Monday, September 24, 2007


This is just a short post. A kind of opening of space and a place holder at the same time. But, I am really thinking about conceptions of space and how they are totally being challenged and reworked by the realm of the internet and social networking. What space means and why it still holds so much importance.
Why do people who work in the same industry drawn to the same geographic space when their careers involve sitting infront of computers that are linked up to the internet and could just as easily work from anywhere. What is it about these spaces that draw people to them?
How is this going to rework the realm of cities and countries? Are you going to see more and more rich, educated and wired individuals moving to small and developing countries for the benefits of cheaper and interesting spaces?

Anyway, I think that there is plenty of juice in here.

Saturday, August 25, 2007


Interests: Political Economics and Development Theory, Global Finance, Theoretical Conceptualizations of Development, Space, Place and Time. The role of history and geography. Concepts of globalization

Region: Africa and specifically South Africa.

Question: How do we understand opportunities for development in Africa and how are these opportunities limited by theoretical conceptualizations of both development and Africa as a space? How can we disable limiting and constraining theoretical conceptualizations and rework them with the goal of creating enabling and empowering theoretical conceptualizations? What inhibits this change? What role does race, sex, history, geography play in enabling/disabling theoretical frameworks for change?


Politics, Economics, Development, Political Economics, Space, Place, Time, Theory, Change, Social Movements, Environment, Policy, Opportunity, Policy, South Africa, Africa, Developing World, Global Finance, Theoretical Understandings, Limits, Constraints, Possibilities, Room to Maneuver.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Constraints of Change

What has happened since the end of Apartheid? How has it reconfigured the local relationships of communities? How are white & non-white communities dealing with the new engagement with the global community? What is enabling or constraining one community to grow and prosper? What does the land question mean in Cape Town? How are communities dealing with the arrival of large informal settlements? Why have some communities become antagonized by this arrival while others have avoided it completely? Why have squatters chosen one location over another? What role does local politics and history play in the arrival of large informal settlements? And, how has the local community reacted? How has the engagement with the global economy reworked local economies? What has enabled some communities to deal with this new engagement on a much more successful level then other communities? What role does history play in this? Race? Class?

Understanding how a much broader political and economic opening has affected relationships and communities on the ground leads to understandings of negotiating political and economic change? Is there any way to make broader generalizations? How do we understand the process of change and its relationship to history and geography?

Many questions....not clear on how to even explore potential answers.

Friday, August 17, 2007

Hout Bay

Okay I think I have another idea for a comparison site to my Kalk Bay idea - Hout Bay. This is another Cape Town community that is located about 20 minutes from the city center. It is on the Atlantic coast line but also has a long and varied history. It includes an old fishing community that has struggled to survive and has a deep history in the Apartheid state and post-apartheid state.

I don't know much about the history of Hout Bay or its local white and non-white communities. Hout Bay like Kalk Bay has seen a massive increase in property prices and a consequently a massive population growth. It is important to note that Hout Bay is far larger community than Kalk Bay and is nestled in a valley and bay that leads to limited interaction with surrounding communities. In fact at one point in the late 80's Hout Bay's residents tried to create the Republic of Hout Bay - which many in the surrounding communities found to be a laughable idea.

In recent years Hout Bay has seen the growth of a very large squatter camp that has also been linked with large increases in crime. Many of the wealthy residents who have large homes and estates have complained and demanded the destruction and removal of this squatter camp. It has lead into national and local political debates and has become another clear example of the land issue in South Africa and the need for those to earn a living in their local communities. It has become a central playground for all types of political opportunists etc.

What I think is interesting is that this fishing community has historically had a much more contentious and tension ridden relationship with its local white community then that of the fishing community of Kalk Bay.

Many of the residents of this squatter community have stated that there just wasn't enough housing or land for the local fishing communities families in their allocated areas that they were pushed out into the surrounding areas. This has of course lead to an increase in other people's looking for a place to live.

