February 16th, 2010

[META] Blogroll suggestions?

A while back, the Yorkshire Ranter had reminded me that the blogosphere isn't a unified entity but rather a collection of multiply overlapping social networks, these networks being separated from each other by language and nationality and specific interests. The examples that he gives are the Chinese and British blogospheres, each largely self-contained with their own concerns despite these concerns' relevance and interest.

Myself, it took me a fairly big push to find the various social sicence blogs I've added in the past couple of months to my blogrolls, going onto the Internet rather than depending on blog friends' blogrolls. I just wouldn't have found them.

So. What blogs--blogs I might have found on my own, blogs I might not have thought of--would you recommend for my reading (and, through [LINK] and other posts, my readers' reading)? I anticipate the results.

[BRIEF NOTE] Poor Macquarie island

While idly reading about the Antarctic region on Wikipedia yesterday, I happened upon the entry for Macquarie Island, a subantarctic island roughly midway between New Zealand and Antarctica that's under Australian jurisdiction. We've managed to inflict numerous ecological horrors on that isolated island with its unique ecology, of course.

The ecology of the island was affected soon after the beginning of European visits to the island in 1810. The island's fur seals, elephant seals and penguins were killed for fur and blubber. Rats and mice that were inadvertently introduced from the ships prospered due to lack of predators. Cats were subsequently introduced deliberately to keep the rodents from eating human food stores. In about 1870, rabbits were left on the island by sealers to breed for food. By the 1970s, the then 130,000 rabbits were causing tremendous damage to vegetation.[4]

The feral cats introduced to the island have had a devastating effect on the native seabird population, with an estimated 60,000 seabird deaths per year. From 1985, efforts were undertaken to remove the cats. In June 2000, the last of the nearly 2500 cats were culled in an effort to save the seabirds.[5] Although seabird numbers began to rise initially, the removal of the cats allowed a rapid growth in the number of rats and rabbits which together are causing widespread environmental damage.

The rabbits rapidly multiplied before numbers were reduced to about 10,000 in the early 1980s when myxomatosis was introduced. Rabbit numbers have grown again to around 100,000 on the island.[6] The rodents feed on young chicks while rabbits nibbling on the grass layer has led to soil erosion and cliff collapses, destroying seabird nests. Large portions of the Macquarie Island bluffs are eroding as a result. In September 2006 a large landslip at Lusitania Bay, on the eastern side of the island, partially destroyed an important penguin breeding colony. Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service attributed the landslip to a combination of heavy spring rains and severe erosion caused by rabbits.[7]

Research by Australian Antarctic Division scientists, published in the 13 January 2009 edition of the British Ecological Society's Journal of Applied Ecology, showed that the success of the feral cat eradication program has allowed the rabbit population to increase, damaging the Macquarie Island ecosystem by altering significant areas of island vegetation.[8]

On 4 June 2007 a media release by the Australian Federal Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, announced that the Australian and Tasmanian Governments had reached an agreement to jointly fund the eradication of rodent pests, including rabbits, to protect Macquarie Island's World Heritage values.[9] The plan, estimated to cost $24 million Australian dollars, will involve mass baiting the island similar to an eradication program on New Zealand's Campbell Island[10] and is expected to take up to seven years.[11]

There's something almost funny in the one-after-the-other chain of ecological catastrophes, isn't there?

[LINK] "Anti-immigration MP Pauline Hanson plans a move of her own – to Britain"

Ironies are fantastic. This is almost as good as Jörg Haider's visits to Slovakian prostitutes.

Pauline Hanson, the far-right, flame-haired, fish-and-chip-shop owner who campaigned for the Australian Parliament on an antiimmigration platform, complained that the country had become a harder place to live in, with fewer opportunities. She said that she was selling her property southwest of Brisbane and, after taking a cruise and visiting New Zealand, wanted to live in Britain indefinitely. </p>

Ms Hanson’s grandfather emigrated to Australia from England in 1908 and her mother’s family are Irish. She is understood to hold dual citizenship. She will leave her four adult children behind. “Australia will always be my home. But I love England and Ireland. My mother’s family come from Limerick and my father’s from London. I love the culture,” Ms Hanson said. “Every country has something unique to offer and I want to experience that.”

She told the Australian Woman’s Day magazine: “Our governments lack enough people with the fortitude to speak up without fear or favour. Over-regulation, increasing taxes and lack of true representation are affecting our way of life.

[LINK] "The patterns of place"

This Emergent Urbanism post on Brooklyn should get some interesting, informative reactions from my readership, I bet. I like what Mathieu Helie has to say about the overlapping, even dialogical, nature of urban development. (Is Brooklyn dominated by "Americanized Dutch" architecture?)

A city’s identity is made by the patterns selected by the people who built them. We can also say that these patterns are the fossil record of the people who inhabited a place. We can read the history, the culture and the sustainability of a place by the combination of its patterns. A building is a hierarchical computation of different processes nested within each other, and these processes can be substituted for others depending on what conditions are encountered.

At the largest scale of patterns there is the building program, whether a house, a church, an office, easily recognizable in any cultural setting. These programs are realized using construction techniques that are conditioned on economic constraints. The Dutch who settled New York City brought with them their basic house program, but these had to adapt to the resources available by, for example, building in brownstone, an economic pattern. Despite this difference they kept features of their homes like stoops, patterns that were at first environmental but then became cultural.

