Top 5 P2P Books of the Week

Did we mean participate or Did we mean something else? by Markus Miessen & Shumon Basar, Editors

Today, the need to identify and instrumentalise “spatial practices” becomes significant due to the unprecedented visibility of what one might call “globalization at work”: from Iraq to Nepal, Dubai to Mumbai, a new atlas is being re-drawn for the 21st century, one that Thomas Friedman describes as a new “flatness”. Did Someone Say Participate? re-draws the map of participatory, spatial practice that is a function of such shifts.

What was once seen as the defensive preserve of architects – mapping, making, or manipulating spaces – has become a new “culture of space” produced and shaped by an ever increasing number of disciplines. Did Someone Say Participate? showcases a range of forward-thinking practitioners and theorists who actively trespass – or “participate” – in neighbouring or alien knowledge-spaces. They share an essential interest: the understanding, production and altering of spatial conditions as a pre-requisite of identifying the broader reaches of political reality.


The future spatial practitioner could arguably be understood as an outsider who, instead of trying to set up or sustain common denominators of consensus, enters existing situations or projects by deliberately instigating conflicts between often-delineated fields of knowledge. In this context, the spatial practitioner is presented as an enabler, a facilitator of interaction that stimulates alternative debates and speculations. Atlas? Rather than understanding this book as the next “atlas” of practice that presents an incontrovertible world-picture, it represents an early mapping exercise.. In this sense, the shape of the contents – designed and interpreted by the innovative graphic designers Åbäke – chart emerging knowledge-continents.

There is no intention to “map” a particular generation here. It is the case that the “spatial pracititioner” may well be in their early 20s or indeed in their 50s, sharing common discoveries through entirely unrelated contexts. The disciplinary territories include art, curation, architecture, photography, geography, humanitarianism, politics, philosophy, urbanism, information technology, pedagogy and futurology.

Empowerment sometimes emerges in conditions that theoretically aught to thwart it. Knowledge is often generated at the edges or the gaps of ignorance. Participation is simply a tactic of complicit curiosity scaled to the space you’re currently in. We hope that the continents of knowledge in Did Someone Say Participate? will be welcome challenges not only for those involved in the future of architectural research and practice, but for anyone interested in navigating through current forms of cultural inquiry and debate.

Hot Spots: Why Some Teams, Workplaces, and Organisations Buzz with Energy – and Others Don’t, by Lynda Gratton
From Ms. Gratton’s website.

You always know when you are in a Hot Spot. You feel energized and vibrantly alive. Your brain is buzzing with ideas, and the people around you share your joy and excitement. The energy is palpable, bright, shining. These are times when what you and others have always known becomes clearer, when adding value becomes more possible. Times when the ideas and insights from others miraculously combine with your own in a process of synthesis from which spring novelty, new ideas, and innovation. Times when you explore together what previously seemed opaque and distant. We can all remember being in Hot Spots, when working with other people was never more exciting and exhilarating and when you knew deep in your heart that what you were jointly achieving was important and purposeful. On such occasions, time seems to rush by as you and those around you are Òin the flow.Ó1 Time even seems to stand still. We enjoy being part of a Hot Spot, and we are healthier, happier people as a result.

When Hot Spots arise in and between companies, they provide energy for exploiting and applying knowledge that is already known and genuinely exploring what was previously unknown. As a consequence, Hot Spots are marvelous creators of value for organizations and wonderful, life-enhancing phenomena for each of us.

Short Circuit, by Richard Douthwaite
From the FEASTA website.

The global economy can no longer be relied upon to provide the necessities of life. Even in wealthy countries, the vagaries of free trade and the unimpeded movement of capital pose a threat not just to job security but to food and energy supplies as well.Short Circuit proposes that each community build an independent local economy capable of supplying the goods and services its people would need should the mainstream economy collapse. It details the financial structures necessary for self-reliance, and it describes the techniques already in use in pioneering communities across the industrialized world. These include local currency schemes and community banks that enable local interest rates and credit terms to differ from those in the world economy. Efforts to meet local food and energy requirements using local resources are also reviewed.Blending sophisticated analysis with practical guidance, Short Circuit opens up a wide range of possible futures and demonstrates sources of empowerment and cultural identity beyond conventional politics and economics. It is at once a survival manual, a guide to community self-sufficiency, a celebration of pluralism and diversity, and an exciting call to action.

Marketing in the In-Between: A Post-Modern Turn on Madison Avenue, by Len Ellis From Mr. Ellis’s website.

Marketing in the early 21st century is dominated by two approaches: the use of data to define and shape human affairs in machine-readable form and the effort to create and sustain two-way relationships with cus-tomers. The former is one way human life is being subjugated to the regime of the machine. The latter is one way the individual may one day emerge from the datascape. Two companion essays combine a post-modern perspective and practical experience to explore the “kaleidoroscope” of data and the “raw immaterials” of relationships.

You Can Hear Me Now: How Microloans and Cell Phones are Connecting the World’s Poor to the Global Economy, by Nicholas P. Sullivan
From the APC website.

“Sullivan’s book, published in February 2007, uses GrameenPhone to illustrate inclusive capitalism – an economic model that in his own words, “is sweeping the developing world”. As Sullivan explains in his book, this form of capitalism “spreads wealth as it creates wealth” and “empowers the poor as it generates returns for investors.” Information technology is particularly hospitable to inclusive capitalism because people at all levels of society can use it to heighten productivity, and it creates income opportunities as it spreads, this book explains. GrameenPhone alone has created, directly and indirectly, approximately 325,000 income opportunities, lifting those at the bottom of the pyramid out of poverty while bridging the digital divide. And it is still growing.

GrameenPhone is the starkest example of inclusive capitalism, and Sullivan devotes just under half of his book to its story.

The second part of the book reports on how the external combustion engine is being successfully replicated in other areas of the global south. In Africa, for example, the sale of prepaid calling cards is a USD 3 billion business employing more than 200,000 indigenous entrepreneurs. Sullivan also explores the growing mobile-banking, or m-banking, industry, and the symbiotic relationship between cell phones and personal finance. And, he moves beyond cell phones by outlining Quadir’s current efforts to bring electricity to rural Bangladesh, suggesting the vast possibilities of applying the external combustion engine to promote inclusive capitalism while addressing unmet human needs.

You Can Hear Me Now is a well researched, engaging, and compelling account of a an entrepreneurial approach to business and development. Sullivan succeeds in balancing economic theory, history, humour, and personal experiences in a volume that is equally informative and inspiring. While Sullivan focuses mainly on the benefits of spreading information technology through the external combustion engine at the expense of potential drawbacks, such as electronic waste, his book showcases a development model that makes the future in some areas seem a little brighter.”

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