What is interesting is that this site of chosen squatter community does not sit on any public transport lines, and is in fact in a location that is fairly hard to get in and out of. In many sense setting up a squatter community in a place like Kalk Bay would make far better sense as you have excelent access to the public transport system which leads in all directions - to the city center as well as the surrounding industrial/commercial suburbs on the outside of the city center. It is also closer to the the Cape Flats where many of the non-white community was forcibly moved. It is important to note that Kalk Bay is about 15 minutes from the Cape Flats - it is in walking distance. Yet, there has never been an effort at squatting in Kalk Bay nor any truly contentious land issues. What has created this different relationship - does the role of the local community create this. Are the local fishermen in Kalk Bay far more protective of this relationship. What role does the communities efforts at creating homeless shelters, what role has the "tourism effect" had on this.

I am not certain what it is but there seems to me a set of comparisons that could be made between Hout and Kalk Bay. These spaces in many senses have communities that have lived next to each other but that the spatial configurations are very different. The white community in Kalk Bay living literally side-by-side with the non-white fishing community. While in Hout Bay the communities have been historically apart. I do not know if there ever was an effort to remove the non-white community from Hout Bay, and if there was, what role the local white community played. Nor do I know the local politics and history of this politics. But, it appears that there are two very different sets of relationships in these different Bay's.
Hout Bay is a far more contentious relationship and the Kalk Bay relationship is far more harmonious.

What role has economics played in this. In part you have fishing communities facing increased competition - but, while Kalk Bay fishermen have managed to build an economic relationship with the local community (selling their fish to local residents, restaurants and tourists) while Hout Bay has struggled much more to create this same type of relationship.

I think that there is a lot to be explored here and I think that the local histories and politics, the new connections with the global capital and the role of changing land ownership and real estate prices are all things that have played into this relationship and changing relationships.

This is something that I think needs far more investigation and I foresee me doing more of this when I return to SA in the new year for several months.

Once again I want to understand how these histories, geographies, politics and economics play into creating a set of opportunities and conjunctions that lead to political debates in a much broader spectrum and how crossing racial and historical cleavages can create new relationships.

How do we understand these differences, how do we work with them, and how do we create understandings and thinkings that enable a type of standard of living that is both decent and sustainable.

I will continue to think about these issues and this relationship and see where it leads me.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Kalk Bay

Okay so I have been playing with these very big ideas that are way overwhelming and therefore have been struggling to find a way to ground them in a way that I can actually start seeing these relationships. To see if my thinking and ideas (for which I owe much credit to Gillian Hart at UC Berkeley, and the theories of people like Doreen Massey and many others) have some validity in the grounded reality of our world. If you want a little more insight into some of the ideas that I am grappling with read some of my earlier posts - though it may just confuse matters futher ;-)

So I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about this little town (or more like a suburb/hamlet of the broader city of Cape Town). This town is called Kalk Bay. It is incredibly beautiful and about 20 minutes south of the city. It is wedged between the Table Mountain Nature Reserve and the Indian Ocean. The town can't have a population much bigger the 2000 people. It has a long and interesting history. It has a population of white and non-white South Africans who have lived side-by-side for many many generations. The local non-white population was able to withstand attempts at forced desegregation. I believe (and this needs to be verified) that the local white population was involved in assisting this resistance to forced desegregation which was imposed on many of the non-white communities up and down the Cape Peninsula and entire South African country. The town itself is bordered to the north and the south by two other hamlets/towns with very different histories and geographies - namely Fish Hoek and Muizenberg.

Hence these populations lived in close proximity together. Thought, there were always two elementary schools - one for whites and one for the non-whites. The non-white population made there living of fishing and remain one of the few small fishing communities in South Africa to this day. The town was rather poor and dilapidated though in an earlier colonial era (pre institutionalized apartheid) was one of the playgrounds for the royalty and wealthy Jews of South Africa and beyond.

