The Null Device


Antanas Mockus, the Colombian academic who became mayor of the lawless city of Bogotá, has used his post to stage a city-wide social experiment in changing the mindset and behaviour of Bogotá's inhabitants. Mockus' policies, referencing Douglass North's theory of formal and informal rules and postmodernist Jürgen Habermas, have included voluntary women-only nights in the streets, giving people thumbs-up and thumbs-down cards to comment on others' behaviour, and employing over 400 municipal mimes to mock those flouting traffic rules, as well as other inspired policies.

Another Mockus inspiration was to ask people to call his office if they found a kind and honest taxi driver; 150 people called and the mayor organized a meeting with all those good taxi drivers, who advised him about how to improve the behavior of mean taxi drivers. The good taxi drivers were named "Knights of the Zebra," a club supported by the mayor's office.

(via bOING bOING)

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Via bOING bOING, gorgeous photos of American industrial landscapes; freight trains wending their way through vast, lonely landscapes and sunrises through the plumes of smoke over steel mills and such. The Appalachian Railroad ones are probably my favourites, though some of the steel mill ones are also lovely (not a word one typically associates with steel mills).

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The hottest children's toy this Crassmas is the Youniverse ATM Machine, a piggy bank/toy cash machine.

Tweens and beyond can insert the supplied ATM card into the silver machine, punch in their PIN, be greeted by name on the electronic display, peer into the pretend security camera and wait for that seminal capitalistic moment -- when crisp bills miraculously appear, ripe for the plucking.
The marketers have a term for it: KGOY -- "Kids growing older younger." The ATM is a real KGOY toy, says Juliet B. Schor, a Boston University professor who wrote "Born to Buy: The Commercialized Child and the New Consumer Culture."
The ATM, marked for ages 8 and up, "is symbolically significant and highly valued -- the money machine! It must have a very strong aspirational pull. Using an ATM is one of the things that grown-ups do in full view of kids that the kids have very little access to," says Schor. "It's one part of consuming that kids aren't in on. They are full-fledged consumers, buying clothing, picking groceries, selecting toys. They go to the spa and get their nails done. But they don't have entry into the real ATM."

Well, it's probably less harmful than selling them candy cigarettes. Other than that, opinion seems divided on whether it indoctrinates kids into becoming materialistic consumer zombies or teaches sensible money management habits.

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You may want to say thank you to Poland for pioneering the GameBoy orchestra scuttling the European software patent directive.

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