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Third places

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  • J.H. Crawford
    Interesting article on why Facebook does not really serve the functions of third places. http://citiwire.net/post/1360/ Where Everybody Knows Your Name Mary
    Message 1 of 12 , Sep 25, 2009
      Interesting article on why Facebook does not really
      serve the functions of "third places."

      http://citiwire.net/post/1360/

      Where Everybody Knows Your Name

      Mary Newsom / Sep 24 2009

      Citiwire.net

      The TV bar, “Cheers,” was a perfect, though fictional, example of one. The Paris café Les Deux Magots was a real one, and it famously drew artists and intellectuals such as Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir. If you’re lucky, you live near one, too: a coffeehouse, pub, barber shop or general store where you can visit anytime and linger. You’ll see people you know and people you don’t, and no one makes you leave ’til you’re ready.

      Sociologist Ray Oldenburg dubbed them Third Places in his 1989 book, The Great Good Place. He wrote that Third Places (not work, not home) are “the heart of a community’s social vitality, the grassroots of democracy.” But in the U.S., he wrote, we’ve almost lost them, as people spend more time in cars, in shopping malls, or at home in front of a screen.

      Earlier this month I spent a couple of days in Toronto at a conference for the Information Architecture Institute, which drew hundreds of bright and creative people interested in the human mind, IT and how they intersect. One social media expert spoke about Oldenburg, and proposed that online social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are America’s new Third Places.

      Well, no.

      This is a defense of the value of real places where real people meet, and the little-heeded but significant role they play in the life of our cities and towns.

      Online networks can, of course, create social and business relationships. Facebook, MySpace and Twitter let people meet and keep in touch, and occasionally in-person friendships flower from Facebook “friending.” Indeed, their popularity may well be fed by the lack of true Third Places in our lives.

      Still, as Third Places they’re mere metaphors for the real thing.

      A Third Place exists in the three-dimensional world inhabited by the bodies of human beings. Sure, at any hangout what people talk about may sound a lot like their Facebook status or Tweets. But being in another human’s physical presence transforms the relationship. You hear vocal inflections and regional accents and notice whether their teeth are straight or their shoes are shabby. You may even smell them–for better or worse.

      Not infrequently, when I meet politicians or other public figures whose opinions I completely disagree with, they turn out to be personable and sympathetic people. (And some turn out to be nutty as a Payday candy bar, but that’s a column for another day.) Meeting in person isn’t likely to change my views–or theirs–but seeing someone in the whole shifts the relationship.

      Studies find anywhere from 65 percent to 93 percent of our communication with others is nonverbal–through tone of voice, small expressions and body language. That’s why diplomats meet in person. It’s why the president sits down with foreign leaders.

      And it’s one of the reasons that real places–and real public places–matter. “Deprived of these settings,” Oldenburg wrote in his introduction to The Great Good Place, “people remain lonely within their crowds.”

      Online it’s easy to mingle only with people with whom you agree. In Charlotte, a reporter recently interviewed Facebook users about their opinions on health care reform and found people on both sides of the issue believed most Facebook users agreed with them.

      Americans’ growing tendency to migrate toward communities of the like-minded is the subject of Bill Bishop’s book, The Big Sort: Why the Clustering of Like-Minded America is Tearing Us Apart. And there’s evidence it might be making us ruder.

      Research shows that people in groups where all agree tend to become more extreme in their views, while people in groups that disagree become more moderate.

      So as more of us retreat into our self-selected opinion bubbles, and more of our public discourse moves online, where those opinion bubbles grow ever more extreme, public debate gets more shrill, more hostile.

      By contrast, if you’re lucky enough to have a Third Place, you run into all kinds of people there: your neighbors whose political yard signs drive you bonkers, the Wiccan from the vegan café, people who may not be like you at all except in their liking for this place. Most likely you’ll have at least a small, civil interaction with them. It will not be like the commentary on political blog sites.

      Those in-person encounters are essential to life in a city. As both Oldenburg and urbanist writer Jane Jacobs knew, the seemingly insignificant human exchanges among people who aren’t close enough to be “friends” or “family” and need not be invited home to dinner are one of the undervalued characteristics of urban life. Jacobs wrote that while cities are full of people with whom contact is enjoyable, “You don’t want them in your hair and they do not want you in theirs, either.”

