Saturday, 22 May 2010

NESTA Mass Localism - on reflection

Over the last month I have been lucky enough to experience the thoughts and ideas of John Thackara and also attending the findings of NESTA's Mass Localism discussion paper. I have also through ARK been running a mini project on the creative networks within Cardiff and Wales. In short it has led me to a number of proposals which I hope make sense:

- The volunteer work with ARK seems to tie in neatly with the findings of NESTA and the fact that through small groups doing different things independently we can make real change on major issues.

- This brings a question of what if mini groups are doing similar things? do you leave them to do the same thing or do you try and link them up to create a stronger group. If you take John Thackara's idea then you let them flourish individually which also seems to be in line with NESTA's findings.

- There is then a question of this middle ground of when local has to be scaled up or not. In particular things such as food and agriculture and also house building. For me other recent findings have led me to question the very notion of 'localness' and small farms being the answer to food production in the future. If you havn't seen it then I suggest you have a look at the below video of Dan Barber. And the line in particular about measuring the success of the farm by the number of it's predators and also not feeding its livestock at all. This seems to me a question of scale and something that would be interesting if it can still be local. In the same way house building particularly in Britain seems to be dominated by large companies buying land and developing and building in traditional ways. While legislation is making these companies improve there quality in environmental terms it seems to me at least that legislation isn't the way of making a company or country innovative.

The most obvious and historically proven is to be at war 100's of inventions and developments have happened through war and have formed many of the things we now see as being essential to live day to day. The second and slightly less deadly would be to look at how other companies have managed to change there traditional views and turned themselves into innovative companies and it seems that it is through a huge internal cultural change. So people are not only working up to the legislative line they have innovation in built and use this to gain more work due to them being ahead of the curve.

- The future is also an issue for me in terms of things like hydro power etc. At the moment my understanding is that people/companies are part subsidised by the government for installing hydro, wind and solar energy systems into local landscapes. But if we take it to the extreme and in the future everyone sets up their own power station. Does that mean they will still pay money to buy the electricity? if this stops will these systems then become rundown as they will not be able to be maintained? I do not really know enough about this industry to know for sure, but I think it is interesting to think about these issues now. It also brings up other very interesting questions of one town which is energy rich 'giving' energy to others in exchange for something the other town does well. How can this work? what will energy companies of today turn into???

- This nicely brings me onto another issue which was raised during the NESTA seminar. The issue of power and how far does power move from government to the local areas where they know exactly what is going on. First view point is that 'mass localism' has proven that in general local communities can react and deal with huge issues in a quicker and cheaper way rather than being dictated to by using a universal model. So government has to start giving support to these communities in different ways than it does know. Secondly will government really give this power away to local communities? is it a step too far? will councils etc be disbanded as towns and communities will start doing everything for themselves?

- Finally I am starting to think about the wider world and how we are making certain materials harder and harder to find. A few months ago I attended an E:DN event where a chemist introduced us to the periodic table with loads of colours on it. At first I thought looks really nice then he went on to explain that due to some of these elements being used in things like phones etc and then spread around the worked these elements are becoming in essence extinct. So as well as designing we much now start asking is there enough of this material to make millions of them. So who decides this in the future? who says yes to one manufacturer and no to the other?

Just a few thoughts I wonder what other people think?

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