Monday, March 30, 2009

AFTER THE CAR - soon to be published


After The Car

• A provocative exploration of a possible future without the car, from two leading sociologists.
• Examines the impact of global warming, global population increases and the peaking of oil supplies, among other things, on the future of how we travel.
• Argues that there will come a time in the future where, by necessity, the present car system will be‘re-designed’ and‘re-engineered’.
• After The Car will interest sociologists, policy makers, industry, as well as the general reader. It will be of interest to every ‘car user’.

It is difficult to imagine a world without the car, and yet that is exactly what Dennis and Urry set out to do in this provocative new book. They argue that the days of the car are numbered: powerful forces around the world are undermining the car system and will usher in a new transport system sometime in the next few decades. Specifically, the book examines how several major processes are shaping the future of how we travel, including:
• Global warming and its many global consequences
• Peaking of oil supplies
• Increased digitisation of many aspects of economic and social life
• Massive global population increases
The authors look at changes in technology, policy, economy and society, and make a convincing argument for a future where, by necessity, the present car system will be re-designed and re-engineered.

Yet the book also suggests that there are some hugely bleak dilemmas facing the twenty first century. The authors lay out what they consider to be possible ‘post-car’ future scenarios. These they describe as ‘local sustainability’, ‘regional warlordism’ and ‘digital networks of control’.

Some have described the 20th Century as the century of the car. Now the century has come to a close – and things are about to change.

publication details

8 May ~ 212 pages

978-0-7456-4421-9 Hardback £45.00 / $59.95

978-0-7456-4422-6 Paperback £14.99 / $19.95

the author

Kingsley Dennis was formerly Research Associate in the Centre for Mobilities Research (CeMoRe) at Lancaster University. John Urry is Distinguished Professor of Sociology and CeMoRe Director at Lancaster University

for more information/ interviews /review copy requests

CONTACT: Amandine Decam, Polity Marketing

Tel: 01865 476146


Friday, March 27, 2009

India's Other Small Car

Most people are talking about Tata's 'Nano' but fewer are discussing Reva's electric alternative... bad news for the future of the small-car market? Here's what some are saying...

The Reva rolls out in New Dehli, June 2008.

The Reva rolls out in New Dehli, June 2008.

The capillaries of India's cities are clogged with every imaginable form of conveyance: hulking buses, braying bullock carts and motorbikes stacked with families of five. The result is that most of India's commuters idle in traffic for hours a day. The government is trying to play catch-up with a long string of mass transit projects, but most residents pine for the status, peace and luxury of a car of their own.

The Tata Nano, set to launch on Monday after almost a year of delays, is an Indian-manufactured, gasoline-powered car priced at about $2,000. Billed as "the world's cheapest car," it's also a nightmare for environmentalists, who predict sky-high sales will pollute India's already smog-filled air. So why isn't India's other indigenous automotive invention -- the Reva -- taking the world by storm?

The Reva is the world's most successful electric vehicle. It's manufactured on the outskirts of Bangalore, in southern India, and has fans all over the world. In spite of patented technologies, government subsidies, a groundswell of interest in electric vehicles, though, the Reva is unlikely to dent in the global car market with as much force as the Nano.

Read more at 'The Reva, Hope-Bearer for Cleaner Air?'


Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Facebook could be monitored by the government

Unsettling, yet not totally unsurprising, to hear that Facebook, Bebo, MySpace and other social networking websites 'could be monitored by the government in an attempt to tackle internet crime and terrorism'. The UK's Telegraph reports that

The Home Office is considering plans to force such sites to hold data about their users' movements to thwart criminals who use them to communicate.The information would then be stored on a central database as part of the government's proposed Intercept Modernisation Programme.

However, Vernon Coaker, Minister of State for policing, crime and security, has told MPs that it does not go far enough.Mr Coaker told a Commons Committee: "Social-networking sites, such as MySpace or Bebo, are not covered by the directive.

"That is one reason why the government are looking at what we should do about the Intercept Modernisation Programme (IMP), because there are certain aspects of communications which are not covered by the directive."

The news has outraged civil liberties groups who claim that the plans would excessively pry into the lives of law abiding citizens.