      In the two decades since The Great Good Place was published, some developers and planners have incorporated Oldenburg’s observations into their work and have attempted to create “vibrant urban villages.” A few are indeed urban, or villages, or upon occasion vibrant. But too many have the well-choreographed ambience of a shopping mall center court instead the plain, unassuming character of a true Third Place.

      One evening years ago, my husband and I sat on the steps of the fountain in the piazza at the heart of Rome’s Trastevere neighborhood. Humanity clogged the piazza: families, children, tourists, workmen, women in stiletto heels, waiters moving among restaurant tables, men in suits hurrying past. Some people were not so reputable-looking. One disheveled man dug through the trash bin. A few slept on the pavement next to empty liquor bottles.

      No shopping mall security guards would have allowed that range of humanity. Yet their presence created exactly the “little touch of chaos and danger,” as musician David Byrne wrote recently in the Wall Street Journal, that “makes a city sexy.”

      Random, but civilized, humanity brings to life a public space as well as a Third Place. And it’s no exaggeration to say that transactions of that sort that occur in a true Third Place–peaceable and in person–underpin civilization.

      Maybe I’m wrong, and someday we’ll recall, together, how posting on our neighbors’ Facebook walls brought society together, and helped us solve poverty and conquer injustice.

      But somehow I just don’t see it.

      Mary Newsom is an associate editor, op-ed columnist and blogger at The Charlotte Observer. Her e-mail is Mnewsom@....


      ----- ### -----
      J.H. Crawford . Carfree Cities
      mailbox@... . http://www.carfree.com
    • Lloyd Wright
      Interesting new study in the link below, showing that accident rates for pedestrians and bicycle users double in certain circumstances when hybrid-electric
      Message 2 of 12 , Sep 29, 2009
        Interesting new study in the link below, showing that accident rates for
        pedestrians and bicycle users double in certain circumstances when
        hybrid-electric vehicles replace internal-combustion vehicles (due to the
        quietness of the vehicles).



        http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811204.PDF







        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
      • Jason Meggs
        Thanks for that. I still want to find or conduct a comparison of acceleration rates as an additional factor. The paper only mentions that drivers can request a
        Message 3 of 12 , Sep 29, 2009
          Thanks for that.

          I still want to find or conduct a comparison of acceleration rates as an
          additional factor.

          The paper only mentions that drivers can request a higher acceleration rate.

          The physics of electric motors is such that torque is naturally highest on
          initial acceleration,
          although the power to do so would be dependent on how early the gasoline
          engine is used.
          So drivers evidently have a choice. This would increase sound but also
          increase speed,
          possibly to a higher rate of acceleration than non-hybrids. If that's so,
          one hypothesis would
          be that the effect is the same, but the cause shifts (silence or speed
          causes collisions).

          Speeding up quickly would be expected to increase collision rates in
          precisely the types of
          collisions noted by the study as having elevated collision rates (e.g.,
          turns, backing, leaving
          a parking space).

          Setting a higher speed would also indicate a more aggressive driver, who are
          also
          associated with increased collision rates.

          There ought to be studies of the effect of differing acceleration rates
          between vehicles...
          worth a look to see what's already been done.


          On Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 6:11 AM, Lloyd Wright <lwright@...>wrote:

          >
          >
          > Interesting new study in the link below, showing that accident rates for
          > pedestrians and bicycle users double in certain circumstances when
          > hybrid-electric vehicles replace internal-combustion vehicles (due to the
          > quietness of the vehicles).
          >
          > http://www-nrd.nhtsa.dot.gov/Pubs/811204.PDF
          >
          > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          >
          >
          >


          [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
        • Richard Risemberg
          SF has had electric trolley buses for half a century or more. Does anyone know whether there are higher rates of bus/bike and bus/ped accidents on their
          Message 4 of 12 , Sep 29, 2009
            SF has had electric trolley buses for half a century or more. Does
            anyone know whether there are higher rates of bus/bike and bus/ped
            accidents on their routes as opposed to on motor bus routes?

            RR

            On Sep 29, 2009, at 8:56 AM, Jason Meggs wrote:

            > Interesting new study in the link below, showing that accident
            > rates for
            > > pedestrians and bicycle users double in certain circumstances when
            > > hybrid-electric vehicles replace internal-combustion vehicles
            > (due to the
            > > quietness of the vehicles).

