... in streetart

Rio de Janeiro as a smart city

04 Mar 2012 | 499 words | brazil rio smart cities streetart urbanism technology

The New York Times has a longish article portraying the Operations Center of the City of Rio that has been build by IBM’s smarter cities unit.

In the article both the city of Rio de Janeiro and IBM portray the operations center as some kind of magic wand that enables the benevolent city government to steer the daily life of the city’s population using video feeds and text messages:

City employees in white jumpsuits work quietly in front of a giant wall of screens — a sort of virtual Rio, rendered in real time. Video streams in from subway stations and major intersections. A sophisticated weather program predicts rainfall across the city. A map glows with the locations of car accidents, power failures and other problems.

[…] Rio represents a grand challenge. A horizontal city sprawled between mountains and the Atlantic Ocean, it is at once a boomtown, a beach town, a paradise, an eyesore, a research center and a construction site. Oil-industry giants like Halliburton and Schlumberger have been rushing to build research centers here to help develop massive oil and gas fields off the coast.

Special police units have moved into about 20 slums, called favelas, in an effort to assert government control and combat crime. Rio is also reconstructing major arenas and building a rapid-bus system ahead of the 2014 World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympics.

This is a city where some of the rich live in gated communities while some of the poor in the favelas pirate electricity from the grid. And where disasters, natural and otherwise, sometimes strike. Rainstorms can cause deadly landslides. Last year, a historic streetcar derailed, killing five people. Earlier this year, three buildings collapsed downtown, killing at least 17.

[…] In real flood conditions, the operations center decides when to set off the sirens. That decision is based on I.B.M.’s system, which uses computer algorithms to predict how much rain will fall in a given square kilometer — a far more precise forecast than standard weather systems provide. When the program predicts heavy rain, the center sends out text messages to different departments so they can prepare.

The article lists a number of criticism of this surveillance based approach to smart cities:

Some wonder if it is all for show, to reassure Olympic officials and foreign investors. Some worry that it will benefit well-off neighborhoods more than the favelas. Others fear that all this surveillance has the potential to curb freedoms or invade privacy. Still others view the center as a stopgap that does not address underlying infrastructure problems.

Which seems perfectly summarized by this graffiti that i came across in central Rio last january (two days after the building collapse mentioned in the NYT article above, which took place within 10 minutes walking distance from the location of the graffiti).

Smart city graffiti

Makes me wonder if the graffiti artists was referring to a general tendency or to the Operations Center of the City of Rio in particular.

Streetfighting immigrants rocks

11 Jan 2009 | 42 words | streetart railways urbanism migration amsterdam

Photo of a grafitti on a metro bridge between the A4 motorway and the Amsterdam-Zuid schiphol train tracks near the knooppunt nieuwe meer. Without climbing fences and walking on railway tracks it is only visible from trains running between Amsterdam-Zuid and Schiphol…

This is not a bomb, this is just for the lulz

Speaking about silliness of the struggle against terrorism, it seems that a bunch of people in Boston have teamed up to celebrate the one year anniversary of the aqua team hunger force LED ads bomb scare in the only sensible way, that is by putting up lots of LED art up on the streets, walls and bridges of boston:

This is interesting – it seems that a group of artists have celebrated 1-31-07 in their own way and have created a series of political themed LED art sculptures and (you guessed it) placed them all over Boston. […] Get there before the robots do. [via make check out their site for many more photos]


01 Aug 2006 | 348 words | lebanon war amsterdam streetart protest cities

After yesterday’s extremely depressing and upsetting morning news i went running (which is always a sensible thing when you don’t know what to do and/or are angry). During that run i was thinking what to do about the whole situation and finally came up with something that seemed like a sensible idea:

In the last two weeks mazen kerbaj’s drawings have been one of the strongest most vivid expressions of the whole mess that is unfolding in lebanon that i came across (to the extend that i am dissapointed every time i wake up and there are no new ones). Now what are drawings if not posters-in-waiting that can easily been printed out and stuck against the walls of the city? Clearly one only has to print them out, copy them a couple of times, get wallpaper-glue and head out into the night (ok, first wait some 10 hours for night). So i spend some of Sunday night sticking a4 sized mini-posters all over the walls of my neighborhood (the Pijp) in Amsterdam.

after 19 days i started to cry ...

More pictures taken on Monday morning before going to work on my flickr account.

Yesterday evening i did a second round (around Leidseplein in the center), and i am planning to continue for the next couple of nights. Hopefully these relatively small posters will catch some eyeballs and make more people think and start expressing their outrage.

Apart from the obvious advantage of making me feel like i am doing something about the situation, i also like this little action on a symbolic level. It feels like translating a blog (something normally contained to the internets) into something that is part of the urban fabric. I like the idea of images leaking from my screen into the streets of amsterdam and would probably be even more beautiful if people in other cities started doing the same… (in case you feel like it here are a4-sized printable versions of some of Mazen’s drawings)

update [5 august]: here are more pdf files with newer drawings, which i used yesterday night.

Milk free youth!!

09 May 2006 | 224 words | africa streetart milk food amsterdam netherlands

So everybody who knows me a bit will know that i am not particularly fond of all things white and liquid. basically i hate all white milk based products (except mozzarella cheese & ice cream) to the extend that i get physically sick just by being to cose to them or thinking about them. the stuff makes me literally shiver…

Now the dutch are particularily fond of milk! they seem to eat large amounts of cheese, produce one of the moost awful substances in the whole universe (‘vla’) and even think that it is ok to have a glass of milk for lunch (for adults!!). they seem to be so fond of all things milk that they commission art-works for public space that cherish diary products: on a playground along my route to work there is a giant milk-bottle sculpture. needless to say this thing used to give me the creeps every time i cycled past it. now some kind soul seems to have had mercy and has added a message that i can wholeheartedly support:

Milk free youth

Still makes me wonder what the original sculpture was meant to say: kids in africa a worse off [ :( ]because they do not get a bottle of milk every day? and the dutch kids need to internalize this while enjoying themselves on the playground?

Avian influenza

06 Mar 2006 | 41 words | berlin streetart public transport pandemic

I am sick, given all the pooh-ha in the media i one would like to assume that it is the bird flu, especially with pale ducks appearing on the u-bahn in Berlin over the weekend. i am feeling doomed….

Pale Duck

Everybody needs an iPod

02 Feb 2006 | 146 words | europe migration poverty technology music streetart

Seems like everybody and his mother needs an iPod nowadays. First it is american senators who need the shiny device in order to understand that copying is not all that bad as the MPAA and RIAA tell them. Next thing you know it is the starving masses in our former colonies that demand the accessory of choice among the spoiled inhabitants of the former colonial powers. At least that is the message of stencil graffiti’s (by mantis) that have recently appeared in the UK:

Now as it is already known that people do horrible things to get their iPods, so maybe this is another incentive to try a little bit harder in keeping the have-nots out. We really don’t want them to mug iPods from senators thereby sending us to another dark age reigned by chaos, DRM and poverty – or something like this. (via gizmodo)

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: