Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Looking at a "Sharing Economy"

Sharing is Caring!
It comes by no surprise that I happened upon this article on the sharing economy via Twitter. Our world today is so very much influenced by the sharing of statuses, the forming of social connections, and a financial situation that forces us to do more with less.

The article focuses on the influx of infrastructure (primarily online) that enables sharing as a business model-- one that is both more environmentally and economically healthy for individuals. It certainly makes sense to reduce expenses by sharing infrastructure. We see this being investigated at all different levels, from individuals sharing cars to municipalities attempting to reduce costs by sharing services like fire or police services.

In a less official realm, sharing can translate into more investment into community ownership. My thoughts trail to the usual suspects, such as community gardens or parks. I think there are some less conventional and riskier investments, however, that can be made cooperatively that could really increase the quality of living throughout the region. Cooperative housing, for instance, or cooperative business models-- not dissimilar to those being undertaken by organizations like Evergreen Cooperatives.

I certainly do hope the future of the economy sees increased sharing. Oddly, this article mentioned a website that I'm currently using to plan a vacation to Montreal next month. Needless to say, I'm happy with the fantastic rates I'm finding... but I'm even more excited to see how this experience plays out in terms of making more social connections.

What are your thoughts?

Friday, January 20, 2012

Friday Five: Interactive Public Art and Engagement Edition

Now that break has passed and I’m getting back into the swing of projects, public engagement and interaction has really been on my mind. Thankfully, I’ve happened upon some great examples this week to share with you! Enjoy, and don’t forget to have fun!

1. Salon De Beauty

Salon of Beauty from Mark & Angela Walley on Vimeo.

Though I am in general a fan of installation art (check out Pittsburgh’s Mattress Factory if you have the chance), this piece really struck home with me because it highlighted the everyday within an urban neighborhood in L.A. Though I certainly do not shout love of that Californian city from the rooftops, I found it to be a particularly poignant art piece. The amount of detail is just breathtaking, it is bright and really pulls the beauty out of these businesses in a place that most likely is not appreciated for its beauty. I highly recommend watching the video. Informative, and very visually appealing. If you’d like to learn more about the piece, visit this article.

2. Heidelberg Project

HDNet - "Art From The Ashes: Detroit's Heidelberg Project" from Tilapia Film on Vimeo.

I took my very first trip to Detroit last weekend, and was absolutely blown away by the city. It had an energy and a sense of place that was really unique and genuine. I was happy to be guided by friends around to see not only the blight that has brought the city so much infamy, but also some of the areas that were a living symbol of hope for the region. One of my strongest experiences, however, was randomly stumbling on the Heidelberg Project while aimlessly exploring the city. I would call it an art installation, but really it is a testament of history and creative tension. I wish I could describe it better, but honestly it’s something you couldn’t put your finger on unless you were actually there. We had the fortune of running into Tim Burke of Detroit Industrial Gallery, one of the artists involved in the project. Wonderful man very connected with the history of the city. I highly recommend making a visit there sometime.

One photo I took... click it to visit my gallery all about Detroit!

3. City Fireflies: Group Video Game in Madrid Plaza

City Fireflies v0.2 from Victor Diaz on Vimeo.

Who doesn’t love to play video games? Particularly when they involve your cell phone and a group of friends—or better yet, strangers? Making the city fun is a movement that I can really get behind, and this is one of the better interactive tools I’ve seen (though also quite a bit more expensive). City Fireflies is a group video game set up in Madrid Plaza that really promotes healthy competition and interaction. Besides, this is one of the few ones I’d be able to play despite the fact I don’t own a smartphone. Unless my archaic flip phone doesn’t put out enough light… read more about it here.

4. Looking for Love Again

Image via CivicCenter

This tool is far less expensive or difficult to implement, but is of course much more effective for gaining public feedback (unless you’ve got some guy administering surveys at the site of the videogame site). At the same time, however, it is very interactive and brings that element of fun and placemaking to the installation. Looking for Love Again is a public art project that targets abandoned buildings, highlighting the memories that residents had of these particular structures as well as what they hope is in store for them. The idea of love in any campaign for a city is one to which I will definitely lend my support. Read more about the project here and here you can find a great article mentioning it that talks about collaborative, creative placemaking.