            --
            Richard Risemberg
            http://www.bicyclefixation.com
            http://www.newcolonist.com
            http://www.rickrise.com







            [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
          • Jason Meggs
            That s an excellent question. As some of you know I ve researched the health and sustainability benefits of electric trolleybuses in particular. One of the
            Message 5 of 12 , Sep 29, 2009
              That's an excellent question. As some of you know I've researched the health
              and sustainability benefits of electric trolleybuses in particular. One of
              the great benefits is that they are quieter. But quietness carries risks.

              Without a doubt, there is a risk with quieter electric buses and trains,
              although I don't know of any safety studies. At the same time, even a
              diesel bus can surprise someone if it is coasting.

              The noise level of a trolleybus is roughly 10 dBA lower than a diesel,
              although there is variation. The buses are certainly not completely silent,
              and although I haven't measured, surely they are noticeably louder than
              HEVs. One study put electric buses as substantially quieter than
              trolleybuses. Bus drivers are also driven by trained drivers, which one
              hopes would improve the safety outcomes (no comment).

              Which is worse, increased collisions or increased noise? There's a balance
              to be found. Noise kills as well as causing illness, annoyance, and economic
              harm. There must be ways to provide adequate audible warnings from quieter
              vehicles while minimizing the noise reaching others.

              I witnessed emergency vehicles in NYC this year which seemed to have
              directional sirens, focused on the traffic ahead. They were surprisingly
              more quiet than traditional/conventional norms.

              I also made a formal request to Alameda County Transit here in the Bay Area
              (AC Transit) to consider adopting a secondary horn (analogous perhaps to a
              bike bell). This after experiencing the hearing-damage and stress-raising
              effects of point-blank horns from frustrated/aggressive transit drivers one
              too many times while trying to put my bicycle on the front rack.

              Unfortunately, the superloud horn is the only means of communication they
              currently have besides shouting. (Amplified voice would be a useful
              alternative to the horn for communicating, actually. Imagine three buttons:
              emergency, vehicle to vehicle contact, and pedestrian/bicyclist contact.
              The emergency button could turn on the microphone AND sound a horn; the
              vehicle to vehicle contact would provide a louder voice amplification than
              the ped/bike contact. As one hypothetical example.)

              Carfree cities must be quieter to be more livable. Let's keep noise
              reduction in mind while tackling the increased danger from quieter motorized
              vehicles (including, dare I say, electric bicycles).



              On Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 2:26 PM, Richard Risemberg
              <rickrise@...>wrote:

              >
              >
              > SF has had electric trolley buses for half a century or more. Does
              > anyone know whether there are higher rates of bus/bike and bus/ped
              > accidents on their routes as opposed to on motor bus routes?
              >
              > RR
              >
              >
              > On Sep 29, 2009, at 8:56 AM, Jason Meggs wrote:
              >
              > > Interesting new study in the link below, showing that accident
              > > rates for
              > > > pedestrians and bicycle users double in certain circumstances when
              > > > hybrid-electric vehicles replace internal-combustion vehicles
              > > (due to the
              > > > quietness of the vehicles).
              >
              > --
              > Richard Risemberg
              > http://www.bicyclefixation.com
              > http://www.newcolonist.com
              > http://www.rickrise.com
              >
              > [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
              >
              >
              >


              [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
            • Chris Bradshaw
              Noise, thankfully, consists of a lot of tire noise, which doesn t change with the different engines/fuels, but with the speed and the amount of tire in contact
              Message 6 of 12 , Oct 6, 2009
                Noise, thankfully, consists of a lot of tire noise, which doesn't change
                with the different engines/fuels, but with the speed and the amount of tire
                in contact with the road (times the number of tires). I don't know the
                ratio, but I mostly hear approaching cars by that noise, not the engine (or
                at least as much of it as comes out the tailpipe, thanks to the muffler).

                Also, any source of noise can have the effect of masking other "lesser"
                noises, just as the headlights of motor vehicles can "drown out" the
                headlights of bicyclists. It is not just a matter of how many people have
                stepped in front of an on-coming quieter-than-expected large vehicle, but
                how many stepped in front of an approaching car or cyclist during the time a
                further-away diesel bus or semi was up-throttling?

                Chris Bradshaw
                Ottawa
              • Jon Koller
                Sometimes it seems like there s a NYT editor listening in on this list... http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/automobiles/14hybrid.html?hpw ... [Non-text
                Message 7 of 12 , Oct 14, 2009
                  Sometimes it seems like there's a NYT editor listening in on this list...
                  http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/14/automobiles/14hybrid.html?hpw

                  On Tue, Oct 6, 2009 at 10:29 AM, Chris Bradshaw <c_bradshaw@...>wrote:

                  >
                  >
                  > Noise, thankfully, consists of a lot of tire noise, which doesn't change
                  > with the different engines/fuels, but with the speed and the amount of tire
                  >
                  > in contact with the road (times the number of tires). I don't know the
                  > ratio, but I mostly hear approaching cars by that noise, not the engine (or
                  >
                  > at least as much of it as comes out the tailpipe, thanks to the muffler).
                  >
                  > Also, any source of noise can have the effect of masking other "lesser"
                  > noises, just as the headlights of motor vehicles can "drown out" the
                  > headlights of bicyclists. It is not just a matter of how many people have
                  > stepped in front of an on-coming quieter-than-expected large vehicle, but
                  > how many stepped in front of an approaching car or cyclist during the time
                  > a
                  > further-away diesel bus or semi was up-throttling?
                  >
                  > Chris Bradshaw
                  > Ottawa
                  >
                  >
                  >


                  [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                • mdh6214
                  I can think of some other factors that would increase pedestrian and bicycle accident rates from hybrid vehicles: (1) If hybrid vehicles are purchased in
                  Message 8 of 12 , Oct 14, 2009
                    I can think of some other factors that would increase pedestrian and bicycle accident rates from hybrid vehicles:

                    (1) If hybrid vehicles are purchased in larger proportion by people living in urban or suburban [vs. rural] areas, they'll be driven in areas with higher pedestrian/bicycle density, thus, more accidents with pedestrians and bicycles.

                    (2) Similar to how anti-lock brakes can "consume" their own safety benefits by drivers thinking "ABS will prevent me from having an accident!", are hybrids encouraging dangerous driving? Is there an attitude of "My car is a hybrid, I'll drive however I want to because I'm saving the Earth!"?

                    (3) The "energy monitor" in a Toyota Prius is in the worst possible place: in the center of the dashboard, about there the radio typically is. Are drivers ignoring the road because they're busy staring at how many miles per gallon they're getting?

                    > > Noise, thankfully, consists of a lot of tire noise, which doesn't change
                    > > with the different engines/fuels, but with the speed and the amount of tire
                    > >
                    > > in contact with the road (times the number of tires). I don't know the
                    > > ratio, but I mostly hear approaching cars by that noise, not the engine (or
                    > >
                    > > at least as much of it as comes out the tailpipe, thanks to the muffler).
                    > >
                    > > Also, any source of noise can have the effect of masking other "lesser"
                    > > noises, just as the headlights of motor vehicles can "drown out" the
                    > > headlights of bicyclists. It is not just a matter of how many people have
                    > > stepped in front of an on-coming quieter-than-expected large vehicle, but
                    > > how many stepped in front of an approaching car or cyclist during the time
                    > > a
                    > > further-away diesel bus or semi was up-throttling?
                    > >
                    > > Chris Bradshaw
                    > > Ottawa
                  • Jym Dyer
                    ... =v= At this point it seems that all I can do is speculate about what underlies the increased collision rate, but that scenario doesn t make sense to me.
                    Message 9 of 12 , Oct 14, 2009
                      > Similar to how anti-lock brakes can "consume" their own safety
                      > benefits by drivers thinking "ABS will prevent me from having
                      > an accident!", are hybrids encouraging dangerous driving? Is
                      > there an attitude of "My car is a hybrid, I'll drive however
                      > I want to because I'm saving the Earth!"?

                      =v= At this point it seems that all I can do is speculate about
                      what underlies the increased collision rate, but that scenario
                      doesn't make sense to me. If one is driving a hybrid because
                      of its perceived virtuousness, it seems that one would also try
                      to drive virtuously. Also, some hybrid drivers don't really
                      care about the Earth, they're just trying to save gas money
                      and/or geeking out on the whiz-bang technology.

                      =v= There is, however, a similar dynamic known as the Jevons
                      Paradox, in which increased use negates efficiency improvements.
                      This was observed in the 1970s for economy cars, whose owners
                      would drive longer distances and more frequently because the
                      better fuel economy somehow made that more ecological. It is
                      surely happening again, as the very existence of the hybrid SUV
                      attests to.

