Ramp it up!

3D printed wheelchair ramp

3D printed wheelchair ramp

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The 3D printing by hacktivist Raul Krauthausen of a wheelchair access ramp, is part of social production within commons based peer production (CBPP). The relationship between the physical and the digital in this occurs through the sharing of the files under Creative Commons licensing

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The platform Thingiverse is part of Makerbot which describes itself as ‘a thriving design community for discovering, making and sharing 3D printable things’ 2016 Makerbot(R).Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.02.18

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Described by Kostakis as being ‘to highlight the potential of new modes of social production which…might be transcendent to the dominant system’, (2013) p.173
The creative commons attribution share alike licensing allows commercial usage provided appropriate credit has been given.

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The example of the ramp and other adaptations have not been mass-produced at a level which brings the costs down under economies of scale and so remain exclusive under traditional capitalist structures. Lipson and Kurman describe how ‘3D printing technologies ease the tyranny of economies of scale’ (2013)p.24Screen Shot 2016-05-06 at 12.03.02
CBPP allows 3D printing processes to be part of business models where smaller scale localised energy production supports sustainable development and reduced resource consumption. Producing elements of digital city infrastructure in the new paradigm where materials can be recycled as part of manufacturing and development could overcome the built in obsolescence which is a limit to sustainability. These views are supported where Lipson(2013) suggests ‘3D manufacturing could enable companies to make products locally, near their customers’ (p.202). This approach can also reduce un-necessary overproduction and waste.





Kostakis, V., 2013. At the Turning Point of the Current Techno-Economic Paradigm: Commons-Based Peer Production, Desktop Manufacturing and the Role of Civil Society in the Perezian Framework. tripleC: Communication, Capitalism & Critique. Open Access Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 11(1), pp.173–190.

tripleC 11(1): 173-190, 2013 http://www.triple-c.at
Lipson, H.,Lipson, H. & Kurman, M., 2013 Fabricated: the new world of 3D printing, Indianapolis John Wiley

‘Harmless’ Mobilities

Major black gold explorations in the 1970’s have allowed for mobility to be central in our lives. Consuming energy unsustainably lives were lived fast and moved faster to a constant ‘on the move’. The “carbon-based movement of people, goods, services, ideas and information” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.x): the result of a relentless consumerism that leaves an impact on the individual’s self-identity, livelihood and experience of life. A bleak outcome of which is pictured by Tolstoy and depicted in Elliott and Urry’s Mobile Lives (2010). Being in our body and psych cannot be independent of the environment, while in turn; our inexorable consumerism has devastating impacts on the world that sustains our being. “Fast modes of movement” which “extends into the core of the self” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.3) as the body is mobilized beyond its physical possibilities, through miniaturized mobilities, which extend the self virtually in time and space.

“The social structure of human agency and individual life is substantially and increasingly constituted through systems of movement” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.13), which mobilities are comprised of: the corporeal travel, the physical movement of objects, the imaginative travel, virtual travel, and communicative travel (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.16). Movement in all forms abovementioned mark the fulcrum of a fast, agitated and unstoppable consumption of energy: the burning of which resource impacts negatively on the earth with the result of human induced climate change.

The high-carbon capitalist society has undermined its own existence, as global warming reflects back on a lifestyle that may have to be stopped in its tracks and slowed down to a slack pace of motion. Thus the future of mobility in our lives is contested with possible, probable or preferable scenarios presented. All with negative impacts of the collapse or readjustment of our technologically driven mobility. The Survivalist (2015) is a movie that depicts the actualization of such a scenario, what Elliott and Urry (2010) call the regional warlordism (p.144).

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Though the hyper use of technology may impact negatively on the environment, we in turn are dependent on technology itself to clear up the mess. Through our miniaturized mobilities with apps such as Hackair and Captor and others, we can take on direct action for social and environmental change. Though some might say that this does little more than solely bring awareness of human-induced climate change, it may stop us in our tracks and instigate new forms of harmless mobility.





Elliott, A. & Urry, J., 2010. Mobile Lives [pdf] Available at: <https://studentcentral.brighton.ac.uk/bbcswebdav/pid-2623392-dt-content-rid-5011551_1/courses/MJM20_2015/Elliot%2CUrry_2010_MobileLives_Introduction.pdf> [Accessed 1 May 2016].

Hackair [online] Available at: < http://www.hackair.eu/related-projects/> [Accessed 1 May 2016].

