Saturday, February 18, 2012

Layer 523 . . . Satirical Cartography, Stereotype Maps, Yanko Tsvetkov, and Occupy London: What Went Wrong?

Speaking as a bit of a geographer, and as a lover of maps, the idea of 'satirical cartography' is very appealing. What the hell is it?
Stereotype maps: Is that what they think of us?
Tim Dowling is both intrigued and mildly entertained by graphic artist Yanko Tsvetkov's satirical maps of national stereotypes. Plus, see a gallery of maps from Tsvetkov's collection
Yanko Tsvetkov's stereotype maps - in pictures
It's well known that Americans have a disarmingly blunt view of other nationalities, but seeing such brazen prejudices laid out, country by country, might shock even them. This is the world as depicted by graphic artist Yanko Tsvetkov. It is also a world in which gay men view Ireland as 'being in denial' and Greeks see the rest of Europe as a 'Union of Stingy Workaholics'.
"The World According to Americans" is real genius. As is "L’Europa Berlusconiana". In fact they all are.

"No matter where you're from, you should be able to find something here to offend you."


Rise of the 'phablet'

Occupy London: what went wrong?
It gave a voice to the usually ignored, but Occupy's consensual model has seen it too often take the path of least resistance
by John Harris
What it has taken to keep the London camp in existence is unimaginable, and as it splutters to a halt, it's worth reflecting on its very real successes.
So, here goes. Occupy LSX's impact on a dithering Church of England was a joy to see. There is no doubt that the people involved played an important role in the upsurge of anger that has lately crystallised around the issue of bonuses, and the fact that the byzantine Corporation of London has seen an unprecedented burst of interest in its affairs. At least some of the camp's output (read, for example, this piece by its economics working group) has defied all the caricatures, and been incisive and original.
It's now a cliche to malign the fact that the camp at St Paul's became a "magnet" for the homeless and addicted, but I'd rather look at that issue from a slightly different perspective: there and in Bristol, I was struck by the fact that the camps seemed to be giving voices and roles to people who are usually completely ignored (and if anyone should know about the downsides of neoliberalism – well, you get the point). Most importantly, whatever happens in the next few days, do not think we have seen the last of the hundreds of people involved.
And yet, and yet. As the St Paul's camp fades out, it's worth reflecting on what you might think of as the Poverty of Horizontalism, and the serious drawbacks of organising – or, rather, not organising – in the way that just about all the Occupy protests have. 
We all know the drill: clear demands have been spurned, any idea of leadership remains anathema, communing with mainstream politics is largely off the menu, and the running of everything is almost painfully collective.
"This is what democracy looks like," is the campers' mantra, and fair play to them: to watch all those general assemblies in full flow has been both exciting, and fascinating.
But here are the problems. As can happen with any rudderless collection of individuals, Occupy has often seemed to turn introspective, until the issue in danger of consuming them has been the camps themselves.
Moreover, given a consensual, effectively leaderless model of decision-making – "jazz hands", and all that – it has ended up, pretty much by definition, recurrently taking the path of least resistance. This matter of basic logic presumably explains the absence of a clever exit strategy, and why the St Paul's camp is so miserably fading away.
Any alternative, no matter how creative, would always be greeted with at least some opposition, whereas staying put and fizzling out proved to be the least controversial option. On Occupy's terms, the result is assuredly democratic. From the outside, it also looks tragic.
Towards the end of last year, the basic point was put pretty well by the venerable Malcolm Gladwell, who compared Occupy to the civil rights movement: "It was a carefully controlled, incredibly hierarchical, thoughtful, even Machiavellian assault on the status quo. It couldn't be more different than the Occupy movement."
A reminder: the state . . .  remains every bit as top down (verticalist, if you will) as ever. If you want spectacular proof, have a look at last night's scenes in Athens, or think about the imminent arrival of the law outside St Paul's. The same, needless to say, is true of the world's most powerful corporations.
Power, moreover, has a habit of ensuring that any potential threats are usually so diffuse as to represent no danger at all – and in the case of Occupy, the job may well have been done for it, with no need for any effort. The most basic argument may actually be even simpler: in the end, what is there to fear from a movement that is not only fading, but has had such profound problems articulating what it wants?

Thanks to Raj Patel for this link:


Battersea Power Station - demolish, develop or preserve?


Hyde Park concerts threatened by Londoners' noise complaints

Westminster council to debate reducing number of events held in royal park

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