                      =v= If hybrids drivers are driving more and further than others
                      (the limiting factor being the cost of fuel), that alone could
                      account for an increased collision rate. But again, all I can
                      do is speculate at this point.
                      <_Jym_>
                    • Richard Risemberg
                      ... I have been saddened to discover that there are absolute assholes driving hybrids here--weaving, speeding, screeching round turns, and behaving just like
                      Message 10 of 12 , Oct 14, 2009
                        On Oct 14, 2009, at 11:27 AM, Jym Dyer wrote:

                        >
                        > =v= At this point it seems that all I can do is speculate about
                        > what underlies the increased collision rate, but that scenario
                        > doesn't make sense to me. If one is driving a hybrid because
                        > of its perceived virtuousness, it seems that one would also try
                        > to drive virtuously. Also, some hybrid drivers don't really
                        > care about the Earth, they're just trying to save gas money
                        > and/or geeking out on the whiz-bang technology.


                        I have been saddened to discover that there are absolute assholes
                        driving hybrids here--weaving, speeding, screeching round turns, and
                        behaving just like the worst of the worst SUV daddy's-money types.

                        I didn't expect that.

                        And they still take up too damn much room.

                        http://bicyclefixation.com/meth.htm

                        Rick
                        --
                        Richard Risemberg
                        http://www.bicyclefixation.com
                        http://www.newcolonist.com
                        http://www.rickrise.com







                        [Non-text portions of this message have been removed]
                      • chbuckeye
                        ... When I looked at a Prius I was told that Toyota will be moving all of their dials to a high center-dashboard position in the future. The sales rep (an
                        Message 11 of 12 , Oct 15, 2009
                          --- In carfree_cities@yahoogroups.com, "mdh6214" <matt@...> wrote:
                          >
                          > (3) The "energy monitor" in a Toyota Prius is in the worst possible place: in the center of the dashboard, about there the radio typically is. Are drivers ignoring the road because they're busy staring at how many miles per gallon they're getting?



                          When I looked at a Prius I was told that Toyota will be moving all of their dials to a high center-dashboard position in the future. The sales rep (an unlikely source of scientific information) said that "research" had found that it was easier on the eyes to look to the side rather than looking down to see the gauges and kept the driver's head up so that at least your peripheral vision can still watch the road. He said it was much safer than asking a driver to look down. I don't know whether that is the case or not, I never saw the research. It certainly was unusual.

                          I imagine it also makes it easier to use the same center console for right-hand and left-hand drive vehicles.


                          Any incidence of a car running into a pedestrian on a city street is another reason to remove cars from city streets. With fewer pedestrians in rural areas and on limited-access highways, there will be a lot fewer accidents between vehicles and pedestrians.
                        • Chris Bradshaw
                          Back in the 90s, Gerald Wilde of Queens Univ. in Ontario developed a theory called target risk. It refers to the fact that a driver has a certain level of
                          Message 12 of 12 , Oct 16, 2009
                            Back in the 90s, Gerald Wilde of Queens Univ. in Ontario developed a theory
                            called "target risk." It refers to the fact that a driver has a certain
                            level of risk he is willing to subject himself, and if a change in road
                            design or car design gives him more than his target, he will 'expand' his
                            driving in some way that translates the improvement into a benefit. For
                            most drivers, speed is increased, which provides the benefit of the saving
                            of time. Also, risk, itself, is a benefit for those who feel that a
                            certrain amount make them "feel more alive."

                            Likewise, I think there is a "target virtue" at work, so that a person will,
                            likewise, increase speed or other forms of risk when their feelings about
                            virtue+driving rises. And considering the amount of attacks that have been
                            leveled at cars and driving, virtue is a worthy commodity. Cyclists usually
                            mutter something about 'saving the planet' when whizzing through red lights,
                            for instance. The well-documented increases in driving distances for those
                            in improved-mileage cars is another. I call such efficiencies "reduced
                            guilt-per-mile."

                            BTW, a recent book -- Ladd, Brian, _Autophobia: Love & Hate in the
                            Automobile Age_ (2008) -- does an excellent job documenting the anti-car,
                            anti-roads/freeways writing worldwide (lots in German) literature.

                            Chris Bradshaw
                            Ottawa
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