As each successive culture either migrates to or emerges in the city, it needs to adapt the patterns of its buildings to fit its own practices. Fractals like these become habitual

This is Chinatown in Brooklyn. We can tell it is Brooklyn because the basic patterns, program and materials, are Americanized Dutch. We can tell it is Chinatown because of the use of vertical commercial signs which are characteristic of oriental cultures (their writing being read top-to-bottom instead of left-to-right). The large-scale patterns are extended by smaller-scale patterns to form a full building fractal that is Dutch, American, New York and Chinese. This combination of pattern is the identity of Brooklyn, the people who have lived there and continue to live there.

One particular culture that has often been denounced as an anti-culture is the global corporation. Their aesthetic program has been to impose their corporate identity uniformly on communities, regardless of any consideration for local economic, environmental, or cultural factors. But there have been exceptions, such as the following case, where the corporation decided to extend the patterns of the neighborhood instead of imposing its own.</p>

This Dunkin’ Donuts nested itself seamlessly in an old Dutch building next to a Chinese restaurant, and even improved upon it a bit with orange awnings that preserve the structure of the windows while announcing the presence of this corporate neighbor to everyone on the street. As well as being a demonstration of Dunkin’s neighborliness, it is also a demonstration of the sustainability of the neighborhood. The buildings are resilient, and despite the Dutch builders never anticipating that there could ever exist such a thing as a Dunkin’ Donuts, their patterns have been slightly adapted to fit today’s needs. Some day Dunkin’ Donuts will also be history. In its place will be some other culture which may or may not preserve traces of Dunkin’s presence, but the building itself will remain and serve a new purpose.

Go, read it all.

[LINK] "'Mutual Friends' as Culture"

Savage Minds' Adam Fish has an interesting post describing how he makes use of social networking sites like Facebook.

I ‘friend’ and ‘follow’ on Facebook and Twitter many of my informants working in the multidisciplinary world of social entrepreneurship. It can be helpful in a number of ways. Personal profile pages on social media sites form databases for the usual information that takes up the first 10 minutes of an interview and from which class assessments can be made (education, current city, hometown city, religion, politics, etc). This is a good resource for anthropologists interested in links between social capital and digital culture, but I want to explore how Facebook’s ‘mutual friends’ groupings are data sets for anthropologists.

So I do this regular ritual on Facebook. I find someone doing something innovative in regards to new media business and philanthropy and immediately request their Facebook friendship and follow them on Twitter. My informants, they tell me, do the same thing. (I got the idea from them). I post links of enlightening new media blogs and sociotechical events that would interest my ‘friends’ of scholars, business people, and activists. I do this to save my links and to give a realtime display of my research questions and investigations. (I started doing this to mimic the practices of my informant friends.) They are doing this, I am doing this, and everyone is up-to-date on what interests each other on that particular day. This practice creates a space of intellectual affinity and reflexive transparency. For an anthropological study of voracious polymaths who value innovation and discovery such as new media social entrepreneurs it is essential to stay abreast and also contribute to their intellectual curiosity.

I do this other thing too. I click on the Facebook page of one of my key informants and see the mutual friends we have. With this one key informant, we have 60 mutual friends. There are journalists, documentarians, engineers, marketers, designers, academics, philosophers, and technologists in this web of ‘mutual friends.’ John Postill encouraged us to ask if this is a public, a network, a community, a culture, or a business consortium? In an era of transnationality and affinity cultures such static categories have questionable validity. Artificial categories of ‘mutual friend’ provided by dynamic social media sites might be useful to think with when pondering the boundaries and dimensions of informant’s ‘culture’. What the FB ‘mutual friends’ is is a specific group of people with shared values and practices regarding the theory and use of social media. This praxis is updated and refreshed by the minute, debated and experimented with everyday, and forming actual world actions and communities throughout the year.

This increasing shift away from establishing links with actual friends to acquiring more functional online "friends" for specific reasons, Fish goes on to suggest, may well threaten the longevity of online social networks by making them less meeting places to which one's attached and more interchangeable sites of no particular important.


[LINK] "The Commonwealth Realms of the Caribbean and the end of the British Empire"

Noel Maurer has a post wondering about the role of the monarchy in the Commonwealth Caribbean. Trinidad and Tobago ended up opting for a republic, he notes, but in Grenada--even in the Grenada of the Marxist New Jewel Movement--the monarchy managed to persist.

People’s Order Number 1 declared, “The People’s Revolutionary Government now formerly enacts the Constitution of Grenada as hereby, has been suspended.” People’s Order Number 2 said that the People’s Revolutionary Government “shall be vested of executive and legislative power and the People’s Revolutionary Government shall appoint a Prime Minister.” People’s Order Number 4 went on to end all appeals to West Indian or British courts, People’s Order Number 7 established the People’s Revolutionary Army, People’s Order Number 8 created “preventative detention,” and People’s Order Number 10 reiterated the fact that the PRG was, in fact, issuing people’s orders: “For the time being, all People’s Laws shall become effective upon oral declaration and/or on publication of Radio Free Grenada by the Prime Minister or in the official Gazette under the hand of the Prime Minister.”

The weird thing was People’s Order Number 3. “The Head of State shall remain Her Majesty The Queen, and her representative in this country shall continue to be the Governor General who shall perform such functions as the People’s Revolutionary Government may from time to time advise.”

This became a problem when the U.S. was groping around for a legal rationale to intervene. They found a Governor-General, Paul Scoon, ready and waiting to provide them with one. In one of the stranger episodes in the long slow replacement of Britain’s empire with America’s not-empire, the British high commissioner to Grenada carried messages to the Governor-General on behalf of the United States and OECS,
without London’s knowledge.

What, he wonders, was going on with the monarchy? Did it last because people cared about it, or was it just something people had left to itself because of inertia or simple lack of caring?