Category | Advocacy

The Right to a Home: A Human Rights Perspective on Forced Migration.

This article was originally published in Freerange Journal 4: ‘Almost home’. We are currently accepting $5 donations towards the Red Cross refugee response efforts with downloads of this journal at the following link:  http://www.projectfreerange.com/product/freerange-vol-4-almost-home-download/

 

Article 25. Universal Declaration on Human Rights (1948)

(1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his fomily, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 25 of the Universal Declaration sets out a number of key elements that can be said to constitute the concept of ‘Home’. Sadly, we are failing to provide these necessities of nutrition, shelter, healing and a social support structure to all members of the global community. The reasons for this failure are various and interconnected but a major contributing factor is the displacement caused by the endemic problem of ‘forced migration’. How can we ensure that in the future these Human Rights relating to the home environment are truly universal in more than just name?

The term ‘forced migration’, as defined by the International Association for the Study of Forced Migration, includes a wide range of people displaced either within or outside of their nation of origin by circumstances beyond their control. This definition is wider than the traditional, and often misunderstood, term of ‘refugee’. Crucially, this definition of forced migration includes those people displaced by natural, environmental, chemical and nuclear disasters as well as by famine or development projects. This gives the term far more relevance to the society of the future in which such events may be major drivers in migration patterns.

shadenetting_right to a home

Shade netting in the Sheikh Yaseen camp in Pakistan.

Forcibly displaced people have a very acute awareness of the importance of Human Rights to the concept of ‘Home’ and of the fact that ‘Home’ relates more to a mental or physical state of refuge than to any fixed geographic or spatial location. With this in mind, it is understandable that simple items, such as this shade netting provided by the Sheikh Yaseen camp in Pakistan, can drastically alter the environment and enhance the comfort and lifestyle of the inhabitants.

The first humans started spreading out of Africa around 110,000 years ago. We have always been a migratory species and seem to have an insatiable curiosity about what opportunities may lie beyond the horizon. Our culturally diverse modern societies were all created by, and are still being shaped by, successive waves of migration from indigenous peoples through to more recent arrivals.

‘Forced migration’ is not a new problem, however the potential human and economic cost resulting from the displacement we face in the near future is a serious cause for concern. Environmental destruction, resource wars, diminishing food security, rapidly rising populations and developing ‘third world’ economies mean that forced migration will be a major contributor to these growing numbers in the coming years. According to the International Organization for Migration’s World Migration Report 2010‘, estimates are that the nunber of international migrants worldwide is currently over 200 million and at the current rate will reach 400 million by 2050.

One major accelerating factor in future migration levels will be the acute manifestations of global climate change. Many communities worldwide are facing rising sea levels, extreme storm surges, flooding, drought, insecure food supply and other associated problems causing population displacement at unprecedented levels. According to academics and international agencies, there are currently several million ‘environmental migrants’ worldwide, and this number is expected to rise to tens of millions within the next 20 years, and hundreds of millions within the next 50 years. This phenomenon was recently dramatically evident in Somalia and in Pakistan where simultaneous drought and floods have left over 12 million people displaced or in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

A house in Alaska which is no longer a home.

A house in Alaska which is no longer a home.

Such environmental migration tends to disproportionately affect developing nations because their precarious geography, histories of imperialism, and unsustainable development leave them without resources to face such challenges. This vulnerability further cements the place of developing nations as victims of the global economic order and as mass exporters of human capital. An example is the current famine in the ‘Horn of Africa’ region where most refuge and assistance is being provided by developing countries while the aid response from wealthy nations has been somewhat slow and underwhelming. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) recently stated in his address on World Refugee Day 2011 that: Despite what some populist politicians would have us believe, approximately 80 percent, [of refugees] are hosted and cared for in developing countries. To take a current example, only about two percent of the people fleeing Libya are seeking refuge in Europe.”

Many commentators believe that developed nations should be contributing much more to addressing this displacement problem due to their superior wealth and their greater contribution to creating the economic and environmental problems we face today. However, the global financial crisis is currently being skillfully manipulated to create resentment against migrants and refugees and to justify rigid national immigration policies and small refugee resettlement quotas. UNHCR has recently expressed concern that the current resettlement programs of the few nations who do offer them are not even keeping pace with the growth of refugees in urgent need of resettlement.

