Smart Cities Are Happening, Not in the Way We Are Told

In 2008, when the smart city movement began, Robert G. Hollands asked for “the real smart city to stand up.” Since then, there has been an intense and ongoing debate around this subject, as well as a number of projects self proclaiming their “smartness.” Great steps have been taken in some leading cities to explore how we turn digital innovation into public service improvements. But how do we get citizens involved as active agents of this digital urban revolution?

Source: Ciudades a Escala Humana

My Series About a ‘Movement with No Leaders’ Uncovered Many

I have an itch for documenting things. I’m captivated by the history of history — how we recount and relate our past to the present and the future. It’s why I’m drawn to futurism, and why I’m so fascinated by the way cities and social movements work.

When Jeremy Peters wrote Why the Gay Rights Movement Has No National Leader for The New York Times in 2009, I resolved to meet with founding members of the GLF, to see for myself if his claims were true. Over 10 days that summer, I caught up with surviving founders who, by that time, were scattered across the country.

The result was 40 Years After Stonewall, a commemoration of the 40th anniversary of the 1969 Stonewall Riots and the beginning of the modern queer rights movement.

In a short time, I explored the compelling lives of a group of kids who came to New York to “make it big,” or simply to be themselves, blending in with the city’s teeming diversity. How they converged, how their adventures brought them face-to-face with figures like Huey Newton of the Black Panthers, AIDS activist Larry Kramer and civil rights icon Jane Fonda, you can read for yourself on the Stonewall Rebels website.

These interviews are a resource for historians and activists. With Stonewall’s 50th anniversary approaching, I’m excited to see how we can improve on the 2009 series.

My Interview with Kevin Cathcart Cited in MI Journal of Gender and Law

My interview of Lambda Legal ED Kevin Cathcart for my series, 40 Years After Stonewall, was referenced in a 2015 issue of the Michigan Journal of Gender and Law.

Wyatt Fore’s article, DeBoer v. Snyder: A Case Study In Litigation and Social Reform,” came weeks before the US Supreme Court ruling in the landmark civil rights case, Obergefell v. Hodges. SCOTUS ruled that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the US Constitution. Fore’s abstract reads:

This Note examines DeBoer v. Snyder, the Michigan marriage case, with the goal of providing litigators and scholars the proper context for our current historical moment in which (1) the legal status of LGBT people; and (2) the conventional wisdom about the role of impact litigation in social reform movements are rapidly evolving.

On page 192, under the section, “DeBoer: A Defence of Litigation as a Social Reform Tool,” Fore writes:

Commentators often made the criticism that the LGBT movement relies “too much on the litigation groups and on legal victories” instead of “build[ing] a robust enough political arm,” resulting in a situation whereby “[g]ay marriage litigation may also have distracted attention from other items on the gay rights agenda.”

During the interview, I asked Cathcart if the idea of “radical” had changed in the 40 years since Stonewall, and to differentiate legal work from that of other advocacy groups, to which he answered:

What I’m about to say may seem like a strange criticism of the movement (coming from me), but I think that for a long time the movement and LGBT people relied too much on the litigation groups and on legal victories to move our rights forward and didn’t build a robust enough political arm. The work of building more political strength has been going on the past several years but we are weak on the ground in lots of places, including Washington, D.C. where we are still fighting for passage of Hate Crimes and employment protections and for a repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Our movement needs more legal resources, but it also needs more political power; when we have both we will be unstoppable.

As Lambda Legal’s Online Content Specialist for two years, I ghostwrote Cathcart’s monthly column and for lead attorneys on landmark cases, including Varnum v. Brien. Many thanks to Fore for including the interview, and for this informative article.

SDSN Workshop, Governance in Resilience in Rio de Janeiro

Workshop participants mapped the current state of cooperation among institutions at the metropolitan level and recommended solutions for improving governance in the two fields of resilience and mobility.

Participants debated on the urgent need for better monitoring and the inclusion of civil society. There was consent about the necessity for decentralization of urban development and management in order to achieve better governance and urban mobility. By creating new centralities, mobility demands can be distributed more evenly throughout the region. Currently, high levels of congestion are caused by the fact that the majority of commutes within the metropolitan region take place between the outer municipalities and the capital city of Rio de Janeiro, where the majority of jobs and services are located.

The need for integrated planning, communication and participation among different sectors, territories and levels of governance were some of the main recommendations identified from the workshops.

Source: 2016 Metro Governance Workshop Notes via SDSN

From Tunis to Tahrir and Beyond

Vint Cerf warns if we don’t build better systems for data, “people will lose trust in the internet, in which case its utility will begin to dissipate.”

Cerf is Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist and a father of the internet (standards and technologies he co-created in the 70s still form the basis of the net today). He believes the internet itself is not a right, but rather an enabler of rights.

One such enabler, Google’s Project Loon, will connect the world’s most remote areas with broadband balloons traveling at the edge of space. If successful, it could help to circumvent bans imposed by authoritarian regimes, as seen during the Arab Spring.

“I harbor this hope as a technologist, that there will be tools available to let people make their conversations private on an end-to-end basis,” Cerf says. “To open up what would otherwise be a very closed environment.”