2005 03 30
The City as Antenna
imageMany people believe that the Internet makes the city obsolete because it allows businesses to remove themselves from the congestion of urban living. After all, money no longer needs banks and mail is something we send more with the press of a computer button than we do by walks to the post office.

Cities have proven to be resilient though. In fact, rather than undermining the need for common social spaces, the Internet and more recently cell phone messaging have intensified the city. An unimagined relationship between the city and new communications technologies is evolving. Look at the "Smart Mob" phenomenon as an example. The city plaza / cell messaging duo have precipitated at least two recent political upheavals - both relatively peaceful by revolution standards.

Toronto too is experiencing this digitally driven intensification. There is something in the air that cannot be ascribed only to the recent building boom. People are talking about the city. Governments are acting proactively to limit its sprawl into the countryside. They're also making strong moves to re-imagine the waterfront. Is it true? Is there a new awareness of the city? If so, where will it lead?
[email this story] Posted by Robert Ouellette on 03/30
Ossington My Ossington
imageWe moved to Ossington under duress. Middle Nineties we were escaping an evil landlord who had promised us massive renovations and delivered nothing but lies and excuses. Even so, territory west of Bathurst was unknown and Rachel was wary of the neighbourhood, dirtier than she was used to, and seemingly populated exclusively by groups of men loitering outside of pool halls. On the night before we had to decide if we would take the apartment, we hiked over around 11pm. The men cluster-stared as we passed. Wrappers strewn around the parking lot of the KFC across from our prospective apartment caught on our shoes. Rachel noted that there were a steady stream of police cars passing by, and suggested that the neighbourhood was so dangerous it required constant surveillance. I laughed and told her that there was a police station around the corner. Actually, the neighbourhood was starting to grow on me. The huddles of men were content to squint as we passed by. Rachel sniffed the fried chicken air dubiously as I pointed out the benefits: cheap rent, a balcony, 3 separate bakeries within a thirty second walk. Plus we had till the end of the week to move out and this – an apartment in an area we had never considered before – was the first livable place we saw that we could actually afford. In the morning, we took the place.
[email this story] Posted by Hal Niedzviecki on 03/30
Is it a Turkey or a Peacock?
imageI am referring to the structure of the building. The building is The Robarts Library on St. George Street. Many citizens say The Robarts Library is formidable and repellant. It is often called "Fort Book." The Robarts Library is a towering edifice with a few window holes. It would be like an ice castle if it were not built of thick opaque concrete. There is a central elongated, hugely tall central shaft on one end. Looming symmetrically behind this, seeming to spread like a tom turkey tail or peacock fan, the rest of the structure is lower and very broad,. It casts long shadows and impedes the sky. As a public monument it is a turkey. But I say it was meant to be interpreted inside out. Its beauty is on the inside; not the material inside, but the inside of the inside, its value. The Robarts Library is where one meanders looking to read. Reading is like meandering into luminescence.
[email this story] Posted by Jeanne Randolph on 03/30
Mnemonic City-Fragment 1
imageFirst, Adrian got on the subway, opting to go deadhead for a faster load-time. He stepped into the sparkling cryochamber at the Downsview station, conjured a HUD against his field of vision, and granted permission to be frozen. The next thing he knew, he was thawing out on the Union station platform, pressed belly-to-butt with a couple thousand other commuters who'd opted for the same treatment. In India, where this kind of convenience-freezing was even more prevalent, Mohan had observed that the reason their generation was small for their age was that they spent so much of it in cold-sleep, conserving space in transit. Adrian might've been 18, but he figured that he'd spent at least one cumulative year frozen.

Adrian shuffled through the crowd and up the stairs to the steady-temp surface, peeling off the routing sticker that the cryo had stuck to his shoulder. His tummy was still rumbling, so he popped the sticker in his mouth and chewed until it had dissolved, savoring the steaky flavor and the burst of calories. The guy who'd figured out edible routing tags had Whuffie to spare: Adrian's mom knew someone who knew someone who knew him, and she said that he had an entire subaquatic palace to rattle around in.

A clamor of swallowing noises filled his ears, as the crowd subvocalized, carrying on conversations with distant friends. Adrian basked in the warm, simulated sunlight emanating from the dome overhead. He was going outside of the dome in a matter of minutes, and he had a sneaking suspicion that he was going to be plenty cold soon enough. He patted his little rucksack and made sure he had his cowl with him.

He inched his way through the crowd down Bay Street to the ferrydocks, absently paging through his public directory, looking at the stuff he'd accumulated in the night. It would all have to go, of course, but he wanted a chance to run some of it before then. Most of it was crap, of course. The average backup of the average citizen of the Bitchun Society was hardly interesting enough to warrant flash-baking, but there were gems, oh yes.
His private spot hung tantalizingly before him, just outside of the dome. The press of bodies parted and he lengthened his step to the docks, boarded the ferry with a nod to the operator in his booth, and hustled into one of the few seats on the prow, pulling on his cowl as the ferry pushed away and headed off toward the airlock at Toronto Island.

It was even colder than the last time. The telltale on his cowl showed -48 degrees C with the wind-chill. His nose and toes went instantly numb, and he tucked them under the cowl's warmth.

His private place was just a short slosh from the westernmost beach at Hanlon's Point on Toronto Island, a forgotten smartbuoy, bristling with self-repairing electronics, like a fractal porcupine. It had been a couple weeks since his last foray (...read more...)
[email this story] Posted by Cory Doctorow on 03/30
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