Read more at 'Facebook could be monitored by the government'


Monday, March 23, 2009

Filmmaker plans "Eyeborg" eye-socket camera

Here's a another addition to the Steve Mann sphere of personal 'cyborg-veillance' - a Canadian filmmaker plans to have a mini camera installed in his prosthetic eye to make documentaries and raise awareness about surveillance in society:

Rob Spence, 36, who lost an eye in an accident as a teen-ager, said his so-called Project Eyeborg is to have the camera, a battery and a wireless transmitter mounted on a tiny circuit board.

"Originally the whole idea was to do a documentary about surveillance. I thought I would become a sort of super hero ... fighting for justice against surveillance," Spence said.

"In Toronto there are 12,000 cameras. But the strange thing I discovered was that people don't care about the surveillance cameras, they were more concerned about me and my secret camera eye because they feel that is a worse invasion of their privacy."

Spence, in Brussels to appear at a media conference, said no part of the camera would be connected to his nerves or brain.

Read more at - 'Filmmaker plans "Eyeborg" eye-socket camera'


Friday, March 20, 2009

Tracking Forest Creatures on the Move

The NY Times has a piece on a system for tracking animals. Called the Automated Radio Telemetry System, the method relies on seven 130-foot-high radio towers scattered across the island that can monitor data from many radio-tagged individuals simultaneously, round the clock, through the calendar:

Once an animal has been outfitted with a transmitting device, the towers can track its unique radio signature and, by a process of triangulation, indicate where it is on the island, whether it’s moving or at rest, what other radio-endowed individuals it encounters.

The constant data streams feed into computers at a central lab building on the island, allowing researchers to stay abreast of far more animal sagas than they could possibly follow through direct observation, and to make the best of their hours in the field. If you see an extended flat line on your computer monitor, it’s time to go out, retrieve the corpse and figure out what happened.

And because transmitters can now be made as light as two-tenths of a gram, scientists can tag and track katydids, orchid bees, monarch butterflies, even plant seeds.

“Automated systems like this are ushering in a new era of animal tracking,” said Roland Kays, another institute research associate. “There’s a lot of potential for seeing the routes animals take and the decisions they make every step of the way.”

Read more at - 'Tracking Forest Creatures on the Move'


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Motorists could be banned from leaving Britain

Following on from the previous post about the plan to introduce the E-Borders travel security scheme, the Telegraph has a follow-up article about how an "Explanatory Memorandum" in the E-Borders program could be used for stopping millions of motorists with unpaid parking fines from leaving the country:

Ministers are examining whether to use powers to track the travel plans of everyone leaving the country under a system known as e-Borders to deal with the problem of unpaid fines...

...It says that e-Borders could help recoup millions of pounds of unpaid fines, and make it easier to enforce the confiscation of criminals' assets following a court order.

"Whilst not a key e-Borders priority, e-Borders could also contribute to compliance on fine enforcement, if provisions were issued prohibiting travel overseas whilst fines remained unpaid and confiscation orders undischarged."

It's becoming clearer that once this scheme has been established, its range of operations can be extended to cover most mobility agendas.

Read original article - 'Motorists could be banned from leaving Britain'


Monday, March 16, 2009

Travel will never be the same again

Here it comes - it now appears that the travel plans and personal details of every holidaymaker, business traveler and day-tripper who leaves Britain are to be tracked by the Government under the new 'E-Borders' travel surveillance scheme:

Anyone departing the UK by land, sea or air will have their trip recorded and stored on a database for a decade. Passengers leaving every international sea port, station or airport will have to supply detailed personal information as well as their travel plans. So-called "booze crusiers" who cross the Channel for a couple of hours to stock up on wine, beer and cigarettes will be subject to the rules.

In addition, weekend sailors and sea fishermen will be caught by the system if they plan to travel to another country - or face the possibility of criminal prosecution. The owners of light aircraft will also be brought under the system, known as e-borders, which will eventually track 250 million journeys annually.

Even swimmers attempting to cross the Channel and their support teams will be subject to the rules which will require the provision of travellers' personal information such as passport and credit card details, home and email addresses and exact travel plans.