This town is now going through a massive transformation in great part lead by the huge property boom of South Africa. Housing prices have shot skywards limiting access to many local families (white and non-white). Kalk Bay has increasingly become a tourist destination pulling in large crowds to its predominantly white owned restaurants and antique stores. The local non-white population has in many ways benefited from this as it has a new market to sell its fish too. All the local restaurants serve fresh fish that is obtained directly from the local fishermen. These same fishermen have had to seriously negotiate the opening up of South Africa to the global economy, fighting for their rights to catch a certain amount of fish from the waters that they have fished for generations; now coming into competition with the global fishing companies. This is a side note and I don't know much about this political and economic process but it is certainly something that could do with further exploration.

What is interesting in all this is how the local population of Kalk Bay is negotiating this new opening and the new political elements that have come with the post-apartheid government.
The local children all attend the same public elementary school - though there is a local private catholic school as well. That the local community has made strident efforts at creating homeless shelters and dealing with some of the elements of poverty that pervade South African society.

Kalk Bay has also been able to avoid many of the criminal elements that have dominated much of South African urban life in the past 10 years. However these elements seem to increase as the population increases and the amount of homes built increases.

The reconfiguration of the local municipalities has also impacted Kalk Bay bringing it into relationship with the neighboring towns and the broader city of Cape Town. Prior to these reconfigurations the need to rely on central Cape Town or its neighbors was greatly limited and defined in very different ways. Once again I know little on this subject and would have to dig into it further.

I am not sure if this is a good starting point or not to ground my much bigger theoretical thinkings but is certainly is a space that has many elements that come together in very historically and geographically specific relationships. The history of local interactions, the geography of the land, the environment, the entering of the global capital, the gentrification and the continued efforts and creating a society of equality and prosperity to name but a few.

Constraints and Possibilities

Yes I grapple with understanding possibilities for change. How is change constrained and enabled? What empowers and disempowers? How does theory and understandings lead to options of change? What actors, histories, geographies and relationships enable a place of change? For me change is the most interesting thing about life. How we are given moments and opportunites - perhaps given is not the right word - lets rather say "use". How do we use moments and opportunities to create new relationships?
We have multiple levels of relationships that we constantly need to negotiate. These relationships do not go one way - they are two way and that is what makes it so incredibly interesting. It is not about the extremes on this continuum but rather the gray areas.
How a society creates the economic opportunities for itself and its people and what limits this and what enables this?
I understand that there are always a set of specific relationships both grounded in historically and geographically specific understandings that lead to a set of possibilities and opportunities and constraints. Understanding that we are neither passive recipients of such forces as global capital or more broadly globalization and are neither completely free to define as we see fit these relationships. But, that rather we are in a constant relationship - perhaps dialectical, though I am not convinced - with these elements and that they are in no way monolithic.
It is this that is empowering understanding that our histories and geographies are truly relevant to the construction and relationship to these elements. It is this that actually enables new understandings and possibilities.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