Both permanent and temporary migration to developed nations can play a highly valuable role in development by allowing migrants to achieve safety and stability, to gain skills and experience and to remit money back to their homeland. Current protectionist policies in developed nations fail to promote such valuable development tools and simply guard the wealth and privilege amassed at the expense of underdeveloped nations and the environment.

Solutions

Although organisations such as UNHCR and various NGOs are doing an admirable job with limited resources, the sheer volume of the displacement likely to occur in the future necessitates a new approach. The interconnectedness created by globalization and technological progress means that no migration situation can now be seen in isolation, and also offers us potential solutions to the problems we face. We urgently require a wholesale re-application of our global resources and technology to address the causes of displacement rather than the symptoms.

It is within the power of developed nations to radically reduce the root causes of forced migration by altering the course of the global market and economic system, and assisting democracy and social justice to flourish. We need proactive policies at both national and international levels that target the poverty, environmental destruction, wars and inequalities causing our current displacement problems.

We must adopt a ‘Human Rights’ centered understanding of what constitutes a ‘Home’ and work towards providing all members of our global society with access to these rights without exception. Only a system that respects the rights of all to a stable home environment will allow us to work towards a new age of greater freedom of movement, stability and equality in the area of human migration.

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Further Reading

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights- Adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations and proclaimed on December 10, 1948. http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/index.shtmail

‘What is Forced Migration’ Online http://www.forcedmigration.org/whatisfm.htm

‘World Migration Report 2010- The Future of Migration: Building Capacities for Change,’ International Organization for Migration, 2010. http://publications.iom.int/bookstore/free/ WMR_2010_ENGLISH.pdf

‘United .Nations High Commissioner’s message for World Refugee Day 20 June 2011′. http://www.unhcr.org/ 4e033be29.html

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Joseph Cederwall is a writer, social entrepreneur and immigration consultant with degrees in Law and Anthropology. He has worked extensively with migrant and refugee communities in New Zealand as an Immigration lawyer and adviser. 

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Voices for Equity in the Profession.

It is the last week to provide feedback to a set of important gender equity guidelines being developed in Australia for the architecture profession.

The commentary and resources published by Parlour and their researchers are formidable, and their conference Transform earlier this year was the most engaging I had been to in a long time. Parlour is probably the most important and articulate voice in the profession right now, and they want to talk to you.

It’s immediately clear that a great deal of care, experience, and intelligence has gone into these guidelines. I believe Neph Wake and Naomi Stead are to thank for the hard yards in producing these documents (please correct me if I’m wrong), which is yet another significant outcome of the parent project ‘Equity and Diversity in the Australian Architecture Profession: Women, Work and Leadership’ funded by the Australian Research Council through the Linkage Projects scheme, made so much more accessible thanks to Parlour, edited by the “effective” Justine Clark. (This wonderfully cryptic and completely deserved title was recently used to introduce Justine).

They explain:

The Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice are being developed to help architectural workplaces facilitate change towards a more equitable profession. Aimed both at employers and employees, the guidelines will address the specificities of small, medium, large and regional practice. They will provide hints and tips, and guides to thinking on a range of issues relevant to the architecture profession in Australia today.

As tailored as these are for the culture of the architecture profession, these really have relevance to all workplaces, so if these issues ring true, regardless of your professional penchant, I’d recommend a good sit down with these.

The ten Draft Guidelines address:

1. Pay equity: Moving towards equal pay between women and men in architecture.

2. Leadership: How to promote and support women to senior roles in architecture.

3. Recruitment: Equitable recruitment and hiring diverse talent in architecture.

4. Mentorship: Mentors, sponsors and career champions in architecture.

5. Negotiation: Negotiating flexible working conditions in architecture.

6. Long hours: Challenging the long-hours culture in architecture.

7. Part-time: Meaningful part-time work in architecture.

8. Flexibility: Making flexible patterns work in architecture.

9. Career break: Returning from parental leave and other career breaks in architecture.

10. Registration: Supporting women who choose to register in as architects.

11… Parlour also offers suggestions for other areas they haven’t already addressed.

 

If you can, these drafted guidelines should be devoured at length, they are highly addictive and very readable. Even if you take a crack at two or three of the issues close to you heart, it’s worth offering your contribution this way as the online form below allows specific feedback to each individual theme, so every bit counts.

You can download the Draft Guidelines here, and link to the feedback form on that page. Following consultation, the finalised Parlour Guides to Equitable Practice will be published later this year.

www.archiparlour.org

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A nation of sheep?

