When Users are Losers, or Datapocalypse, part 2 and How to Avoid It

A month ago, I suggested that with investment capital scarce, social media sites will be forced to close their doors and, as a consequence, users will lose huge amounts of social and cultural capital.

This week demonstrates another, highly efficient path to datapocalypse: data loss. In the most spectacular failure to date, ma.gnolia.com has all but declared the loss of its social bookmarks permanent.

I had a similar problem back in 2007 when Flock, the social web browser wiped out my bookmarks and yahoo, which had recently acquired delicious, informed me that delicious didn’t make backups.

That was only one user losing his data, so it wasn’t a big deal—although it demonstrated the dangers of relying on social software—but backups seem to be a tremendous problem for these services. They effectively double the cost of storage, so corporations seek to cut corners. On the other hand, since we backup religiously at home (you do, don’t you?), we expect that the online services we’d use do as well.

If ma.gnolia can’t recover its users’s data, I don’t see how they can come back from such a loss and even if they do, it seems like their run is over.

But I also predict that in the near future we’ll see a high profile failure or closure that will dwarf the loss that the users of ma.gnolia experienced. I still wonder, for example, how Facebook can survive given the trouble it seems to be having paying its bills. "It’s all about eyeballs" is something that the doe-eyed MBAs used to say a decade ago, but isn’t going to hold any credence in the more mature network culture of our day.

Maybe, though, this will give a boost to develop a counter-cloud, like the one that I proposed earlier this year, in which social media functions would be spread across a multitude of Web sites running common platforms (think Drupal for example). Take a look at this article by Brian Suda, for example, that explains how to carry social networking relationships between sites. It’s a great start, but it needs to be made easy to do for the non-technically savvy user and it would have to be possible to scatter data across sites, with redundancy built into the system to make it work. It may sound impossible, but so in principle, so does bittorrent, but it still works. Like the move from Napster to Bittorrent, this would be a move from centralized to decentralized systems, dispersing control and responsibility into a DIY counter-cloud. Something for Drupal version 10 maybe? 

I suspect that some version of my modest proposal is going to be enacted in the next decade. Trusting one site for anything is a big problem, as the users of ma.gnolia found out. 

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Goodbye, Capitalism

Polymeme brought me to this post by Ethan Zuckerman, about the irrationality of newspaper advertising in a pay-for-performance world. I was interested to hear mention of the Berkshire Eagle, which was the local paper when I was growing up. In a nutshell, Zuckerman suggests that in an advertising world in which performance can be measured, the high costs of ads doesn’t support the expenditures required to publish the Eagle or, for that matter, the New York Times. Now it’s worth mentioning that the Berkshire Eagle is, as far as newspapers go, a hold-out of real local news in a relatively intelligent part of the country and that localism may go a long way to explaining the high cost of the ads. Still, Zuckerman has a good point: earlier models of cultural production don’t pay anymore. 

But new models of cultural production don’t pay either. Although new models of cultural production employ a certain number of people, as Zuckerman points out with regard to his own online citizen media venture, the efficiency they create means they can run much more leanly than previous models and still reach the same audience numbers.

This sounds great, but what happens to the other jobs? Unfortunately, they aren’t needed anymore. New models of cultural production have streamlined them out of existence as effectively as the most ruthless downsizing strategies of the 1980s did to blue-collar jobs.

So now what? If employment in industry is long gone, is in free fall in finance, real estate, and construction, and is rapidly contracting in cultural production on what basis do economies exist?

My sense is that the long boom was not just the product of speculation. Rather, much of that speculation came out of a collective belief that technologies was leading to new efficiencies. This helped fuel the boom as some corporations were able to take advantage of that condition. But now what? The efficiency is largely there (unless you really think we need video teleconferencing, which I’ve had on my machine for three years now and used all of twice), the jobs have been eliminated, but the growth is gone. Is there any way to restart it? 

This is a fundamental theoretical problem with Network Culture and I’m afraid I don’t see an easy answer out there.

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more trouble with infrastructure

This story by Mark Paul at newamerica.net makes an interesting point about investment in infrastructure. Beyond NIMBYism, bureaucratic stalemate, and a flagging s-curve, there is yet another barrier to infrastructural investment and that’s the way its financed. It’s heartbreaking to see my former hometown in L. A. obsess about light rail and subways again precisely at a point when it isn’t coming anytime soon. How we think about infrastructure needs to be completely rethought. More on that soon…developing.

