Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching, he said. The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there a lifetime. —Granger, Fahrenheit451

Cycles. Construction, destruction, construction. No matter how intangible, our presence in the universe is cyclical. Through The Enlightenment, postmodernism, posthumanism and beyond, our complex and nuanced understanding of reality — physics, social relations, cultural construction, war and conflict — is defined by cyclical principles and trends that carry the system.

Systems theory — the Zeitgeist of globalism and the driving force behind neo-progressivism — applies not only to the natural environment, but also to intangible and abstract human thoughts and actions, bringing us “full cycle” to a spiritual energy paradigm via collective inquiry into immaterial existence and our place within the universe.

World Urbanization Prospects, 2014 revision

Managing urban areas has become one of the most important development challenges of the 21st century. Our success or failure in building sustainable cities will be a major factor in the success of the post-2015 UN development agenda. —John Wilmoth, Director, UN DESA Population Division

Urban population worldwide has grown from 746 million in 1950 to 3.9 billion in 2014, and is expected to surpass six billion by 2045 — the largest projected growth taking place in India, China and Nigeria. The number of ‘mega-cities’ (10 million inhabitants or more) has grown from ten in 1990 to 28 in 2014, and will hit 41 by the year 2030, with rural populations decreasing as urban populations continue to grow.

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Street art, Brooklyn


I was mesmerized by this scene above a subway entrance in Brooklyn today. The banister and lamp blocked a clean head-on shot, hence the side angle. While doves symbolize innocence, hope and renewal, pigeons are often loathed in urban areas as vectors of disease. This scene represents the juxtaposition of “aseptic” gentrification and the authenticity of urban decay.

Replicas of real-life spaces

What humans do is create spaces. We create spaces and we have people come together in those spaces, and then we communicate and socialize within those spaces. —Ebbe Altberg

Remember Second Life? Earlier this year Business Insider reported its membership as “stable” at nearly one million active users per month. With little media coverage in the last 10 years the numbers haven’t changed much, but virtual reality is about to make the Second Life experience more relevant than ever.

Ebbe Altberg, CEO of Second Life developer Linden Lab, says “the world is waking up again”, which is a reference to immersive virtual reality, the hotbed of emerging tech that’s set to literally transform the virtual workplace:

Linden Lab is marshaling its expertise and experience in building immersive, functional virtual worlds to make a proper successor to the Second Life platform and take advantage of the bold new world of immersive VR. Specifically, Linden sees a huge opportunity in making it easier for people to build and share cool virtual reality experiences. It has workplace applications too: San Francisco-based nonprofit TechSoup hosts its [weekly] all-hands meetings in Second Life, where as many as 50 people meet in the virtual world — tools like Skype are too unwieldy for them at that scale, Altberg says, and it provides a way for them to be in the same room even when they’re not.

Now Altberg is planning the next phase of SL, codenamed Project Sansar. And High Fidelity (a project of SL’s original inventor Philip Rosedale) will offer a similar “upgraded” experience where people can travel an interconnected landscape filled with “convincingly real-world interactions in VR”. With Oculus set to storm the world with a new brand of virtual innovation, the way we meet for work and play may look a lot like the Nonprofit Commons, where geography and gender take a back seat to the actual act of communicating.

This morning at 9:30am Eastern I teleported to Second Life Island for the first time. There I met with interactive designer Joyce Bettencourt, aka Rhiannon Chatnoir, to lay the framework for a discussion on the future of the TechSoup Global community forum, and how increased interactivity might help create a conceptual wormhole between these two worlds.

TechSoup Global’s Nonprofit Commons first convened on Second Life eight years ago. Rhiannon, who co-leads the meetings, helped me acclimate to my new body and learn the controls — the “life support” needed to comfortably navigate this new Second Life.

Despite being new to the “physical” world of the metaverse, I’ve done some hard research on MUDs and MOOs and their social implications, thanks to pioneer cyber-academics like Sherry Turkle and Annette Markham. When I meet with the Nonprofit Commons next month I’ll experience Second Life for myself — a new territory that excites the bejesus out of me, if only for the fact that I might finally catch up to my tween-aged nephew, whose vast knowledge of Minecraft and similar virtual spaces puts me to shame.

As time and trend ebb and flow, collaborating across sectors and borders will benefit from remote interactions in virtual spaces fashioned after real ones. At that moment, we’ll be creating and collaborating on the frontier of future-present worlds, where a new set of social expectations and etiquette will affect the way we interact in the corporeal here-and-now.


Messages Matter 001: George Takei

George Takei, actor and civil rights activist, on Kim Davis being compared to civil rights icons Martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks:

So let us be clear: This woman is no hero to be celebrated. She broke her oath to uphold the Constitution and defied a court order so she could deny government services to couples who are legally entitled to be married. She is entitled to hold her religious beliefs, but not to impose those beliefs on others. If she had denied marriage certificates to an interracial couple, would people cheer her? Would presidential candidates flock to her side? In our society, we obey civil laws, not religious ones. To suggest otherwise is, simply put, entirely un-American.