It has been a fantastic year for unoriginal ideas. First Wellywood, then Happy Feet, and most recently Sonny Wool – the psychic sheep who predicts the winner of Rugby World Cup matches. Could somebody please just hurry up and sue us for plagiarism?

There once was a time when we were proud of our creativity – our ‘no. 8 wire spirit’. From splitting the atom, to jet boats, to medical respirators, New Zealand boasts a long history of science and discovery that has really put ‘kiwi ingenuity’ on the world map. Looking back, I see the likes of Richard Pearse, Burt Monroe and John Britten, all of whom took on and beat the world with extraordinary creations from the humble back sheds of their quarter acre sections. I think we can agree that invention and innovation form an important part of who we are as New Zealanders. Given recent events, however, I feel we could now be on the brink of losing this long standing emblem of cultural pride.

But rather than despair that Hollywood does want to sue us for plagiarism, or that sheep-shagger jokes are now being augmented with straight-out sheep jokes, I recently decided to jump ship and embrace our unoriginality. Once I did, a world of possibilities opened up before my very eyes. Indeed, I soon realised that New Zealand has something quite unique staring it in the face just waiting to be harnessed and tapped. Something so unique, in fact, that it has the potential to put New Zealand right back in the driver’s seat as a world leader in its chosen field. This idea has been quietly brewing for several years now, but it wasn’t until I read of Sonny Wool that the penny finally dropped. Are you ready for it? I propose… that New Zealand become a world leader of unoriginal ideas.

Think of the possibilities! We could become a tourist hotspot of unoriginality! People would come from all over the world to see what we copied next.

But can we achieve such a lofty target? In consideration of the Wellywood, Happy Feet, Sonny Wool trifecta, I suggest that we are already well on track. That being the case, only minimal financial investment will be needed to turn this vision into a reality. Plus, that money we do invest will multiply many times over in return due to increased tourism.

Of course, before we can start making grandiose claims about being the world leader, we will first need to develop our unoriginal infrastructure. On top of our already existing exact replica of Stonehenge in the Wairarapa, I figure we’ll need three more attractions. Here are my suggestions. One: the Golden Straight Bridge – we build a suspension bridge across the Cook Straight. Two: the Leaning Tower of Hamilton. Three, and this will be the most expensive and politically divisive: Palmerston North, Venice style – we flood the streets of Palmerston North so that people can commute by boat.

To a large extent, our choice of attractions will determine the success or failure of our strategy. But that is not all that will be required. To complete the transition to a nationwide culture of unoriginality will require a firm resolve and a steely-eyed determination to dumb ourselves right down. As we have proved to be quite a smart bunch in the past, we will have to really go for the throat – or the brains, as it were – of our nation.

But what does this mean in practice?

Much of our nation’s brains reside in the scientific research institutions scattered about the country. If we want to harness our unoriginality, we are going to have to stop those pesky scientists from coming up with their new and interesting ideas. In short, we will need a publicly funded science and innovation (S&I) system that stifles the creative spirit and hinders innovation and invention. Now, anyone familiar with the level of discontent our scientists hold towards the S&I system since Rogernomics will be well aware that our system is actually not too far from this already.

The success or failure of our publicly funded S&I system is, to a large extent, dependent on the decisions of the Government which, it seems, could swing in either direction. On the one hand, it appears the Government is opposed to unoriginality and is instead tracking towards a more effective S&I system. Actions such as the establishment of the Ministry of Science and Innovation; the development of a national science and innovation strategy; the appointment of a Chief Science Adviser; and incentives that recognise outstanding achievements in science will all shift us closer to that vibrant, collaborative model that would see us truly realise our intellectual potential.

On the other hand, there are still several aspects of our publicly funded S&I system that foster unoriginality and hinder creativity. The following list is informed by two open letters from hundreds of scientists to the Government; informal interviews with scientists and scientific stakeholders; literature review; and unpublished research from the Sustainable Future Institute in Wellington. There are five key aspects of our S&I sector that will see unoriginality prevail.

First (and most importantly, in my humble opinion), the competitive funding model that pits scientists against scientists in a desperate scramble for scarce research funds. Instead of a culture of sharing and collaboration between the greatest minds of our country, scientists protect their ideas from each other like precious bullion.

Second, investment of public funds in S&I remains low compared to the OECD average.