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Obama’s first plan

The House Appropriations Committee introduced its version of the Obama administration’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan of 2009 yesterday. The New York Times reports that this is expected to be in the final stimulus bill. See the Committee Chairman, Wisconsin Representative David Obey’s memo here

The executive summary of the memo below, with my comments in red. An expanded version of the memo can be seen at the above link.  

Overall, my assessment is that the suggestion that this is a WPA-style return to infrastructure is mistaken. On the contrary, what we are seeing is a funding bill aimed at dealing with many important but neglected programs. As far as infrastructure, however, do not expect to see any great changes. As the memo points out, the funding is minor compared to what the government estimates to be needed in a series of key areas.        

The lessons of the Infrastructural City continue: we’ve hit the top of the S-curve for growth in virtually all forms of hard infrastructure. Spending more is going to do little more than keep us afloat. The Obama administration understands that, but can they propose anything in its stead?    

The economy is in a crisis not seen since the Great Depression.

Credit is frozen, consumer purchasing power is in decline, in the last four months the country has lost 2 million jobs and we are expected to lose another 3 to 5 million in the next year.  

Conservative economist Mark Zandi was blunt: "the economy is shutting down."

In the next two weeks, the Congress will be considering the American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009. This package is the first crucial step in a concerted effort to create and save 3 to 4 million jobs, jumpstart our economy, and begin the process of transforming it for the 21st century with $275 billion in economic recovery tax cuts and $550 billion in thoughtful and carefully targeted priority investments with unprecedented accountability measures built in. 

The package contains targeted efforts in:

· Clean, Efficient, American Energy

· Transforming our Economy with Science and Technology

· Modernizing Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways

· Education for the 21st Century

· Tax Cuts to Make Work Pay and Create Jobs

· Lowering Healthcare Costs

· Helping Workers Hurt by the Economy

· Saving Public Sector Jobs and Protect Vital Services

> Note how infrastructure is downplayed.
Our first clue that infrastructure is playing a back-seat role in this.

The economy is in such trouble that, even with passage of this package, unemployment rates are expected to rise to between eight and nine percent this year. Without this package, we are warned that unemployment could explode to near twelve percent. With passage of this package, we will face a large deficit for years to come. Without it, those deficits will be devastating and we face the risk of economic chaos. Tough choices have been made in this legislation and fiscal discipline will demand more tough choices in years to come. 

Since 2001, as worker productivity went up, 96% of the income growth in this country went to the wealthiest 10% of society. While they were benefitting from record high worker productivity, the remaining 90% of Americans were struggling to sustain their standard of living. They sustained it by borrowing… and borrowing… and borrowing, and when they couldn’t borrow anymore, the bottom fell out. This plan will strengthen the middle class, not just Wall Street CEOs and special interests in Washington.  

Our short term task is to try to prevent the loss of millions of jobs and get our economy moving. The long term task is to make the needed investments that restore the ability of average middle income families to increase their income and build a decent future for their children.


 Unprecedented Accountability: A historic level of transparency, oversight and accountability will help guarantee taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and Americans can see results for their investment.

· In many instances funds are distributed through existing formulas to programs with proven track records and accountability measures already in place.

· How funds are spent, all announcements of contract and grant competitions and awards, and formula grant allocations must be posted on a special website created by the President. Program managers will also be listed so the public knows who to hold accountable.

· Public notification of funding must include a description of the investment funded, the purpose, the total cost and why the activity should be funded with recovery dollars. Governors, mayors or others making funding decisions must personally certify that the investment has been fully vetted and is an appropriate use of taxpayer dollars. This will also be placed on the recovery website.

· A Recovery Act Accountability and Transparency Board will be created to review management of recovery dollars and provide early warning of problems. The seven member board includes Inspectors General and Deputy Cabinet secretaries.

· The Government Accountability Office and the Inspectors General are provided additional funding and access for special review of recovery funding.

· Federal and state whistleblowers who report fraud and abuse are protected.

· There are no earmarks in this package.

 This plan targets investments to key areas that will create and preserve good jobs at the same time as it is strengthening the ability of this economy to become more efficient and produce more opportunities for employment.

 Clean, Efficient, American Energy: To put people back to work today and reduce our dependence on foreign oil tomorrow, we will strengthen efforts directed at doubling renewable energy production and renovate public buildings to make them more energy efficient.

· $32 billion to transform the nation’s energy transmission, distribution, and production systems by allowing for a smarter and better grid and focusing investment in renewable technology.

· $16 billion to repair public housing and make key energy efficiency retrofits.