5. Mobility Lab

A story was published at Atlantic Cities about an R&D lab for transit tech tools that goes by the name of Mobility Lab. The organization works to make riding transit easier for residents by making information accessible—both practically and psychologically. Why do a lot of people not ride public transit? It’s confusing and a bit overwhelming for someone who’s never done it. I understand the anxiety felt the first few times you ride the bus. Did I just miss it? Am I going to miss my stop? Even as someone that’s taken public transit for years now, the first time I hopped on the Red Line to get downtown was a bit nerve-wracking. Working with the mighty interwebs and mobile phone apps, kiosks in public (or private) places, and a lot of creativity, the organization is defining and tweaking a way to ease that apprehension and make transit more convenient for residents. Read more about the project here.

Have you seen any particularly interesting tools or pieces? What would you like to see in the Northeast Ohio region? The Rust Belt?

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Cleveland: Economics, Love, and Boosterism

When people ask me why I choose to live in Ohio above everywhere else in the US, the first few words that generally come out of my mouth are: “Because it’s diverse.” I don’t think there is a better quality for a place to have than to be brimming with a myriad of different beliefs, ideas, and mindsets. In my home state—or at least in the less rural areas that I’ve spent the bulk of my life—every walk of life seemingly exists, and it makes me happy to know that I will not sit in a bubble unexposed to other life-views and experiences than those I hold coming from a white, female, middle-class background.

Last night I attended an event at the oh-so-delicious Happy Dog in Detroit Shoreway, hosted by Ohio City Writers. The event featured a panel of writers, all from the Cleveland area, and was intended to talk about the trials, triumphs, and focus on writing about the city. What it turned into ultimately was a heated debate about how boosterism can help or harm Cleveland. I find this discussion to be a very important one to have if done in a calm, collected, and mature fashion. I was pained, however, to see an actual argument breaking out that turned out to be more personal attack than healthy discussion (this was throughout the audience, by the way. The panel was nothing but professional in my opinion).

There were some in the audience who took on the “Love it or Leave it” attitude, and one very brave writer that chose to speak out against shouting the greatness of Cleveland without acknowledging its problems—speaking of love as a complex relationship that involves accepting its problems while still investing in making change. Though there were definitely some comments that made me go “Oooo burn…” from the same speaker, the points she brought up were certainly valid (I believe at one point she said, “The Rock Hall isn’t going to keep me here”), and the idea that anyone with an opinion concerning the city should be attacked for not preaching that Cleveland is the greatest thing since sliced-bread-manufacturing-plants really pains me.

There were comments about how the older, more conservative crowd writes off the ideas of us “young hipsters,” breeding frustration in the youth’s inability to have a true voice. I would argue that ignoring the opinions of the older generation—and others who may show disdain at the city or boosterism—is a huge mistake. Let me repeat here again that we are a diverse region. We are a city of young, old, liberals, conservatives, natives, non-natives, advantaged, disadvantaged, working, unemployed, and everything in between. Every voice should be heard, and a spirit of community should be fostered. Every place has problems, and every place has its assets. In order to improve the city, we should be figuring out how to take that criticism to make change and leverage those assets.

Cleveland has plenty of outsiders looking down on us for being the dirty, blighted “Mistake on the Lake.” There’s nothing wrong with championing the city. If we are a welcoming, inclusive place then we have a place for that person. We also have a place for a person that wants to give constructive criticism, or point out that Cleveland is not just a dichotomy of progressive and conservative—as Afi-Odelia Scruggs repeatedly reminded us, the poverty rate of the city is 30 percent. The fact of the matter is that Cleveland cannot survive on love alone. I would argue that love is a key factor in bolstering the revitalization of the city, however—both the shout it from the rooftops anthems of the boosters and the tough love of the critics.