Third, instead of doing what scientists do best – science – our best scientists waste vast amounts of precious time filling out tiresome forms to meet the requirements of public research funding proposals. The Foundation of Research Science and Technology (FoRST) weren’t nicknamed the Foundation of Really Serious Timewasting without reason.

Fourth, the commercial imperative of the Crown Research Institute Act 1992 that requires CRIs to make a profit each year.

Fifth, a lack of opportunity for postdoctoral scientists due to the replacement of FoRST-funded Postdoctoral Scholarships with the Rutherford Discovery Fellowships. Couple this with low overall postdoctoral funding, and you have two important elements of the ‘brain drain’.

To recap, New Zealand is poised between two futures: a return to the creative spirit and a re-establishment of our no. 8 wire culture; or forward to a loud and proud future of unoriginality and mediocrity. I’m all for unoriginality! Who’s with me?

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a-Pathetic

In a weekend of depressing news, the discovery that around 1 million New Zealanders failed to cast a vote on Saturday really takes the cake, no matter your political persuasion. So many attempts have been made to get to the bottom of voter apathy and yet no single explanation seem capable of shedding light on the phenomenon. Certainly in this election it can be assumed that the surety of National’s success and Labour’s demise kept some people away, thinking their vote would make little difference either way.

I must also not be alone in despairing at the almost complete lack of political coverage during the Ruby World Cup, save for the odd scandal or new polling data. From memory it wasn’t until the Wednesday following the nail-biting final that a combination of grinning jocks and slippery handshakes disappeared from the front page news, to be replaced by the sudden realisation that the election was a mere six weeks away. Is the turnout so surprising when so few could muster the energy to talk politics over the deafening roar of rugby fever?

Young people have come under even more fire for their particularly dismal turnout, an outcome that the Electoral Commission sought to avoid with its campaign to highlight the low enrolment rate of 18-24 year olds. In 2005 the Commission released a research document on young peoples engagement in political life, finding that a combination of disengagement, naivete, and distrust prevented young non-voters from making an effort. While there is not much to be done about the percentage who thought harder about the weekend than they did about their future, the dismaying revelations that many of those surveyed felt that making no choice was better than making the wrong one (or an ill-informed one) speaks to the scale of the problem.

Veteran commentator Brian Edwards had a thing or two to say on the subject earlier in the election cycle, making a strong case for the relationship between apathy and the glaring lack of civics education in the New Zealand high school curriculum . Having tutored first year politics, I can attest to the astonishing lack of knowledge that many of my fresh-out-of-school students displayed about elections, parliament and the whole democratic shebang. Many were eager to learn but it was certainly an uphill battle for those coming from a position of surprising ignorance. For the vast majority who don’t take a path through law or politics, that basic political education may never arrive. This year’s double whammy election choice (parliamentary and electoral system) may have been the final straw for those who feel overwhelmed by the many choices before them, and perhaps we can’t blame them.

Even as someone who was always going to vote, some of the commentary on this years electoral contests was off-putting to the point of nausea. Specifically, the ‘Battles’ between so-called blokes (John Key and Phil Goff) and babes (Jacinda Ardern and Nikki Kaye, in Auckland Central). It’s almost too depressing to dissect. Key and Goff’s attempts to ‘man up’ – recalling fist fights, revealing an unlikely love of Tui, claiming superior navigation skills –
merely reveal the tragic absurdity of the bloke stereotype. As Marianne Bevan over at Eleven Hours Ahead pointed out, these ‘real men’ which our would be PM’s are desperately trying to mimic never really existed. Moreover, their attempts to buy into this outdated cultural trope serve only to entrench the most harmful stereotypes for men that do linger- be strong, be the everyman, don’t think too hard about anything. Or else. It is difficult to back up my suspicion that few, if any, New Zealanders respond well to this kind of targeted pandering. Even if they did, there is zero justification on the part of both the leaders and the media for promoting the bullshit values that bloke culture perpetuates, at the expense of a legitimate discussion on real challenges that face the nation.

On the flipside, Nikki Kaye and Jacinda Ardern seem to be doing their best to rise above the tidal wave of insulting references to babes, jelly wresting and their martial status’ that have featured so prominently in coverage of their electorate. One particularly appalling article by Johnathon Milne at the Listener insisted their good grooming obviously meant they were vying to out-babe each other, and the only reason he was writing the article (and why we read it) was because the candidates were both young and attractive. And we wonder why female candidates still only make up 33% of Parliament?