· $6 billion to weatherize modest-income homes.

> This seems reasonable although bailing out homeowners is questionable in my mind. Older private housing is not sexy, the way, say, public housing, condos, or homes are, but is critical for lower and middle income urban (and even suburban) residents. "All utilities included" or at least "heat included" are magic words for renters, allowing them to have a reasonable idea that they will only pay rent during the year. Unfortunately as gas prices have skyrocketed, profit margins for this sort of housing have evaporated. A focus on private apartment buildings would have been helpful here, especially as the myth of the ownership economy is, in part, at root of our problems. 

Note that this "includes $350 million for research into using renewable energy to power weapons systems and military bases."

Transform our Economy with Science and Technology: We need to put scientists to work looking for the next great discovery, creating jobs in cutting-edge-technologies, and making smart investments that will help businesses in every community succeed in a global economy. For every dollar invested in broadband the economy sees a ten-fold return on that investment.

· $10 billion for science facilities, research, and instrumentation.

· $6 billion to expand broadband internet access so businesses in rural and other underserved areas can link up to the global economy.

> So much for a major push to expand broadband. Fiber-to-the-home/office is having as many problems in cities as in rural regions due to the difficulties in clearing easements. But beyond those questions, how will this money be used fairly. Is this a bailout for telecommunications carriers? 

Something got left out of the executive summary. What could that be? How about a mini-bailout for businesses? The DTV conversion coupons do seem important. The FCC has apparently run out of money and the off switch on analog TV is coming next month. 

Creating Small Business Opportunity

· Small Business Credit: $430 million for new direct lending and loan guarantee authorities to make loans more attractive to lenders and free up capital. The number of loans guaranteed under the SBA’s 7(a) business loan program was down 57% in the first quarter of this year compared to last.

· Rural Business-Cooperative Service: $100 million for rural business grants and loans to guarantee $2 billion in loans for rural businesses at a time of unprecedented demand due to the credit crunch. Private sector lenders are increasingly turning to this program to help businesses get access to capital.

· Industrial Technology Services: $100 million, including $70 million for the Technology Innovation Program to accelerate research in potentially revolutionary technologies with high job growth potential, and $30 million for the Manufacturing Extension Partnerships to help small and mid-size manufacturers compete globally by providing them with access to technology.

· Economic Development Assistance: $250 million to address long-term economic distress in urban industrial cores and rural areas distributed based on need and ability to create jobs and attract private investment. EDA leverages $10 in private investments for $1 in federal funds.

DTV Conversion Coupons: $650 million to continue the coupon program to enable American households to convert from analog television transmission to digital transmission. 

 Modernize Roads, Bridges, Transit and Waterways: To build a 21st century economy, we must engage contractors across the nation to create jobs rebuilding our crumbling roads, and bridges, modernize public buildings, and put people to work cleaning our air, water and land.

· $30 billion for highway construction;

· $31 billion to modernize federal and other public infrastructure with investments that lead to long term energy cost savings;

· $19 billion for clean water, flood control, and environmental restoration investments;

· $10 billion for transit and rail to reduce traffic congestion and gas consumption.

> Here is the meat of the proposals for infrastructure…and it’s pretty lean. $30 billion is less than one year’s expenditure on highways. $10 billion for transit and rail isn’t that much when just one crucial project, the Trans-Hudson Tunnel, is slated to cost $9 billion.

Reading the expanded version of the memo, things start to look positively grim.  

· Upgrades and Repair: $2 billion to modernize existing transit systems, including renovations to stations, security systems, computers, equipment, structures, signals, and communications. Funds will be distributed through the existing formula. The repair backlog is nearly $50 billion. 

 · Amtrak and Intercity Passenger Rail Construction Grants: $1.1 billion to improve the speed and capacity of intercity passenger rail service. The Department of Transportation’s Inspector General estimates the North East Corridor alone has a backlog of over $10 billion.

 · Airport Improvement Grants: $3 billion for airport improvement projects that will improve safety and reduce congestion. An estimated $41 billion in eligible airport infrastructure projects are needed between 2007-2011.

There’s also a bit of money under this heading in the expanded version for Defense although since it’s largely for medical construction which is horribly underfunded, I won’t complain. The last President did what he could NOT to support the troops, or at least the ones who were injured…

Also, I won’t complain about $50 million for the NEA or needed work at the National Park Service. Other numbers again point to the difference between this bill and what is really needed: 

 · Clean Water State Revolving Fund: $6 billion for loans to help communities upgrade wastewater treatment systems. EPA estimates a $388 billion funding gap. The Association of State and Interstate Water Pollution Control Administrators found that 26 states have $10 billion in approved water projects.