The full extent of the impact of the government's "e-borders" scheme emerged amid warnings that passengers face increased congestion as air, rail and ferry companies introduce some of the changes over the Easter holidays.

Read original post at - 'All travel plans to be tracked by Government'


Friday, March 13, 2009

How to survive the coming century

Just how much 'mobility' will be enforced upon us through earth changes and global heating can never be truly estimated. The above image attempts to visualise a global world after a 4C temperature rise, by 2050. The above global changes are based on a recent New Scientist article called 'How to survive the coming century' which says that:

ALLIGATORS basking off the English coast; a vast Brazilian desert; the mythical lost cities of Saigon, New Orleans, Venice and Mumbai; and 90 per cent of humanity vanished. Welcome to the world warmed by 4 °C.

Clearly this is a vision of the future that no one wants, but it might happen. Fearing that the best efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions may fail, or that planetary climate feedback mechanisms will accelerate warming, some scientists and economists are considering not only what this world of the future might be like, but how it could sustain a growing human population. They argue that surviving in the kinds of numbers that exist today, or even more, will be possible, but only if we use our uniquely human ingenuity to cooperate as a species to radically reorganise our world.

The good news is that the survival of humankind itself is not at stake: the species could continue if only a couple of hundred individuals remained. But maintaining the current global population of nearly 7 billion, or more, is going to require serious planning.

The article was written by Gaia Vince, a freelance science writer currently traveling the world - his thoughtful blog Wandering Gaia is worth reading too.

Read original article - 'How to survive the coming century'


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

MIT researchers make 'sixth sense' gadget

Now here's something remarkable that might transform how information flows through daily lives. Check this out:

US university researchers have created a portable "sixth sense" device powered by commercial products that can seamlessly channel Internet information into daily routines.The device created by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) scientists can turn any surface into a touch-screen for computing, controlled by simple hand gestures.

The gadget can even take photographs if a user frames a scene with his or her hands, or project a watch face with the proper time on a wrist if the user makes a circle there with a finger. The MIT wizards cobbled a Web camera, a battery-powered projector and a mobile telephone into a gizmo that can be worn like jewelry. Signals from the camera and projector are relayed to smart phones with Internet connections.

"Other than letting some of you live out your fantasy of looking as cool as Tom Cruise in 'Minority Report' it can really let you connect as a sixth sense device with whatever is in front of you," said MIT researcher Patty Maes.

Maes used a Technology, Entertainment, Design Conference stage in Southern California on Wednesday to unveil the futuristic gadget made from store-bought components costing about 300 dollars (US). The device can recognize items on store shelves, retrieving and projecting information about products or even providing quick signals to let users know which choices suit their tastes.

The gadget can look at an airplane ticket and let the user know whether the flight is on time, or recognize books in a book store and then project reviews or author information from the Internet onto blank pages.The gizmo can recognize articles in newspapers, retrieve the latest related stories or video from the Internet and play them on pages.

"You can use any surface, including your hand if nothing else is available, and interact with the data," Maes said. "It is very much a work in progress. Maybe in ten years we will be here with the ultimate sixth-sense brain implant."

Go to original post - 'MIT researchers make 'sixth sense' gadget'


Monday, March 09, 2009

A Car Free 42nd Street - Can it be?

The Institute for Rational Urban Mobility (IRUM) has a grand plan for 42nd Street. It wants to close the entire thing down to auto traffic and build a 2.5 mile street-level train that runs from one end of the street to the other, transforming what is today a hellish car ride across the city into a soothing 20 minute trip. Can it really be done?


Many New Yorkers dread the area around 42nd Street. It's loud, the sidewalks are packed with confused tourists, and more often than not the traffic is a gridlocked mess. But one group believes that with some creative thinking and lots of money, that can all change.

.... George Haikalis, head of Institute, told that with New York canceling a planned subway extension, congestion pricing far from becoming a reality, and the Obama administration about to dole out a big stack of infrastructure money, there's never been a better time to transform 42nd Street.

"This project makes sense in good times, but in bad times too," Haikalis says. "In this economic climate, we need to do things that will make the city a more attractive place for both visitors and tourists."