Dodgy attempts to generate political controversy are not new. Nor, obviously, are double standards: me strong, you sexy. But let’s not pretend that by accepting shitty reporting and lazy stereotyping we aren’t doing more and more to turn off young people (and old, for that matter) from a crucial process that does so little to include them as is.

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Why I’m voting Green in the New Zealand Election.

(Disclaimer: I’ve been doing a small amount of unpaid volunteer work for the Green Party this election.)

In less than one week in New Zealand us citizens get the chance to share in the once-every-three-year opportunity to action on democratic right to vote. This is important. Representational democracy has lots of problems and is far from perfect, but if nothing else it plays a critical rule in ensuring we don’t ever have to live in a dictatorship.

Compared to going out and ‘doing good things’ in the world around you, voting probably isn’t the most important democratic thing we do. But it is the most symbolic, and like the occupy protests occurring around the world, you somewhat lose your moral right to have an opinion if you don’t participate.

There is a bunch of freedom’s that we have and often forget about, one of these is the freedom to express political views. I think in New Zealand political discussion is treated a bit like religion, something we avoid so as not to accidentally offend. Today, I’d like to use this freedom to write about why I am voting Green.

I’m deeply suspicious of branding, and the green brand is like any other in that one needs to scratch beneath the nice posters, smiling politicians, and nice niceness that branding creates. The Greens are a made of people whose reason for getting into politics is because they give a fuck about certain issues and since these issues are the volition, the reason for them acting, they continue to take precedent. A journey with the Green Party has never been a journey to the seats of power so the lure of ‘being-on-the-end-of-the-phone’ is a lot less powerful. So, yes the Green brand is a brand, but fortunately when this is brand is examined there is a healthy depth of knowledge and policy below the surface.

There are three policy that important for me at the moment, and the Green’s Position on these that is deciding my vote.

1. Urbanism.

Design literacy in this country is sadly lacking. It’s the curse of being a frontier country without thousands of years of built precedent and trial and error of built form. As the Green party is part of an international movement, it understands that public transport and well designed public space are integral parts of the good citiy, healthy society, and an innovative economy. The often cited need to choose between cars and public transport is a false one. We will always need and use cars, however the last 40 years of international research and precedent (London, Copenhagen, New York) show us that planning cities around cars instead of public transport is a failed idea. We fail to recognise this because we alway view the problem from the viewpoint of the individual rather than the city. There is an idiotic article in the NZ Herald today arguing that rail will always fail in New Zealand. What this fails to appreciate is transport decisions don’t just respond to the present needs of a city, they powerfully alter the behaviour of a city in a future and how it grows and changes.   Increasing roads, esp to marginal areas of land leads to low density of housing, which leads to inefficient infrastructure, high rates, destruction of important agricultural land, and an unsustainable reliance on cheap oil to move around the city.   Improving public transport, through all means, bike, bus, rail leads to increased density, this is better for business, and more diverse business, more efficient service delivery, protection of agriculture and natural systems.   All the cities in the world need to re-invent themselves in the next 50 years, and the battle for Auckland and Christchurch is very much on at the moment.

2. Child Poverty.

That a country as rich as New Zealand has a significant poverty problem is an outrage.  That this problem is allowed to affect thousands of children is even more outrageous. That the large majority of these children are Maori and yet we claim to be a healthy post-colonial country is outrageous.  That the solutions to the problems of child poverty exist and are evidenced based and affordable and not enacted is even more outrageous.  This isn’t a political issue, it’s a moral one.   A curse on the houses of both Labour and National for allowing this to happen, and good on the Greens for having the most comprehensive strategy to work with this issue.  For more in depth information about this topic please visit the Every Child Counts website. 

3.    Other

I was going to discuss that I like the Green movement because, popular to contrary belief, it basis it’s humanist policy on evidence and research not by fulfilling the wishes of cashed up lobby groups like the truck, farmer, and alcohol lobbys which write most of the current governments policy.  But actually, I’d be happy if a government could just fix the first two no-brainers on this list.   If we can get agreement on things like 21st Century transport and Child poverty issues, then after that perhaps we can start talking about the more difficult areas of governance, until action is taken on the easy and important issue the Government is a farce.

The fact that the Green’s consistently and patiently argue for these sensible solutions to  long term problems is why I am voting for them on Saturday.