· Drinking Water State Revolving Fund: $2 billion for loans for drinking water infrastructure. EPA estimates there is a $274 billion funding gap. The National Governors Association reported that there are $6 billion in ready-to-go projects, which could quickly be obligated.

Education for the 21st Century: To enable more children to learn in 21st century classrooms, labs, and libraries to help our kids compete with any worker in the world, this package provides:

· $41 billion to local school districts through Title I ($13 billion), IDEA ($13 billion), a new School Modernization and Repair Program ($14 billion), and the Education Technology program ($1 billion).

· $79 billion in state fiscal relief to prevent cutbacks to key services, including $39 billion to local school districts and public colleges and universities distributed through existing state and federal formulas, $15 billion to states as bonus grants as a reward for meeting key performance measures, and $25 billion to states for other high priority needs such as public safety and other critical services, which may include education.

· $15.6 billion to increase the Pell grant by $500.

· $6 billion for higher education modernization.

> I can’t argue here. Education is in dire straits. My only question is how we could rethink education today. It’s not teacher’s salaries that have gone sky high, it’s administrative expenditures. How can we cut those?

 Tax Cuts to Make Work Pay and Create Jobs: We will provide direct tax relief to 95 percent of American workers, and spur investment and job growth for American Businesses. [marked up by the Ways and Means Committee]

> Throwing bread to Republicans. Didn’t I say something about knowing that Obama was in trouble if he gave kickbacks to taxpayers? That didn’t take long.  

Lower Healthcare Costs: To save not only jobs, but money and lives, we will update and computerize our healthcare system to cut red tape, prevent medical mistakes, and help reduce healthcare costs by billions of dollars each year.

· $20 billion for health information technology to prevent medical mistakes, provide better care to patients and introduce cost-saving efficiencies.

· $4.1 billion to provide for preventative care and to evaluate the most effective healthcare treatments.

> I suppose this is necessary, but the numbers seem outrageous. Didn’t Google propose to do this for free? This sounds more like a busy work project than anything else.

Help Workers Hurt by the Economy: High unemployment and rising costs have outpaced Americans’ paychecks. We will help workers train and find jobs, and help struggling families make ends meet.

· $43 billion for increased unemployment benefits and job training.

· $39 billion to support those who lose their jobs by helping them to pay the cost of keeping their employer provided healthcare under COBRA and providing short-term options to be covered by Medicaid.

· $20 billion to increase the food stamp benefit by over 13% in order to help defray rising food costs.

> Ok, this is reasonable. But maybe we should think about the definition of unemployment? Under Reagan the government re-jigged the unemployment rate to make it look better. We really have something like 16% unemployment, or more. To be fair, under Clinton the government re-jigged the inflation rate. We really have a 6-9% rate of inflation, not 2.79%. See here.   

Save Public Sector Jobs and Protect Vital Services: We will provide relief to states, so they can continue to employ teachers, firefighters and police officers and provide vital services without having to unnecessarily raise middle class taxes.

· $87 billion for a temporary increase in the Medicaid matching rate.

· $4 billion for state and local law enforcement funding.


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Take a Break, Babu

Updated: See below.

Hot on the heels of the last post… I couldn’t help but let out a squeal of delight that one of the two greatest symbols of the decadence of architecture and the bubble economy, the Burj Dubai, is on hold for a year. Poor Babu can finally come down. 

Will it ever restart? How long can a building of that height be left idle before it goes Ryungyong? 

Quick: which is which?  

burj dubairyungyong

Photo of Ryungyong by Pricey. Photo of Burj Dubai by Orbit 77


Update. Alas, I am wrong again. It turns out the Burj Dubai is not shuttered. Andrew Blum points out that it’s the Nakheel project. Hard to keep tabs on all these efforts to make the world’s tallest building! I still hope Babu gets to take a break.  

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more trouble in paradise

Time to paint this morning’s picture of just how dark it is out there. Let’s start with the Irish situation. I haven’t remarked much on it lately, because, I suppose, it seemed so obvious. Mistaking a peripheral position in the economy for a core position is always bad, especially if it’s your government and finance industries doing it. That’s just what happened in Ireland. The Celtic Tiger is not so much in free fall as in fast reverse now. It’s important to look back in history and remember that the Great Depression, bad as it was in the United States, was worse elsewhere. Hitchcock and Johnson originally intended the International Style exhibit as an intervention in Germany and only turned to MoMA when it became clear to them that the conditions in Germany would prevent future building.