What has changed

Broadly speaking I grapple with what the political change has meant and means for South Africa. What opportunities has it given and in what way's is it reworking the local socio-economic relationships. Having been born and raised in Cape Town South Africa I continue to focus on this space as one filled with contradictions and beauties. Often Cape Town is viewed as a European city at the tip of Africa. In many regards this may be true - it has a large white population, it's urban planning and layout is very European in style and exudes many of those qualities. But this interpretation undermines several factors - that it has a large non-white population that is often lives and has lived next door to their white countrymen.
The economic dynamics of Cape Town have been radically changed in the last 10 years with the opening up of the South African economy. Cape Town has become the "chosen" destination for large swathes of Europeans and the play ground for many of the rich and famous. In this regard it is putting increased strain on the local population - white and non-white - who have lived in Cape Town for many many generations. Cape Town has always been a city about nature, about the geography of the landscape and urban environment. No one ever talked about moving to or living in Cape Town because of the economic opportunities. Unlike Johannesburg which has been predominantly focused as an economic powerhouse filled with potential opportunities.
In this way South Africa's political miracle has caused massive re workings of the local economy - most vividly in the real estate of Cape Town. This has placed increased pressure on the long time residents who can often no longer afford to live in the towns that they have inhabited for generations and places serious limitations on the ability of those who where once forcibly moved to relocate to better neighborhoods.
In this way understanding the change and what potentials it offers the population and how local residents are dealing with these changes is of incredible fascination to me.
What does development mean in an urban space that is increasing gentrified and how are longtime residents responding to this. This opening up of South Africa has created a closing up of many opportunities and neighborhoods throughout the city landscape.
My fascination rests on the ideas of paradigm shifts - how they are created and how the are potentially replicated in form if not in function.
One example in particular rests with the town of Kalk Bay - it is a tiny little hamlet on the coast about 20 minutes south of the city center. It has been in existence for many hundreds of years as a fishing village and has a population of non-white residents that successfully fought forced desegregation (they refused to be moved). This town has always then had a mixture of white and non-white living side by side. Kalk Bay was always a sleepy town that you would go to to purchase fresh fish. Now it has become on of the hippest and most "wanted" locations in Cape Town. The local fishermen have become a tourist attraction and have found their wares in high demand at the local high end restaurants that cater to the burgeoning tourist population. In this way the integration of this town has developed in such a way as to potentially benefit both populations. However the housing costs have risen astronomically in the past 5 to 10 years making it nearly impossible for local residents to afford to purchase homes. How then can the economic development and political rights of the new South AFrica be understood. Does this town offer us a new and interesting opportunity to understand the legacy and interaction with the new global economy and how it is reworking the local socio-economic dynamics of South Africa.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Theories and Paradigm Shifts

How does one contribute to the world of theory and thoughts. For me it is all about paradigm shifts. How do we create them, how have they been created and are they really sudden shifts or the product of years and decades if not centuries of efforts at their creation.
You see, for me, in this crazy world of the 21st century when we, the human species, are facing a potential crunch and catastrophic demise of us - in the end it is not about the earth it is about us in a very selfish way - a shift of understanding, of thinking, of perceiving and of interaction is needed. Not some new technology, some wonderful energy source or any such "rational" solution.
It is about changing the stories that guide us as societies. It is this that excites me, scares me and keeps me awake at night. I don't know how we create this change, nor what would catalyze such a change. But, I do know in my heart of hearts that it is needed. There have been moments of shifting in humanity. Not that it has always been good or bad. Perhaps that is a silly distinction to try and make anyway. What I do know is that I grew up in a country driven by a set of stories, (or what some would call - myself included, at times - ideologies). These stories for some people were true - "the black man will drive all whites into the ocean", "the civilizing mission", "defend SA from the communist terrorists like Nelson Mandela".
These are but some of the stories that I grew up with. They were in the TV news, newspapers, schools, history books, lunch time tea room chats. They pervaded everything in our society and culture. Yet, there was also a counter story, an understanding that this paradigm that had been created by our racist and sexist government was not the "truth". That it was only a version of reality that was constantly reinforced by the propaganda machines.
Then, one day, something clicked, something changed. What? Why? Did it really change? If not, why not? What is it that we can learn from this transition. Can one ever replicate this type of shift.
A shift from a society driven by stories of racism and fear to as society driven by a new story of possibility and capitalist wealth. Yes, the transition, the new story driving South Africa is not necessarily the best, the solution, the end all of stories. I am not sure that there is one. But, no matter which way you look at it - a shift occurred on an unprecedented level.
It is this type of change that is so critical, it is understanding how to create and put pressure on the levers that creates a sense of possibility in our world society.
The next shift needs, and I want to emphasize the word "needs", to happen on a global level. We have the technologies of communication, we have a global sense of ourselves for the first time. It needs to be global because the issues we face are global and we need to understand how to push such a shift to the fore.
For me the answer, the know-how, rests somewhere in theory, in stories, in how we see the world and how we tell and are told the stories of life and liberty and happiness. It is these stories that make us get up out of bed with either fear and loathing in our hearts or with happiness and possibility.
I want to be part of creating these new stories, of exploring theories and creating new understandings that take advantage of the cracks in the facade that exist and help create new spaces for thought and action. I am not interested in creating a new technology, of finding a new miracle cure, of using less energy and driving an eco car. These are like band aids on a wound that is sooo gaping that it is impossible to cover with little band aids.
We have to face the fact as a species that we need to rethink the whole equation - the whole structure that has been built up over the past 500 years. It is time to engage a new way of being, of sharing on such a fundamental level that for me at this point in my life it is indescribable.
It is something that I strive to understand and contribute too. It has been much of an internal journey - and it is one that I am trying to find a way of expressing and understanding. Of writing about, researching and expressing. With the ultimate goal of contributing to the rewriting of our stories so that a new story can be told and lead to a new set of possibilities. Perhaps this is a romantic notion, but for me, my internal reality says that I can't just sit ideally by and be a "member" of this current paradigm. I don't fit. I want to tell a bigger story, to share with others my insights, my views into the cracks so that others might see them too.
We have to understand that the next shift is great, critical and holds the potential for such beauty and splendor that it brings chills to my skin.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Keen vs Weinberger