 

 

 

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Official Statement from Occupy Wall Street

Below is a copy and paste of an Official statement from the Occupy Wall Street Protest   We at Freerange Press whole heartily endorse the messages below , the cause, and the enthusiastic use of their right to protest in public space.

Official Statement from Occupy Wall Street – this statement was voted on and approved by the general assembly of protesters at Liberty Square: Declaration of the Occupation of New York City

As we gather together in solidarity to express a feeling of mass injustice, we must not lose sight of what brought us together. We write so that all people who feel wronged by the corporate forces of the world can know that we are your allies.

As one people, united, we acknowledge the reality: that the future of the human race requires the cooperation of its members; that our system must protect our rights, and upon corruption of that system, it is up to the individuals to protect their own rights, and those of their neighbors; that a democratic government derives its just power from the people, but corporations do not seek consent to extract wealth from the people and the Earth; and that no true democracy is attainable when the process is determined by economic power. We come to you at a time when corporations, which place profit over people, self-interest over justice, and oppression over equality, run our governments. We have peaceably assembled here, as is our right, to let these facts be known.

They have taken our houses through an illegal foreclosure process, despite not having the original mortgage.

They have taken bailouts from taxpayers with impunity, and continue to give Executives exorbitant bonuses.

They have perpetuated inequality and discrimination in the workplace based on age, the color of one’s skin, sex, gender identity and sexual orientation.

They have poisoned the food supply through negligence, and undermined the farming system through monopolization.

They have profited off of the torture, confinement, and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals, and actively hide these practices.

They have continuously sought to strip employees of the right to negotiate for better pay and safer working conditions.

They have held students hostage with tens of thousands of dollars of debt on education, which is itself a human right.

They have consistently outsourced labor and used that outsourcing as leverage to cut workers’ healthcare and pay.

They have influenced the courts to achieve the same rights as people, with none of the culpability or responsibility.

They have spent millions of dollars on legal teams that look for ways to get them out of contracts in regards to health insurance.

They have sold our privacy as a commodity.

They have used the military and police force to prevent freedom of the press.

They have deliberately declined to recall faulty products endangering lives in pursuit of profit.

They determine economic policy, despite the catastrophic failures their policies have produced and continue to produce.

They have donated large sums of money to politicians supposed to be regulating them.

They continue to block alternate forms of energy to keep us dependent on oil.

They continue to block generic forms of medicine that could save people’s lives in order to protect investments that have already turned a substantive profit.

They have purposely covered up oil spills, accidents, faulty bookkeeping, and inactive ingredients in pursuit of profit.

They purposefully keep people misinformed and fearful through their control of the media.

They have accepted private contracts to murder prisoners even when presented with serious doubts about their guilt.

They have perpetuated colonialism at home and abroad.

They have participated in the torture and murder of innocent civilians overseas.

They continue to create weapons of mass destruction in order to receive government contracts.*

To the people of the world,

We, the New York City General Assembly occupying Wall Street in Liberty Square, urge you to assert your power.

Exercise your right to peaceably assemble; occupy public space; create a process to address the problems we face, and generate solutions accessible to everyone.

To all communities that take action and form groups in the spirit of direct democracy, we offer support, documentation, and all of the resources at our disposal.

Join us and make your voices heard!

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Journalism?

New Zealand Herald Columnist Deborah Hill Cone triumphed US billionaire Julian Roberston and the Teach for America programme he backs through one of his charitable foundations in her recent column. Hill Cone says that Robertson is set to bring the re-named American programme Teach for All to New Zealand. This is not the case and misinformation may have come from New Zealand Herald reporter Audrey Young’s interview with Robertson while she was in New York trailing Prime Minister John Key.

Young stated the Robertson Foundation, his charitable vehicle, were planning to set up a version of Teach for America in New Zealand – Teach for All. This is not the case Teach First New Zealand have confirmed with the PPTA that Teach for All will not be coming to New Zealand. The charitable vehicle Aotearoa Foundation is one of Julian Robertson’s many foundations. Robertson has little direct involvement with it and the foundation did not know he had an interview with Audrey Young, thus the information he gave about Teach for All coming to New Zealand was incorrect. Teach First New Zealand have also confirmed that the woman who established Teach for America and developed a “rock star-type reputation”, Wendy Kopp would not be coming to New Zealand.