Speaking of that show, think about the fact that in 1932 it was still possible to be somewhat optimistic about the economy, to think about building. We may not have fallen much yet. Obama’s latest plan, to digitize health care records, suggests that he may not have much idea what to do. This may help save money in health care, but it’s hardly much of a boost to the GDP. It makes nothing, it allows us to export nothing, and the investment is for a one time project that serves only one industry, albeit a big one. In other words, it’s rearranging desk chairs on the Titanic.

Meanwhile, at the Atlantic Michael Hirschorn plays out a scenario in which the New York Times shuts down its presses, perhaps as early as this May. The other day I was telling someone how the AT&T building is the last great corporate skyscraper and how the annihilation of AT&T after its completion meant that there would never be such iconic architecture again. Then I was sobered by the thought of the New York Times building as a new icon, but immediately realized that the exception confirmed the rule.  

Finally, if you think we aren’t producing anything, we are! Lots of nice carbon dioxide emissions are being created by all those Google searches. Two searches produce as much CO2 as boiling a tea kettle does. See Slashdot for more. At least we’ll stay warm in the winter when fossil fuels run out. 


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Datapocalypse is Coming

It’s a corollary that when I have more time, e. g. between semesters, and can spend time on the blog, my readership dwindles to my most hardy readers. So for you another post, via slashdot. It’s time to raise concern about the coming datapocalypse. There’s going to be a bag of hurt for many people as the economy takes down their favorite site. On a related note, JPEG magazine‘s parent company, 8020 media, is shutting its doors. 

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predictions for the year ahead

My predictions—and those of a whole bunch of members of "architects, bloggers, academics, Archinect editors, and other members of [the Archinect] community" for the year ahead at Archinect.

I’ll add to my prediction by adding that if we get it right, light urbanism will be all the rage. Something along the lines of this or this or this. There are lots and lots of dangers to such scenarios, but a burst of new, heavy but green infrastructure (e.g. light rail, green power plants, podcars, whatever) is pie in the sky in an age that will give new meaning to NIMBYism as homeowners seek to protect what value they have left.  

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on malls and newspapers, or virtualization and the new economy

I have always been fascinated by how different areas live through historical moments in different ways and at different times. I can’t pretend to know too much about England, having never lived there, but apparently malls or shopping centers are still a new phenomenon, hence this piece (courtesy Dan Hill’s excellent City of Sound) from the Guardian, declaring outrage at the death of the traditional city at the hands of the mall.

It’s weird to see the British replay the mall panic that gripped American writers on urbanism in the 1980s. Even before the economic collapse, mall construction had ended in this country. Online sales appear to have had something to do with that, according to Business Week. Offering little more than an unappetizing display of product, old-style enclosed malls couldn’t compete with the more pornographic gratification of purchasing on the Internet and began dying off at a rapid rate as construction ceased. For a time, as the Business Week article suggested, lifestyle centers such as Los Angeles’s the Grove stemmed the bleeding, but now, with the economy in decline, Newsweek suggests that even those are doomed. So the British need only wait, No-Stop-City isn’t coming anytime soon. The fancy will pass there as it did in the U. S.

For some, the death of the mall is welcome evidence of the terminal illness of the suburbs. Soon, we are told these abominations will descend into the misery they deserve, becoming the next slum. A fitting end for all those dumb middle class dreams! In its stead will rise a creative city, clean, safe and fun, filled with a happy, shiny creative class of knowledge workers.

Now this is obvious nonsense, which is why it’s remarkable it’s still being touted. I’ve long  criticized the neoliberal advocacy of the city as nothing more than the latest mantra for the same developers who built the suburbs to take advantage of. Where they’ve won, in cities like San Francisco or Manhattan the city as it once was has ceased to exist, replaced instead by a diseased tissue of wine bars and mall stores, filled with hipsters touting smart phones. Gone is real diversity, replaced by a pleasant, mildly multiracial mix of individuals pretending to be classless. Gone is the city as a place of production. Industry and its attendant horrors of lowbrow culture, pollution, and class strife moved offshore long ago. Recent immigrants, illegal immigrants, poorly paid service workers, the unemployed, and even the homeless have been moved into inner-ring and exurban suburbs where they won’t trouble the city’s tax base. After all, when nobody defends the suburbs, they become a convenient place for all the dreck we wouldn’t want in the city (or in the carefully secured suburbs in which other clusters of the mega-rich live) anyway. Curiously, this was just the same strategy that the Situationists, embraced as heroes by the advocates of the new city, sought to stop before Paris was turned into, in Peter Eisenman’s vivid image, a stuffed animal.         