The Survivalist. Stephen Fingleton, 2016. DVD.

From Grassroots to the Atmosphere

HackAIR allows us to measure air quality as individuals and share the information we acquired with other users, creating a comprehensive and up-to-date map of air quality in Europe. That’s good, it’s one step further towards greater awareness of the world we live in; but it doesn’t particularly tells us what we, as individuals, can change.

Elliott and Urry discuss four possible post-oil-peak scenarios, of which the ‘Digital Networks’ one seems the most favourable, although not perfect, and so far the most likely. “Smart ‘cards'” that “control access and ensure payment for all forms of movement” are already widely used in most of what the authors call the ‘rich north’ – public transportation cards such as the Oyster card, the VISA PayWave system and even smartphone apps that provide scannable QR codes in lieu of printed tickets. We’re also familiar with the “electronic regulators embedded in lampposts” that account for most speeding tickets. But what the authors fail to address when mentioning the source of the technologies necessary for the ‘awakening’ that would lead to a ‘digital networks’ future is that they might not come from governments or large companies.

iSPEX concerns itself with air pollution, much like HackAIR, but on a smaller scale, and focuses on something we, as individuals, can change in our daily lives:

iSPEX is an innovative way to measure aerosols. Click an add-on on your iPhone to change this everyday tool into a scientific instrument. This instrument measures properties of small particles in the sky: aerosols.”

If measuring our own personal and individual damage to the atmosphere becomes the new norm, then a positive tipping point of awareness might be reached – even if it’s just spray-on deodorants and home-use pesticides being cast aside. Apps such as iSPEX, which allow individuals to monitor their own actions, could bring amazing change if widespread use occurs.

Elliott and Urry also mention “new software ‘intelligently’ works out the best means of doing tasks” particularly when it comes to physically moving around, which we already have popularised in the form of ubiquitous transportation-help apps such as GoogleMaps; but another app tells us more than which bus we should get and where to switch our tube line, and that is Plume Labs, an “urban weather forecast and environmental AI to beat air pollution in 40+ countries around the world”.

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PlumeLabs allows you to choose how to navigate the city you are in in the healthiest way possible, providing you with detailed advice related to air quality as well as accurate measurements.

With grassroots technology helping to inform individuals on how exactly their wellbeing is being endangered and guiding them towards smarter choices, it will most likely pave a less rocky road towards larger state-level investments idealised for the ‘digital networks’ future. Electrical cars are already increasingly common, and in some major cities so are electrical public transportation systems. It is cheap and moderately easy to create apps, with many free online classes on coding, as well as WYSIWYG app-making software available to the masses, and as Nancy Odendaal wrote, smartphones are ubiquitous even in the overpopulated cities of the ‘poor South’.

We can only hope it is not as Orwellian as the authors expect it to be, and that “Big Brother” is actually watching our greenhouse gas emissions and not what we talk about with our friends.


Elliot, A & Urry, J. ,2010, Mobile Lives, pp. 1-23, 131-154. Routledge.

HackAIR., 2016,  Available at: http://www.hackair.eu [Accessed 2 May 2016]

iSPEX – iSPEX: measure aerosols with your smartphone., Available at: http://ispex.nl/en/ispex/ [Accessed 2 May 2016]

Plume Labs – explore and predict air quality in your city. Available at: http://plumelabs.com [Accessed 2 May 2016]

Odendaal, N., “You have the presence of someone” The Ubiquity of Smart, in Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., 2013. Smart Citizens – FutureEverything (31-34)

Mapping for Change

Cities are the place where mobile systems and technologies rule together thanks to an understated structure of monitoring and surveillance. Elliott and Urry overpass Bourdieu’s notion that cultural and economic capital coexist in the city, by adding a third one, which they call ‘network capital’. From their words, the “network capital is largely subjectless, communications-driven and information-based” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.11). In fact, the future world scenario of the “Digital Networks” is greatly based on intelligent softwares.

These digital machines are activated in order to help the daily errands of citizens from controlling and recording data to securing a safe passage by using CCTV cameras. Others may be dedicated to check someone’s route and to track various information. Hence, it is a never-ending stream of different individual and group data that has been recorded. Consequently, the first ethical problem regards civil liberties. Are they threatened or not? Elliott and Urry define it as a “digital ‘Orwellian-ization’ of self and society, with more or less no movement without digital tracing and tracking and with few legally beyond or outside the control of digital networks” (Elliott and Urry, 2010, p.150).