The proposed Teach First New Zealand is a collaboration with Auckland University’s Faculty of Education. If approved it would recruit a new group of teachers to work in hard-to-staff low decile secondary schools for two years. Graeme Aitken, Dean of Education at the University of Education told the PPTA the scheme proposes an initial six-week residential summer intensive for top graduates. The scheme is not closely modeled on Teach for America but draws closely from the Teach First Britain scheme which has the backing of a university.

When the PPTA were asked by Deborah Hill Cone about its position on her volunteering in her daughter’s school we replied that we had no issue with this as a qualified teacher would be supervising. Hill Cone claimed the PPTA were against members of the community “chipping in” to help schools. This is simply incorrect. PPTA president Robin Duff said it was problematic when unqualified members of the community started teaching in a core capacity, full-time as this would see a return to the 1960s and 70s when there was no policy to have trained and qualified teachers.

Hill Cone misquoted and stripped the context out of PPTA’s response with little regard to the consequences, she revealed a blatant disinterest in understanding the factual details that lie behind Teach First New Zealand and failed to make contact with them to clarify how they intend to operate their programme if approved.
She dismissed the PPTA’s attempt to help her understand and clarify that Teach for All is not coming to New Zealand.
She failed to mention that PPTA work alongside Teach First New Zealand and that we’ve commissioned a literature review to find out what is working well nationwide with similar schemes and what is failing countries.

The New Zealand Herald have conceded that they made a mistake and have agreed to publish a correction and give the PPTA space in the paper to state its position accurately.

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Reserve the Basin

Dear residents of Wellington.

I know these things are a pest, but I really don’t want a flyover to walk/bike under on my way to town. I think it would be depressing. Better options are around, and NZTA will consider them if enough of the public say that’s what they want. So please send a letter to info@witi.co.nz. (Before Friday, 26 August 2011) Here’s a proforma;

Re: Cobham Drive to Buckle Street Transport Improvements – Community Engagement – July to August 2011

Dear NZTA,

I support neither of the proposals currently put forward for public consultation by the NZTA for improvements to the Basin Reserve area. I would like the options for consultation to be broadened to include the NZTA report’s Option F and Architecture Centre’s Option X.

Regards,

……

For more information about Option F;
http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/basin-reserve/docs/basin-reserve-options-report.pdf

For more information about Option X;
http://architecture.org.nz/2011/07/21/the-public-needs-a-real-choice-option-x/

http://architecture.org.nz/2011/07/22/option-x-plus

The Architecture Centre is leading the campaign for option x.  This is the important stuff that cities are made of, have your say.

“The NZTA have proposed options for redeveloping the roading of the Basin Reserve.  But these are not really options. They are two schemes for flyovers which have very little difference.  We believe that the scheme/s proposed by NZTA exclude the public from making a real choice.

Currently the Basin is a mess.  From a multi-modal perspective (pedestrian, cyclist, car) the Basin is not a safe place.  Aesthetically it is a dog.  The inward facing cricket ground alienates its surroundings.  Recent building has reneged on its public responsibilities, creating some of the worst public street faces of architecture in Wellington.

We have no doubt that something needs to be done, but the choices to be made are at least on two levels.

1) Should the remediation work to improve the urban design of the Basin assume traffic levels will increase or not? and how should it respond to consequent changes in local conditions?  Data from the NZTA website suggest traffic levels have been plateauing for quite some time.

2) Should the remediation work use a tunnel or a flyover?

We think grade separation is critical to ensure better safety to all road users, and to help achieve speed consistency of motor vehicles, which will reduce emissions and noise pollution.  Both tunnels and flyovers have their problems for designers.  The scale of such infrastructure must respect the scale of the urban or suburban fabric it sits within.  Both can cause issues of severance or undesirable residual spaces.  We recognise that the NZTA images of the flyovers presented to the public do not reflect the potential design quality of the flyover structures, as these are yet to be properly designed.

Both flyovers and tunnel entrances can be poetic, elegant, and inspiring design.  Both will cost money to get the design right, and to guarantee that Wellingtonians end up with a Basin Reserve that we are proud of.”

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Authors Changing Authority -Part II

“Once a social context has become destabilized, writing will help to introduce emergent and competing alternatives (representations) and thereby introduce and stabilize the emerging system.  In such a context, written communication can become highly strategic, controversial, and negotiated at various levels as agents pursue competing and diverse representations.”
Brenton Faber, “Writing and Social Change” 2008.

