these things correlate to greater happiness; they don’t necessarily cause happiness. But I always say it’s at least worth checking out where the happy people congregate. Below we highlight eight areas of a man’s life that we often associate with increasing or decreasing our happiness and analyze if the grass really is greener in those pastures.

 

Read the best ways to be happy (or unhappy) at What Makes People Happy? The Economics of Happiness | The Art of Manliness.

Radiolab explores the city!

What makes cities work? How do humans live in such HUGE tribes. More than half of us live in cities.

I’m a new city transplant. I’m not sure I’ll ever get used to it, but it’s a fascinating topic to explore.

There’s no scientific metric for measuring a city’s personality. But step out on the sidewalk, and you can see and feel it. Two physicists explain one tidy mathematical formula that they believe holds the key to what drives a city. Yet math can’t explain most of the human-scale details that make urban life unique. So we head out in search of what the numbers miss, and meet a reluctant city dweller, a man who’s walked 700 feet below Manhattan, and a once-thriving community that’s slipping away.

Thanks Jad and Robert.

Cities – Radiolab.

The End of the Best Friend – NYTimes.com

Florida Atlantic students celebrating a basket...

Humans are social creatures, and need close bonds and feelings of belonging. (Image via Wikipedia)

As the new school year begins, I wanted to mention this article from the New York Times about how schools are discouraging kids from making best friends.

Ahem. Let me repeat that. Schools are discouraging children from having a best friend.

That is just stupid.

Or, put more professionally…

“…such an attitude worries some psychologists who fear that children will be denied the strong emotional support and security that comes with intimate friendships.

“Do we want to encourage kids to have all sorts of superficial relationships? Is that how we really want to rear our children?” asked Brett Laursen, a psychology professor at Florida Atlantic University whose specialty is peer relationships. “Imagine the implication for romantic relationships. We want children to get good at leading close relationships, not superficial ones.”

read the full article via The End of the Best Friend – NYTimes.com.

This is where political correctness and “fairness” go waaaaay too far and ignore human nature and the absolute NEED to have a confidante in life, someone you can rely on, particularly someone outside of your family of origin. Will those people hurt you from time to time? Absolutely. But it’s part of learning how to work within a society and be a social animal.

Studies keep showing how adults today have less and less close friends, and would LIKE to have more. Discouraging kids from learning how to make close bonds with people is just setting them up for this trend to get worse when they become adults.

Now go call your best friend.