Review: London – the Information Capital: 100 Maps and Graphics That Will Change How You View the City

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James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti

5.0 out of 5 stars From coffee table to scientific salon, a worthy offering, November 4, 2014

This is a spectacular offering on multiple fronts. On the low-end, it has got to be the coolest coffee table book around, something that could be usefully offered in every waiting room across London — and hopefully inspire copycats for other cities including Paris and New York and Dubai.

At the high end, the book offers the most current available understanding of just what can be gleaned from “big data” that is available from open databases — one can only imagine the additional value to be had from closed data bases (money movement, for example). And of course we have to persist in our demands that all data and the software and hardware needed to process the data be open source so that it is affordable, interoperable, and scalable.

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Nov 4

Review: Designing a World that Works For All – Solutions & Strategies for Meeting the World’s Needs – 2005-2013 Labs

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Medard Gabel

5.0 out of 5 stars Co-Creator with Buckminster Fuller of the Analog World Game, The Gold Standard for Serious Games 4.0, September 4, 2014

Medard Gabel, co-creator with Buckminster Fuller of the analog World Game, and architect of the digital EarthGame(TM), is “root” for anyone who wishes to do holistic design, true cost economics, serious games, and open source information-sharing and sense-making. He is too little known, very modest, and does not get the deep attention that he merits.

I have participated in his design seminars, and am always thrilled at how well they work. Everyone starts out working on “their” problem, generally an issue in isolation, and around the middle of the week-long seminar, all the different teams experience the “aha” moment when they realize that they cannot succeed in isolation, that all the challenges need to be addresses by everyone working together.

For me Medard Gabel is the “gold standard” and none of the serious games, however well-intentioned they might be, can be helpful beyond their narrow niche for lack of the holistic understanding and the information-sharing and sense-making architecture that Medard provides for — mostly human, not technical at all. As Russell Ackoff likes to say, what is good for one part of the system might be very bad for all the other parts — Comprehensive architecture and prime design — all threats, all policies, all demographics — are essential to our moving past the toxic industrial era of reductionsim and separation that we have fostered these past two hundred years.

I rate this book, because it is a collection of the best of the best from past books, some of which I reviewed at the time, at six stars instead of five.

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Sep 4

Review (Guest): Governing the Commons – The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action

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Elinor Ostrom

4.0 out of 5 stars Addressing the Collective Action Problem August 2, 2007

By Matthew P. Arsenault

Ostrom attempts to refute the belief that only through state and or market-centered controls can commonly pooled resources (CPRs) be effectively governed. Ostrom writes, “Communities of individuals have relied on institutions resembling neither the state nor the market to govern some resource systems with reasonable degrees of success over long periods of time” (p. 1). Governing the Commons sets out to discover why some groups are able to effectively govern and manage CPRs and other groups fail. She tries to identify both the internal and external factors “that can impede or enhance the capabilities of individuals to use and govern CPRs.”

The first section of the book examines both state-controlled and privatization property rights regimes, and illustrates failures in both regimes; namely, that central authorities often fail to have complete accuracy of information, have only limited monitoring capabilities, and possess a weak sanctioning reliability. As such, a centralized governing body may actually govern the commons inaccurately and make a bad situation worse. In the case of privatized property rights regimes, Ostrom illustrates two main points: 1) it assumes that property is homogenous and any division of property will be equitable; and 2) privatization will not work with non-stationary property (fisheries, for example).

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Apr 28

Review (Guest): Working Together – Collective Action, the Commons, and Multiple Methods in Practice

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Elinor Ostrom, Army R. Poteete, and Maroc A. Janssen

5.0 of 5.0 Stars An inspiration for Transdisciplinary Researchers By Herbert Gintis on June 7, 2010

This book, which is based on the several decades of research by Nobel award winning political scientist Elinor Ostrom and her talented colleages, vigorously asserts two messages with equal fervor. The first is that “it is possible for individuals to act collectively to manage shared natural resources on a sustainable basis.” (215) The second message is that the existing structure of academic disciplines in the system of higher learning deeply handicaps researchers from attaining true insights of this type. The possibility of people managing their own common pool resources through democratic and egalitarian participation was determined through research “based on field studies, laboratory and field experiments, game theory, and agent-based models,” and no discipline recognizes the legitimacy of models that span such a broad range of statistical, qualitative thick description, formal analytical and computer simulation methods.

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Apr 28