Richard Florida talks about how important the creative class is to the energy, progress, and survival of the American city. I agree that this class of people, which he argues are willing to forgo monetary benefits in lieu of challenge and responsibility, are an important factor in the revitalization of Cleveland. These are the kinds of people that populate these events. These are the people that will lead the charge for change. They are not the only factor in the equation, however, and a city of these young progressive idealists does not a healthy economy make.

When it comes to Cleveland, there are some that choose to live here, and some that are essentially “stuck.” Those that choose to live here do so for varying reasons. I choose to live here because I’m passionate about helping others. I’m okay with investing a good chunk of my time to pro bono work and making less money to advocate and work toward a cause. I understand, however, that not everybody has that priority (or even option). Some people are merely trying to make a living, some are trying to create a comfortable life for themselves, and some are trying to maximize profits to gain a load of wealth. There is a place for every one of those individuals in our city. Us bleeding-heart do-gooders do our best to make positive change, but the fact is that everyone’s gotta eat.

Whether we are attempting to attract (or retain) talent, or serve the people that are already here, it is important to understand Cleveland’s shortcomings. Serving as a booster has a purpose. Changing the perception of our city is important for attracting new talent and jobs. No creative, successful professional is going to move in if they think our city is crap. No corporation is going to move its factory or headquarters to a place where it believes the quality of life isn’t ideal. Richard Florida has covered time and again that people are no longer going to where the jobs are, they choose the place they want to live first, then find a job within that city. If the rest of the country believes Cleveland is a craphole, then our population will continue shrinking and the businesses here will leave with it.

Boosterism has its pitfalls, of course. If we say the city is great, we need to make sure that it is… and not just for the young, artistic creatives that want to visit our Ohio City for its exotic foods or hit up a musical at Playhouse Square. There is a place for the low-income worker who can barely feed their family, for the store manager that just wants to watch the Browns on Sunday without worrying he wont be able to make his mortgage payment, for the mother that fears her child will fall behind in the public school system. I think that it is these people that get left behind in our boosterism.

Sure, we could make the argument that bringing in the talent, the corporations opens up more job opportunities for those that are on the lower rungs of the economic ladder. Drawing more people to the city means drawing a bigger tax base, which could then be redistributed. I agree that there are some indirect consequences, but in my opinion the effect of boosterism on these issues is about as effective as the idea of “trickle down” economics… not very. I feel this is mostly because those who are disadvantaged are heavily uninvolved—and if they were, I’m sure the message would sound completely different. I’m sure there are things about Cleveland that the disadvantaged love. I’m sure many of them feel a sense of place and belonging here. But would they shout it from the rooftops without acknowledging the challenges they face in their daily lives? Probably not. And in this case, the “love it unconditionally or leave it” mentality just doesn’t work.

I would say our work is to make the city lovable. The city is its people. We are a community. Loving is a mutual process. What person is going to love a city that shows them little love (or worse) in return? We must truly understand love to be able to implement it, however. According to social theorist bell hooks in her book All About Love: New Visions, “Affection is only one ingredient of love. To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients—care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment, and trust, as well as honest and open communication.” I’ve always preferred this definition because she describes loving as an intention, as a verb and not a feeling. Boosterism seems pointless without all of this. If we are each doing our best to provide these qualities to one another, regardless of belief, opinion, or background, that is when our city starts becoming loving—and lovable… to both the people that we wish to draw and those that already live within its confines. Embracing and leveraging the diversity of our population is key to creating a loving community and a healthy economy.

In this case, to love is to do—and if there’s nothing this girl loves more, it’s pursuing actionable change. How are you acting on your love for our city?

Monday, January 09, 2012

Upcoming Cleveland Planning Events in January

Now that the holidays have passed and our schedules are falling back into routine, it’s time for me (and I hope you) to start finding out what great events are coming up in the Cleveland planning scene. To help you out a bit, I’ve listed a few here.