Well Andrew Keen just keeps bumping up against my amateur ass. I hear him on NPR, read about him on blogs and on and on. I am kind of a little over his diatribe but I found this discussion between him and Weinberger of the Wall Street Journal
I think it is one of the best debates thus far between Keen and anyone else. I think that Weinberger gives him a good run for his money. The debate about what the web and specifically web 2.0 means for the "old" economy has been going on since the rise of silicon valley in the 90's. Telephone companies have cried, music has cried, advertising is crying, mass media is crying. So interesting that organizations are so scared of change. Why? Why do people not see change as something that is part of the dynamic existence of humanity. It is what makes it happen, it is what makes it fun.
Along that line check out this video from the Ted Conference by Tony Robins. I think that it is this inspiration, this emotion that has driven the internet for the past 20 years and is what frightens so much of the established communication economy. It doesn't want emotion - it can't control it - it doesn't want amateurs definining the conversation - it can't control it. This is the issue of today, this is the democracy of today. It is what makes me excited.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Blogger Ethics

So, I am doing my usual exploring the blogosphere seeing what people have to say and I came across this blog post by Andy Beard Paid Comments-They Can Be 100% Ethical. I think that this is an interesting topic and something that you see all kinds of debate about. For me, ultimately there are several factors in determining the ethics of someone’s post or commentary. And, it is all defined by how the information is presented and whether deception is used or not.
There are people paid to comment on everything in our society. Is not a journalist paid to comment on issues that he/she chooses to comment on. A journalist will write articles about subjects that they may be personally affected by. It is something else when someone writes about a “stock” as a business journalist that they own and will ultimately benefit from good public exposure, eg. the value of the stock goes up. This is certainly an example of unethical behavior.
Being paid, or paying others too comment or post on your blog only becomes unethical when deception is used to generate positive conversation or response to your blog.
I don’t fall for the idea that “money corrupts”, rather corrupt people are often motivated by the idea of making lots of money. It is as if money will give them some kind of salvation from their corrupt ways.
Why then if I get paid to share ideas about products or events am I considered “unethical” by some? I would thing it would be unethical if I logged into someones site under an alias to promote an event that I was an investor in. That my comment promoted and spoke positively of this event or product while I stood to benefit directly may certainly make the behavior ethically questionable.
I guess, it is such a fine line, ethics is a strange concept that is often culturally determined. What is ethical in one culture may not be in another culture and perhaps this is where the debate starts to deepen.
The blogosphere is a culture unto itself and is in constant conversation with itself about what is considered appropriate and ethical behavior. This is a healthy and relevant debate for a young culture and is something that should be established.
My two cents on the topic is that marketing is always walking a line of ethical behavior and will constantly be regulated and checked by society. At one time the marketing of clothing on young, skinny models was considered completely legit by the larger segment of society. Now, you see models below a certain weight being barred from fashion shows. This in itself raises all kinds of other questions - what if she is naturally small, is a skinny by nature gal? Why is she now excluded?
You see, making broad overarching statements and policies always has its effects on those that don’t exactly fit. It is a danger that we struggle in in our society and we want to simplify all our understandings down to the “black or white”. It never works that simply and that is where the blogosphere has an interesting ability to regulate. Because on many levels the blogosphere can respond to individuals enmass. If an individual or an organization behaves in a way that the blogosphere deems unethical it has the ability to blog and repel that individual or organization. You only really exist in the blogosphere by virtue of the community. You are in a sense a member because you are willing to give up a certain set of your rights to the community to regulate and judge. It is what makes it work….for now.
Ok, well I went of on several tangents there. But, my point is, making a hard and fast statement about ethics is dangerous approach. It is a constantly massaged topic and should be treated and discussed as such.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Monkeys and Typewriters