Right now, Mapping for Change is an organization that works to “provide benefit to individuals and communities from disadvantaged or marginalised groups, along with the organisations and networks that support those communities, where the goal is to create positive sustainable transformations in their environment” (Mapping for Change, Our Company, 2008-2016, http://mappingforchange.org.uk/our-company/). Through the years they have developed an agenda with various projects.

 One is called MyAccessible.EU, funded by the European Union, where specific instruments will have the function of  “collectively gathering and sharing information about accessibility of public spaces” (Mapping for Change, MyAccesible.EU, 2008-2016, http://mappingforchange.org.uk/projects/myaccessibleeu/ ).


 Another one, “Science in the City” is a location-based project where Londoners resident in Barbican and Mansell Street are given low-tech tools to measure the quantity of Nitrogen Dioxide and other substances present in the air. By doing it, people participate in taking active control over some important issue of their city. These sensors go under the categories of the Digital Network scenario and they can be positively useful when they led a group of residents to cooperate in maintaining their own city accessible and reachable.




Elliot, A & Urry, J. ,2010, Mobile Lives, pp. 1-23, 131-154. Routledge.

HackAIR., 2016,  Available at: http://www.hackair.eu [Accessed 2 May 2016].

 Mapping for Change, 2008-2016. Available at: http://mappingforchange.org.uk [Accessed 2 May 2016].

 Mapping for Change, MyAccesible.EU, 2008-2016, http://mappingforchange.org.uk/projects/myaccessibleeu/ [Accessed 2 May 2016].

Mapping for Change, Our Company, 2008-2016, http://mappingforchange.org.uk/our-company/ [Accessed 2 May 2016].

Escape To Hollingbury Hill Fort?

thumb-Hill fort1 061-1http://www.rcgroups.com/forums/showthread.php?t=932792

With the stark futures predicted by Elliot and Urry in the conclusion to the book ‘Mobile Lives’, an escape to the Bronze Age Hollingbury Hill fort situated above Brighton could be a possibility in the distant future. According to the future evaluations set out by them it could perhaps be either within a sustainable community, where the inhabitants will be living locally off the land ( Elliot, A  & Urry, J 2010,  pg  142), or a dystopian future of war lords barricading themselves into a gated and guarded community, protecting themselves from rising sea levels (Elliot, A & Urry,  2010,  Pg 144).

Either way with the development of our carbon dependent mobile lifestyle, climate change and the decline of cheap energy means that there are very stark possibilities in terms of how our societies will operate in this very uncertain world.


A more optimistic and (hopefully) realistic future vision from Eliot & Urry is that our societies will  develop around smart technology, helping us to shape our lives through sensors to help facilitate more sustainable, low carbon lifestyles (Elliot, A & Urry, J  2010,  Pg 147-48).

Small, cheap sensors are integral elements that connect us to utilising digital devices, and it is these sensors that are integral for the community to work together and create their own data. Citi- Sense is one of the initiatives at HackAir which facilitates projects that are working on participatory approaches to improving air quality globally. The UN’s division for sustainable development states that ‘allowing people to broadly engage in development policy making’ https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/about is an important element in the creating of a sustainable future, and an initiative such as Citi-Sense fits this framework. The premise is that the environment is analysed by both the data collected through the sensor and by the more subjective filling in of a questionnaire.  The data is then analysed in a workshop and discussed at a community level.

To avoid  some of the dystopian visions explored in ‘Mobile Lives’, we will need to adopt this smart, sustainable approach to the development of our communities, if not we may find ourselves following the other more bleak outcomes that were outlined in the book.


Elliot, A., & Urry, J. (2010). Mobile Lives. Oxford: Routledge: Introduction and Conclusion.



Citi-Sense video available at; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cgDO3z9B3Kc

UN (n.d.) What is Sustainability?,http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/sustainability.shtml


It’s not the coughing that carries you off..

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It’s not the coughing that carries you off, it’s the coffin they carry you off in..19th century jokes about death and class..