A City of Two Tales: Writing About Cleveland

Tuesday, January 10, 2012 at 7:30pm

Location: Happy Dog

West 58th St. & Detroit Ave., Cleveland, OH 44102

What is better than mixing the Cleveland writing scene with delicious hot dogs and a great beer list? Not much, I’m convinced. If you want to meet some of Cleveland’s best bloggers to talk about the city and its struggles (and victories!), head on down. I’ll definitely be there. From the event page, here are the writers that will be present: Angie Schmitt, editor of; Justin Glanville, author of New To Cleveland; Derf, cartoonist and author (; Christine Borne and Kathryn Norris, editors of The Cleveland Review; Afi-Odelia Scruggs, contributor to Patch Beachwood; the editor of; Lee Chilcote of This is the first installment of Write to Assemble, a monthly series of writer-centric events at Happy Dog, curated by Ohio City Writers.

For more information, click here.

Saving Cities Brainstorming Brunch #8

Saturday, January 21, 2012 at 11:00am

Location: Big Al’s Diner

12600 Larchmere Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44120-1110

If you missed the last brainstorming brunch, then do not fear… one is coming up this January! This is a highly informal event intended to convene a group of people that are passionate about the rust belt, and enthusiastic about bouncing ideas off of one another, making connections, and generally having a good time. The event is hosted by Saving Cities, an organization that works hard to improve and revitalize Cleveland, Akron, and all other cities across our post-industrial states. Great people, great time.

For more information, click here.

January Joint Association Happy Hour

Friday, January 20, 2012 at 5:30pm

Location: Bar Louie

1352 West 6th St, Cleveland, OH 44113

Though I’ve never made it to one of these networking events, I’m hoping to make it to this one! The Cleveland Ohio APA is one member of the joint association, and encourages “members, non-members, students, guests, and design professionals over the age of 21” to attend and bring business cards. Other organizations involved are AIA Cleveland, Ohio Chapter American Society of Landscape Architects, American Society of Interior Designers (Ohio North), International Interior Design Association, Northeast Ohio Revit User Group, Cleveland Chapter of CSI, and Ohio Chapter of NKBA.

Hope to see you all there!

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Friday Five – New Years Edition

I know, seeing three posts in a week is sheer madness! I'm trying to start this New Year out right by updating a bit more often-- and I think that is the perfect way to introduce this week's Friday Five.

1. Buzzfeed’s 45 Most Powerful Photos of 2011

Through my social media gatherings, I came across Buzzfeed’s 45 Most Powerful Photos of 2011, and I have to say… it about knocked my socks off. And by that I mean it almost had me in tears. It’s amazing to think of how many astoundingly dramatic events happened in the year past, and how these events have come to shape our world, and the years to come. Even though we’ve read the news headlines, it’s amazing to see a visual representation, and artistically emotional ones at that—from the devastation that took place in Japan and areas of the US, to the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. It runs the gamut of happy and absolutely heartbreaking, and I would highly recommend giving them a look.

photo via re-nest

2. Starbucks’ new store… made of shipping containers!

I have a very love-hate relationship with Starbucks. On one hand, I feel they are a true threat to local coffee houses all over the globe… on the other hand, they are the most reliable place to find a good latte downtown after 2:00pm when everything seems to close. Also, it’s kind of hard to not love the new store they opened in Washington state this week—which is made of shipping containers. Anyone that knows my urban design and creative architectural tastes knows that I have a big place in my heart for any project that combines these affordable, sustainable boxes into a building… and I wholeheartedly support (and applaud) Starbucks’ new store.


Continuing on with my theme of mega-corporations, IKEA wins the third spot in this week’s Friday Five. Why? Two reasons: I happened to visit the Pittsburgh location and had a grand old time putting together my coat rack as if I was building a LEGO house. A few other fantastic accessories kept me in retail (and apartment) bliss. Also, I read over the last couple of weeks that a subsidiary of the IKEA group is actually building an entire neighborhood, complete with its own IKEA houses, in London. There is definitely much critique to be given to the style and even concept of this corporation establishing a neighborhood… but I’m also curious to see what the outcomes will be. Clearly not any one style of housing or neighborhood can be standardized to fit all areas, but this could do great things for affordable housing if approached in the right manner. Only time will tell…

4. The Amazon Kindle

Though I posted earlier this week a tutorial on making your own Kindle cover, I didn’t really talk much about the device itself… and I feel it is deserving of some serious praise. I had contemplated purchasing one for many, many months, and happened to get one for Christmas. Had I spent the whopping $80 for it, I would have been absolutely pleased still. It’s light, easy to use (even for a tech idiot like myself), and has a few different functions I wasn’t even aware of prior to getting it—such as being able to highlight particular passages, which are then compiled into one place! Apparently you can add notes as well, but I haven’t gotten quite that far in my technological capacities yet. Baby steps! Still, I plan on getting my textbooks this semester via Kindle because it will be far easier to not have to cart around those books with me downtown, and you can read them online as well!

