At the moment I write this, a creeping group think has saturated both higher education (The Chronicle of Higher Education), and popular media (New York Times, Huffington Post, etc.). It's that moment when public debate constricts to a terrifying one-dimensionality--when all manner of unwarranted assumptions attain hegemony and become the scaffolding for etiolated prognostications.
Along the walls of Seonreung Subway Station (선릉역) in Seoul, Tesco HomePlus (a popular shopping chain with corporate headquarters in the United Kingdom) has put up photographs of 500 commonly ordered products in a style similar to their display on the shelves of a physical HomePlus. Subway passengers can scan accompanying QR codes with their smart phones; the products will be delivered to their homes that evening.
There's an interesting piece in this year's Nebula Awards Showcase, a lively short story about an alternative future premised on Aztec culture, "The Jaguar House, in Shadow," by Aliette de Bodard.
In a sociological tradition stretching back to Durkheim, the city represents the apogee of alienated life, with residents adopting a variety of strategies to cope with their anonymity and to preserve their privacy amidst multitudes of other residents.
In the March 2012 Wired, an article on the Jerusalem syndrome, the religion-related psychosis associated with visits to Jerusalem ("The God Complex"). The article doesn't really develop any new angles on this culture-bound syndrome, but its appearance in Wired is important. My thought: while we may never travel to Jerusalem, our future will be the Jerusalem Syndrome. Now that we have crossed the tipping point of urbanization (over 50% of the world's population as of 2007), all of us have an opportunity to be overwhelmed and enraptured by our urban lives: the Baltimore syndrome.
March 1 is the inaugural celebration of future day, and it's got me thinking about urban futures again. On my futurist bookshself at the moment: Aerotropolis, by John Kasarda and Greg Lindsay. It's a business book, really: breathless descriptions of fabulous capitalists and the globetrotting edge cities they build. I'm reading it because South Korea's Songdo is a poster child for this vision of the future.
Last night, I turned the pages of Steven Gould's 7th Sigma--basically a cyberpunk Western set in the arid hills of New Mexico. For me, on Day 4 of no power in post-Hurricane Irene Baltimore, the words flickered in the candlelight and the novel seemed entirely appropriate.
It’s December of 2010 in Seoul. A woman in her 20’s has taken a seat in the part of the subway reserved for the elderly and physically disabled (noyak chwasŏk). An elderly man approaches, expecting her to relinquish the seat (yangbo) to him. Instead, she refuses. “I’m sitting here—sit somewhere else!” An argument ensues.
A journalist contacted me about race and racism in South Korea, and I summarized some of my thinking (and prognostications) for him. You may not believe it, but I think some of the most interesting (and potentially positive) things are happening right now with attempts to address race and multiculturalism in South Korea.
I was thinking about this after reading blog entries from Patrick Tucker (who's been in Japan). . .
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