One of three strands of the Post 2015 Sustainable development agenda recognises
progress will need to implement ‘scientifically credible, verifiable and measurable indicators’ and that ‘capacities should be built for new forms of measurement’ UNEP(2015).
Interlinked factors of transport and communications infrastructure, facilitate the ‘mobile lives’ built on unsustainable high carbon societies. In ‘Mobile Lives’ Urry(2010) outlines future scenarios where exhaustion of natural resources prompts movement towards localised smaller scale community living and where individual choice and rights are part of contested futures. Where mobility occurs using pollutant producing means, this could be subject to rationing through ‘price, or need or some kind of quota with carbon allowances as the currency to be allocated, monitored and individually measured’ (p.148).
Linking the UNEP sustainable development goals(SDG’s) and contested future scenarios would make the requirement for effective forms of local monitoring through sensors necessary. A Hackair (2016) project Captor is developing a network of local communities monitoring air pollution. Using low cost sensors, designed and maintained by the community, this will increase environmental awareness and promote education and action for change. The gathering of data on air pollution could be seen as looking at the consequence of ‘mobile lives’ after it has occurred, however, visibility makes environmental pollution tangible for people in their locality. Engaging citizens in a more ‘bottom up’ inclusive approach to combatting climate change is in line with the ‘no-one left behind’ SDG’s of the UNEP. Another hackair.eu project required the use of smart phones to collect data, however this could limit participation for people who do not have personal ‘smart’ technological capacity.

There is recognition of the interconnectedness of problems and solutions in the UNEP SDG’s. Localised approaches integrated by networked capacity could support a diversity of many coordinated actions at local level into the future.



Elliot, A (2010) Mobile lives: self, excess and nature
Routledge Oxon

http://www.hackair.eu/pages/about-hackair/ 2016



Can Technology Save Us?

That our carbon-based economy and the rate at which we squander the earth’s resources are unsustainable has been accepted by all but the most strenuous climate change deniers. With more countries wanting to buy into the ‘American Dream’ of rampant consumerism and unfettered mobility the rate of consumption of the world’s resources and subsequent release of pollution and greenhouse gases has nowhere near peaked, although the oil that supplies this demand may well have. The question is when and this will end, with several scenarios for a non-mobile, non-consumerist future (Elliot, A. & Urry, J. 2010, pp131-154).

America: The Best Country in the World at Being Last

America: The Best Country in the World at Being Last

May 23 2007 was transition day, the day that the world’s urban population overtook its rural. With an increasing percentage of people living in cities the city has a major role to play in providing a sustainable future (Elliot, A. & Urry, J. 2010, p138). How this can be done is one of the points raised by the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Agenda (2011) that looks at how cities can thrive while reducing poverty and pollution and improving the use of resources.

Unicef's Urban World

The Urban World in 2010

Of the possible future scenarios suggested by Elliot and Urry (2010), one of the least apocalyptic is the digital network – a system of electronic regulators or sensors that allow technology to work out the least resource intensive and most efficient way of doing tasks. While this system would ensure the best use is made of scarce resources, it is one of constant and all-pervasive monitoring with objects, transport, people and carbon emissions constantly watched, compared and actioned for the optimum result.

The digital network may be a long way off, but local initiatives are appearing. The HackAIR collective provides a platform for apps to monitor air pollution. Mapping for Change’s Citizen Science monitors air quality across 30 locations in London. Data relating to air quality and pollution is collected and mapped raising awareness of problems for citizens to lobby policy-makers and engage in the democratic process. It is, perhaps, one of many foundation stones of a new society that uses technology to promote sustainability.

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Science in the City, Monitoring Air Quality in the Barbican



Elliot, A & Urry, J. (2010) Mobile Lives, pp131-154. Routledge.

Clean Air in London. (2016). Available at: http://cleanair.london/ [accessed 1 May 2016].

HackAIR. (2016). Available at: http://www.hackair.eu [accessed 1 May 2016].

Mapping for Change (2016). Available at: http://mappingforchange.org.uk [accessed 1 May 2016].

Science in the City, Monitoring Air Quality in the Barbican. (2015). Available at: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/business/environmental-health/environmental-protection/air-quality/Documents/barbican-final-report-13012015.pdf [accessed 1 May 2016].

Speth J.G. (2012) America: The Best Country in the World at Being Last – How Can We Change That? Available at: http://www.alternet.org/story/154367/america%3A_the_best_country_in_the_world_at_being_last_–_how_can_we_change_that [accessed 1 May 2016].

Unicef. (2012). An Urban World. Available at: http://www.unicef.org/sowc2012/urbanmap/?lan=en [accessed 1 May 2016].

United Nations (2011). What is Sustainability? Available at: http://web.archive.org/web/20160202070039/http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/sustainability.shtml [accessed 1 May 2016].