5. Betterness: Economics for Humans by Umair Hague

The perfect segue, my last item on this week’s list is actually the first book that I purchased for my Kindle. I purchased it after reading a review covering the book at Urban Times. After the very first page I knew it was a great decision. For a whole $2.69, I got Betterness: Economics for Humans delivered to my device instantly, and jumped straight into a critique of the modern, industrial-age business paradigm. I finished a few days later with great energy in pursuing specifically laid out steps toward a healthier, well-rounded, and I dare say better idea of how our economy should be conceptualized and run. It’s a compelling read, and it’s written by an economist who is also a columnist for the Harvard Business Review… so I’m fairly certain he knows what the hell he’s talking about. He takes every idea I’ve ever had about what’s wrong with the economy (we’ll still give him credit for it), and articulates it poignantly, taking it about three levels beyond to something that is cohesive and in many ways actionable. I’m struck and smitten. Great read. You should really check it out.

Wednesday, January 04, 2012

What better way to show my love for Ohio...

...than to tattoo it on my body? Happy New Year, everyone! Stay committed, stay (or get) in love with your place :)

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Speaking to the New Year’s Resolution

I have to admit, I’m one of those people that absolutely loves the beginning of the year. Once my hangover clears, I’m smooth sailing to get away from the hectic craziness of the holidays and back into not only my routine, but overdrive. I’ve always been a (and am apparently the only) fan of Mondays and the first of the month. New Year’s Day is for me the ultimate feeling of a “fresh start.” I try my best to remain self-reflective and goal oriented all of the time, but something about this time of year really invigorates me and gets the psychological juices pumping. Some may say it’s all artificial, instilled in us by the workout retail industry or whatever, but I say I’ll take it. If something in the world is going to motivate my ass, I’m not complaining.

That said, I’m very happy to meet 2012 with a great attitude and optimism. This year past was a particularly trying one, and though I left it with many an accomplishment to speak of, I have to say it was not kicked out with any hint of regret or hesitation. My goals certainly fell short a bit for 2011 (I never did write a book or brew a batch of beer), but the important ones stuck (graduating college, starting grad school, etc). I’ve read in countless places that one of the best ways to stick by your goals is to tell someone about them, so rather than just keeping my list tucked away in my journal, I figured I would share it with you faithful readers (whoever you are).

  1. Record a CD
  2. Get a tattoo
  3. Pay off my credit cards
  4. Donate to a different cause every month
  5. Find a sweet internship for the summertime
  6. Finish my 2012 Reading List
  7. Establish my home yoga practice
  8. Attempt to attend 1 yoga class per week
  9. Organize a benefit show
  10. Do at least one art project every month
  11. See a play or musical
  12. See the orchestra play
  13. Visit the art museum
  14. Visit the history museum
  15. Cut pop out of my diet
  16. Cut fast food out of my diet
  17. Put $1,000 into my savings account
  18. Reconnect/maintain close relationships with my girlfriends
  19. Visit my Kimmy in Texas
  20. Cut down on the amount of meat/dairy products in my diet
  21. Create a music video
  22. Continue to give back to the NEO region
  23. Learn to speak a foreign language conversationally

It looks a bit overwhelming, but I’m determined to accomplish everything on this list in 2012. I started this week by investing a little into the area I do yoga in my kitchen, working out, finding a ton of great resources for healthy meal planning, and practicing some German. Tomorrow I’ll be getting my first tattoo! So very excited. Can’t wait to show you all.

What are your goals for the New Year?