Read original post - 'A Quieter, Calmer (and Car Free) 42nd Street'


Friday, March 06, 2009

Towards a Nomadic Fortress

One of my favourite blogsites - Subtopia - has a post called 'Towards a Nomadic Fortress' (I'm a bit behind on this post!) where Bryan Finoki discusses further about his ongoing interest in pervasive border spaces. Always a good read:

No longer just a question of contested territory, hard boundary lines, and stricter border enforcement between two nations, but a space that functions more ubiquitously on several paradoxes around global mobility and a rise in detention markets, detention politics, national security as the new global architecture. Rather than a single structure, the nomadic fortress is a whole syntax of control spaces linked across multiple landscapes that constitute perhaps the world’s first universal border fence, loosely connected across continents through a kind of geopolitical geometry that super-imposes a border just as much as enforces one between the First World and the Global South. It is, you might say, the Great Wall of Globalization.

This space has no regard for borders any more as we traditionally understand them, no respect for national territory; it hovers over and slips between those definitions, goes around and under them when it needs to, ultimately passing through border fixity as it sees fit. It is in some way the final border, a border that is never at rest but is always modifying itself for greater tactical vantage; a kind of flexible mock-hydrological regime that deploys and aligns other sub-border levers and valves below it to secure the conduits of neoliberal capitalism and the flows of people who are captives of them in one way or another. A structure that utilizes an entire atlas of border fences with a range of satellite technologies, web-based border vigilantes and extra-territorial floating prisons, to feed the border as a kind of geopolitical gutter space that siphons the subjects of migration off into a swollen infrastructure of detention where billions of dollars and are spent on their bounty...

...My essay Towards a Nomadic Fortress is a survey of the infrastructure of a border industrial complex, if you will, that is cashing in on creating and enforcing this new bordering, tracking down and detaining transients, unconscionably blurring the lines between immigration and national security to the point of total human rights devolution.

Read original post at - 'Towards a Nomadic Fortress'


Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Bus Rapid Transit v. Light Rail

The people over at Worldchanging have conducted an interview with a team of researchers at the World Resources Institute (WRI) on what's the smarter solution for bringing mobility to 21st century cities: is it bus rapid transit (BRT) or light rail?

Questions include:

Julia Levitt: In your study, you found that BRT outperformed light rail in cutting overall CO2 emissions. How did you come to that conclusion?

Critics of your report have pointed out that in North America, many people own cars, which gives them a choice that many riders overseas don't have, and that people who have the choice of driving a personal vehicle are often inclined to find light rail cars an acceptable alternative, but are less likely to ride buses. What's your take on this argument?

Although your report shows that BRT will cost about half the amount of a light rail system, other studies show that light rail systems, because they are permanent structures, do more to encourage transit-oriented development. Was TOD a factor in the EMBARQ study? Do you think that BRT can facilitate and encourage dense development at a similar level?

For the whole interview go to - 'Worldchanging Interview: WRI on Bus Rapid Transit v. Light Rail'


Monday, March 02, 2009

Google Ocean

Ocean is Google Earth's new addition to the company's virtual Earth model. And it looks set to make a splash! (sorry....)

Google Earth can now provide a detailed 3D view of features both above and below water, as this view of part of Hawaii shows (Image: Google)

Google Earth can now provide a detailed 3D view of features both above and below water, as this view of part of Hawaii shows (Image: Google)

The tool will allow users to fly beyond the beach and, in place of the flat seabed image of previous versions, see a shimmering, semi-transparent sea. Dive beneath it and the oceanic mountain ranges, trenches and abyssal plains are there for all to see. To try all that for yourself, download the latest version of the Google Earth software.

Google's usual satellite imaging can't peer through deep water to map the seabed. Instead, sound is the tool of choice when mapping the ocean floor. Passing sonar arrays over every patch of ocean is beyond even Google's means, so it has had to rely on the US navy for much of the information. As a result, some "sensitive" areas are blank. Other navies and research institutions around the world also provided data, helping Google Earth's software engineers to stitch together a map with a resolution in the order of 500 to 1000 metres. In areas where a lot of research groups operate, such as Monterey Bay in California, the resolution is down to a couple of metres - better than most of the land maps in Google Earth.

Read more at - 'Google Ocean adds detail to the depths'