The return of the displaced to the Pearl District

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The Pearl Portland NORTH
The original warehouse district, pre-Pearl, 1988 in center right of picture

From Wikipedia: According to the Pearl District Business Association, Thomas Augustine, a local gallery owner, coined the name Pearl District more than 10 years ago to suggest that its industrial buildings were like crusty oysters, and that the galleries and artists’ lofts within were like pearls. As local business people were looking to label the growing area—the “warehouse district” or the “brewery district” were two suggestions—a writer for Alaska Airlines borrowed and popularized Augustine’s phrase.

I had no idea the area’s name was only a decade old. It demeans it, scrubs the history from it.

As with any gentrification project Portland’s Pearl District is no exception. Developers arrived, threw out or co-opted the artists who lived cheaply and worked in the grimy lofts, displaced anyone who couldn’t stand up to them, renamed the area along the lines of something that entices people to settle in suburbia – Rolling Hills for e.g., or in this case oysters and pearls – bought low with incentives and tax breaks, then sold high.

The Pearl developers’ earnest requirements, presented in pitches to attract a new breed – quasi-urbanites – who they hoped would buy the freshly-minted condos, required a faux grittiness just this side of wholesome – red brick, worn and buckled unused railroad tracks, new buildings with garage door frontispieces, old industrial shops and warehouses turned, as if on a lathe, into new “creative spaces” as if they weren’t that before.
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This is social media. Oh, and is a social crash coming?

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Pickathon 2010 NORTH
Click for full size image.

I was just going to post this mini-panoramic picture as a simple visualization of a thought that I’d just had, but then I read this. And weirdly, [as is often the way,] the post behind that link, titled Is A Social Crash Coming? by Chris Brogan, fits neatly into some thoughts I had about last night’s SEMpdx event. So thanks Chris, you sort of wrote them for me.

I know I can be a curmudgeon but I feel like a shark got jumped last night. Tick tock..

The end of men?

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The End of Men, Hanna Rosin, The Atlantic

Hanna Rosin has a fascinating article in the latest edition of the Atlantic. Rosin has not written a feminist screed that falls back on the idea of the real struggles women have had to cope with in the workplace or education. This is more of a real time update based on societal shifts that are actually taking place in the more advanced economies of the world, and especially in newly-industrialized emerging economies.

Here’s the synopsis:
“Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women’s progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn’t the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way— and its vast cultural consequences.”

She also writes: “ the U.S., the world’s most advanced economy, something much more remarkable seems to be happening. American parents are beginning to choose to have girls over boys. As they imagine the pride of watching a child grow and develop and succeed as an adult, it is more often a girl that they see in their mind’s eye.”

Here’s the full article.

We are all soft-wired for Social Media

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Click the image to watch this animated speech.

The title to this post is somewhat tongue in cheek, but not entirely. In a fascinating speech at RSA – the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, Jeremy Rifkin, the bestselling author, political adviser and social and ethical prophet, investigates the evolution of empathy and the profound ways that it has shaped our development and our society. He argues that all humans and most primates are soft-wired to be empathic and that the first mature empathic drive is to actually “fit in,” to “belong.”

As we watch the animated video of Rifkin’s speech, he walks us through history explaining how the human brain has developed to actually be more empathic. This all leads up to his modern day example of how during the Haiti earthquake, human empathy was fueled due to the images we received via social media such as Twitter, and also through mobile devices. This in turn led to people of all nations coming together to help the Haitians.

The understanding of anthropology as a driver of our innate need to belong and be part of a group, helps us understand how a platform like Twitter or Facebook can attract millions of users who spend a lot of time interacting with friends and family. I wrote an essay about just this in 2008 which I recently updated – Anthropology, Technology, The Social Web and Advertising.

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