So stands the happy new creative city, purged of its problems, home to the global élite and to the creative class, the unalienated knowledge workers of network culture. Just clean up the historic districts and add some condos and Bilbao-effect urbanism and you’re ready to go.  

Well maybe not. The creative class and with it, the new city, are in trouble. If the new economy of fall, 2008 hasn’t been enough of a wake-up call, look at what’s happening to newpapers. Just last year, the New York Times abandoned its old, crusty digs in Times Square for a fancy new headquarters design by Renzo Piano. I suppose that the management thought that with the Times being one of the most identifiable and trusted brands in knowledge production in the country, a little slick architecture would bring it out of the dark ages and into the new economy. Nicolai Ourousoff, the Times’s architecture critic suggested as much in his review. But Ourousoff finished his otherwise enthusiastic review with a cautionary observation, noting that journalists were concerned about the future of the paper under pressure from the Internet: 

Journalism, too, has moved on. Reality television, anonymous bloggers, the threat of ideologically driven global media enterprises — such forces have undermined newspapers’ traditional mission. Even as journalists at The Times adjust to their new home, they worry about the future. As advertising inches decline, the paper is literally shrinking; its page width was reduced in August.And some doubt that newspapers will even exist in print form a generation from now. 

Now, in a move that seems more like a beleaguered homeowner trying to keep up with its mortgage with a home equity loan, the Times is trying to borrow up to $225 million against its headquarters to deal with cash flow problems. See here. No doubt you have already heard of the spectacular bankruptcy of the Tribune company, parent of the Chicago Tribune and the Los Angeles Times. Is the Times building the 2000s equivalent of the AT&T building? 

This is a death spiral. If newspapers cut the quality of journalism further (at the LA Times this is almost unimaginable), they will lose what readership they still have. If they do away with print, they will lose more advertising and have little to distinguish themselves from portals. It’s not going to be easy for them. Now I think it’s of great significance—and not that welcome— that the lights are dimming on this key institution that emerged with the new class structure of the 19th century, the very institution in which publics really formed. Moreover, it suggests that the creative class is far from a solid economic base for cities. Let’s take another example. How about the music industry. Consumers hated it and, when they found out that they could trade music for free on the Net, left it to rot. Since 1999, the industry has lost 29% of its revenues. The recent growth of cities as based not so much on the creative class as on finance and on wild, speculative investment. Real estate in Manhattan was little different than in Clark County, Nevada. 

Goodbye mall, goodbye creative city. Imagine the New York Times building a decade from now. The company is long gone, bought up by by Slate and located downtown where the bad memories don’t linger. The skyscraper is half-empty, its floors rented out to temporary labor agencies and their ilk, its façade accumulating a thick layer of diesel soot from the buses of the Port Authority Bus Terminal across the street, ersatz mall and gateway to suburbia. What’s next? Maybe a better question is, what’s left? 


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on shipping today

One of the most interesting parts for me in the Philip Johnson Tapes was Philip’s recounting of how the clocks in the PSFS were built by Cartier because in the Depression it was possible to get such labor for nothing. So, assuming you haven’t leveraged yourself beyond belief (you didn’t, did you?), how is it possible to take advantage of the new economy? 

Time Magazine just carried an article about the utter collapse of the shipping industry. On the one hand, it made me think about how the economy in my old hometown of Los Angeles is largely dominated by real estate, construction, and international trade. The future of the City of Quartz looks very grim indeed (but whose doesn’t? I predict that China is all but doomed), but maybe it’s time for some fantasy. 

Two months ago capesize vessels—ships so big that they couldn’t pass through the Panama or Suez canals—rented for $234,000 a day. Now they rent for $2,320 a day. Now I’m sure that there are pesky other costs like fuel, but just think of it, you probably have the cash on hand or at least available via credit card to rent one of these units and, together with your friends, you could ship a few hundred thousand tons of dead weight overseas or, conversely bring it here. What would you do? I wonder how much the Disney Concert Hall weighs? How long would it take to bake enough cookies to fill that ship? Maybe you can get rid of your CDs finally. There are all sorts of possibilities. What could you bring here?  

capesize ship



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