Like Chris and Beth, I’m not convinced by the Million Dollar Blocks piece, mostly because of its source and its trajectory. It smells like something architects cooked up.
Spatial Information Design Lab: it’s a great name, but is this article any more than pictorial statistics? (If it used to be that statistics could tell any story that you want, is it now true that datamaps can do the same?) Is the real lesson for architects that our spatial and social intelligence will enable us to be the graphic information consultants of the future?
Maybe this is a clever bit of self-promotion. The more architects can co-publish nicely illustrated reports on issues that will require themselves (and/or planners) for new solutions, the less we’ll have to worry about cad monkeying for developers. Someone call the office of eminent domain…we’re going to need some architects to redesign Brownsville after we excise the criminal core of Brooklyn. Or maybe our urban design ambitions should be more ambitious, following the logic that NYC accounts for less than half of NY state’s population, but accounts for roughly 60% of the incarcerated population (1). (Ok, I know the retort: NYC accounts for 65% (2) of the state’s GDP, so we’re covering our criminals even if “million dollar blocks” really are in the red.)
Which brings me to this: if you can’t make it good, make it big, and if you can’t make it big, make it red.
Wow, this New Yorker is off to a great start. Blogging brings out my anonymous best.
And I haven’t even touched on James Corner.
While doing one of the ESRI GIS tutorials, I came across this gem of a line:
“The goal of every GIS user is to represent the world as accurately as possible.”
I think the Spatial Information Design Lab hopes to represent the world accurately, or at least to help policy makers to more accurately understand the information that is already available to them. They did a pretty good job of excavation and extension. Corner might not aim for maps to be used for accurate representation, and might emphasize the abstractive and projective potential of maps. (I think there are a few escape routes in Corner’s piece…after all, if one could really understand what mapping is or could or should do, his piece wouldn’t nearly have the life it’s found.)
It’s on the last page of the Million Dollar Blocks piece that the authors really let on to what’s at stake. They juxtapose the idea of “exostructure” with the more common infrastructure, and suggest that the “Soft Map” is not a statistical analysis, but rather something that is “infinitely scalable, absolutely contingent, and open to vision, and hence, revision.” Maybe the SIDL team has a dog-eared copy of “The Agency of Mapping” kicking around, and they’re in the same boat as Corner, but are they too worried about reality?