Why is it that when something becomes democratic people get up set by the lack of quality that seems to pervade the general arena. Okay, maybe I am being a little vague here. But, I am referring directly to the blogosphere. People are concerned about the quality of blogs. Andrew Keen talks about this in his book, "Cult of the Amateur". That "the monkeys are taking over".
For me this is part of what makes this country and this time in history so unique. The voices of the random person can be broadcast.
Will anyone listen?
Not always.
Is this a problem?
I don't think so.
It is after all true that we are all different. We all have different skills. And most certainly not all of us can write or express our views clearly and concisely.

This is a big problem in America and needs to be addressed in our school system. Yet, one has to realize that there will always be a level of drivel in our society. Not everyone is an "intellectual" or a "thinker" or a "debater". This is okay, it is part of what makes society so interesting. How do you deal with this issue? How do you deal with people that would prefer not to engage issues in a thoughtful way but would rather eat cheetos and watch football?

You see, this is the crux of the problem that academics, teachers, professors and all sorts try to figure out. There are really only two groups in our society that have managed to truly capitalize on this. The advertisers and the politicians.
The do it so well. Is it a dummying down? Is society not participating in this?

If society decides it does not want to participate in this type of process it need only rebel and demand something different. It is this fine point - the point of change, or as my favorite professor at Berkeley said "room to maneuver".
How to create this room is for me the big question. I have no answer yet. But, I continue to dig around looking for how you capture peoples attention and allow them to rebel against a system the willingly participate in and help to defend and reinforce.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Online Marketing

So I guess I don't really understand all of this world of blogging. Everyone seems to talk about having the most ads placed in the most optimal position to increase your ad-clicks so that you can make more money in the hopes that you can stay home and write on your block so that more people will come and click on your optimally placed google ads.

Strange world this - I mean I don't really get it. What are people providing?
It really seems to be providing a space for someone to place an ad. Kind of like building a billboard in your front yard - though granted that would be a little overbearing driving down the street and seeing an ad in everyone's front yard.

Though, I guess you could say that is what a car is. It in itself is an ad. Every time you see one it gets you thinking - oooo a Toyota Camry. Looks so fine!! I want one.

I guess ist is that, not understanding what it is exactly that is going on in this realm. What is being produced? What is being traded? In a way this version of online marketing is very - well - economically odd. At least from my stand point.
Now, I am no blogger. As this blog attests - but I work for a company that does online marketing. Yet, I don't quite understand it!!! It is as if I am swimming in a world that the reality doesn't quite make sense to me yet.
Who knows? Perhaps it will - eventually!

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Random Arrivals

Slowly I have come to think about posting my thoughts on the web. Not because I think that there is some profound meaning behind it but because....well I like to think I will write more. Hmmmm....time will tell. People say that they enjoy my writing and I often say that I would like to write more.
So, here it goes. Today I will not have much to say. But I have many thoughts and ideas and sometimes I think it would be nice to put out there and share. So, till next time.