Mapping community memory - the case of District Six, Cape Town

Tue, 2005-11-15 18:57.

One great example for object-centered sociality is the case of District Six. This was once a vibrant neighborhood in Cape Town and a living model of how people from different cultures can coexist, until the Apartheid regime ended their community life with its Group Areas Act. Between 1966 and 1982 more than 60.000 people have been removed to the suburban townships and the district was flattened by bulldozers.

The former citizens of District Six have lost their houses, but they haven´t lost their memories. To give these memories a new home, the new government under Nelson Mandela established a District Six museum in 1994 located near the old neighborhoods.

Visiting the museum, I was absolutely impressed, how creatively the people were keeping their memories alive by continuously enriching the documentary objects of their own history in the most vivid and unusual ways. As one example, there is a complete map of the old district drawn on the floor, where former residents can write down the names of their families on the drawings of their houses.

To quote Terence Fredericks, the Chairman of the District Six Museum Foundation:

Working with memory involves ensuring that people’s stories are kept alive, but it is more than this. We take great care in how people’s stories are told, recorded and displayed so that the process assists in healing. The museum also has a very practical focus. By documenting history it is possible for those in the present to trace family and community histories. It is also possible for claims of restitution to be made.
By using the memory and the history of families of District Six we hoped to inspire communities elsewhere in the country, and this is now occurring. By piecing together the stories of all the different communities who were dispersed, the social, economic and political history of this country will gradually become more available to us all. District Six has become a symbol all of that was wrong about forced removals, but also a symbol of the beauty of reclaiming history.

 

District Six - Cape Town
Interview with Terence Fredericks, the Chairman of the District Six Museum Foundation

The overlooked evidence of shrinking cities

Wed, 2005-11-02 11:42.

6.1 billion people currently live on the earth, 3 billion of them in cities. By 2030, the population of the world will have increased by 2 billion (+33%). This increase will be stem almost exclusively from the growth in urban population. Every day, 190,000 new city-dwellers are added all over the world, 2 in every second. In the year 2030, 4.9 billion people will live in cities.

But not all cities are taking part in this competition. Whether in Germany or the USA, in Russia or China, in South Africa or Iran, everywhere there are also shrinking cities that the constant media focus on boomtowns and megacities all too easily overlooks.

Cities are shrinking all over the world! Shrinking cities are a cultural challenge to us. In the Shrinking Cities project, architects, academics and artists investigate recent developments in Detroit, Ivanovo, Manchester / Liverpool and Halle / Leipzig - and make suggestions.

 
Link

Rhode Island Govtracker Services

Thu, 2005-09-15 14:42.
Currently, government technology often quarantines its data from other agencies and its own citizens. While sensitive government data must be protected, there are many ways that citizens would be better served by making specific public content available through open services.
Web 2.0 applications lean towards making small pieces of data available to users in such a way that the data can easily be married to other small pieces of data from disparate sources. If government is to succeed in serving its citizenry and engaging civic participation, government technology decision makers must find a way to resolve the dissonance between the flexibility of Web 2.0 in the private sector and the legacy of restrictive monolithic applications in government.
It is simply unacceptable at this point in history that a citizen can use web services to track the movies he is renting, the weather around his house, and the books he's recently purchased but cannot as easily monitor data regarding the quality of his drinking water, legislation or regulations that will directly impact his work or personal life, what contracts are currently available to bid on for his state, or what crimes have recently occurred on his street.

 
Full article

A World Made of Cities

Thu, 2005-09-15 11:41.

Vast new urban communities is the main event in the world for the present and coming decades. The villages and countrysides of the entire world are emptying out. Why? I was told by Kavita Ramdas, head of the Global Fund for Women, "In the village, all there is for a woman is to obey her husband and family elder, pound grain, and sing. If she moves to town, she can get a job, start a business, and get education for her children. Her independence goes up, and her religious fundamentalism goes down."
So much for the romanticism of villages. In reality, life in the country is dull, backbreaking, impoverished, restricted, exposed, and dangerous. Life in the city is exciting, less grueling, better paid, free, private, and safe.

 
Full article

Communities and governments

Thu, 2005-09-15 10:35.
Relationships - family and community - preceded governance and markets. This view from Jeremy Rifkin is in an interview published in May 2000:

"What I say to business leaders is "understand that your sector and the government sector are derivatives, not primary institutions." There is no example in history where you first create a government or establish a market, then you create a community. It's always the other way around, although we have lost sight of that lesson. First people establish communities, then they create social exchange, shared metaphors, shared meetings in life. Only when the social capital is well developed do communities create markets for trade and establish governments."

 
The full interview

"Individuals are the engine that makes a healthy local economy grow."

Thu, 2005-09-15 00:09.
Quotings from "A Global Look to the Local" by Colin Hines:
A Focus on the Individual and Taking Control of the Economy

‘Individuals are the engine that makes a healthy local economy grow. It is individuals, working independently and collectively, that form the fabric of community life. It is the skills, abilities, and experience of these individuals that can be mobilized to develop a vibrant local economy.’
Historically, significant community development tends mostly to take place when people in a local community are committed to investing their time, skills and resources in the effort. In the US, John Kretzman and John McKnight summarised successful community-building initiatives in hundreds of neighbourhoods across America.
They found that a key was to ‘map’ their local human, institutional and resource assets and to combine and mobilise these strengths to build stronger, more self-reliant communities and hence local economies. This consists of drawing on individual’s skills, the local associations where people assemble to solve problems or share common interests, and the more formal institutions that are located in the community. These include private businesses and public institutions such as schools, libraries, hospitals and social service agencies.
This drawing on local capacity is the start of a process which reinvigorates local economic and physical assets. Local government officials have been most useful when their role has been to support local problem solvers and strengthen and connect other local assets. The most helpful approach has been one where local government representatives have asked how they can assist local citizens in their development efforts. (The more usual approach has been to ask how local citizens can participate in the government’s efforts.) At a national government level a primary role is to ensure that a substantial part of government expenditures provides direct economic benefits in terms of local jobs, contracts and purchases .

 
A Global Look to the Local - pdf