I began the last article at the first ‘transition’ of communication systems: from oral to written, which happened about 5000 years ago; and I ended up somewhere around the second recognised transition, toward the printing press and the expansion of literacy from its monastic custodians, to scholars, and then the professions.

This post will be about the third transition -which we find ourselves amidst- from print to “computer-mediated” communication, and like the last post, I’ll specifically address how this might be played out in professional and organisation structures.  To cap it off, I’ll explain the empowering usefulness of “critical discourse analysis”, which essentially deals with the analysis and scrutiny of ‘discourses’ (conversations, texts, documents) in order to understand that ‘discursive context’ (ie, when you ‘talk shop’), making it possible to enact change using language, and texts –written by authors.

The reason I’m personally interested in this, as I alluded to in the first part, is that I am undertaking research in the methods of change in the institutions which are responsible for architectural education.

I’ll pick things up again around 1980, when commercial and professional environments undergo massive change because of the implementation of computer processing.  New workplace patterns emerge such as multi-authored documents, non-sequential writing, and multi-modal writing (hand-written and digital working documents), each with particular effects on authors.

Multi-authored documents (such as complicated proposals for funding) could be written non-sequentially (writing in independant segments, rather than start-to-finish) and collaboratively (often having very little contact with collaborators).  Importantly, these authors begin to perceive of their audience (readers) differently, and they begin losing their sense of possessive authorship (ownership).  They realise they are writing for their editor, rather than the targeted audience, which gives rise to an increase in ‘nominalisations’ (vague, generic, ‘normal’ terms) which flood commercial and institutional texts.  They became the mission statements, company bi-lines and corporate banners that make you feel like you’ve read something important.

“What We Stand For: Our Core Beliefs and Values
• Objectivity is the substance of intelligence, a deep commitment to the customer in its forms and timing.”

That’s from the CIA, a gem plucked out by Don Watson in his book ‘Death Sentence: The Decay of Public Language’.  He lays out the best nominalisations: accountability, teamwork, commitment, continuous improvement, adapting to our customer needs… blah blah blah.

What is important though –and is an incredible achievement of the corporate world– is that this device became remarkably powerful.  A survey of ‘average’ writers in a corporate environment were found to actually increase the frequency and use of nominalisations when they were addressing or writing for a more senior member of management, or important clients.  When they wrote for an audience ‘below’ their level, they used less.  Ambiguity meant power.

This is reflected in professional rhetoric when a survey of 200 medical articles (across 10 years, by J.Z. Segal, 1993) reveals that authority is obtained through the high use of citation and nominalisations.  This is probably very familiar to anybody who attempts to read formal academic writing in any discipline. You’ll recognise it as ‘wank’, or in the corporate world, as ‘bullshit’.

“Over the coming twelve months we will be enhancing our product offering to bring you new features and access to innovative funds. You can be confident that our commitment is resolute, to make changes that investor’s (sic) value. -Insurance company newsletter.”
This is how Don Watson kicks off his book. Brilliant.

Authors Writing for Change

Authors are empowered by writing, making it possible to enact social change.  This is a position that ‘critical discourse analysis’ makes possible, arguing that by writing we not only reflect social systems, but continually reconstitute them.

“Legally, but also socially and culturally, modern organiszations and professions are the products of written communication.” Faber, 270.

If authors understand the type of writing they’re doing, and ‘where’ they are doing it, they can subversively effect change, by constructing a type of authority.  I think the type of authorship (and authority) I’m talking about now relates to the older term auctor (discussed in the previous article) because it is more about ‘allowing something to grow’, ‘enlarging’, which is also connected to augere (‘to augment’).  Authors plant subversive seeds of change within existing texts or organisations when they are destabilized, to augment change from within -even if they are originally external to them.

“Once a social context has become destabilized, writing will help to introduce emergent and competing alternatives (representations) and thereby introduce and stabilize the emerging system.  In such a context, written communication can become highly strategic, controversial, and negotiated at various levels as agents pursue competing and diverse representations.” -Faber, 271.

Conveniently, Brenton Faber explains this process using the recent commodification of higher education as a case study.  Through the 1990s, Universities were struggling with their image, they could not clearly say (or write) what it was that they did, and so the ‘system’ became destabilised from a discursive point of view, as well as a very practical one.  What happened was a ‘transitional change’ from a sophistic and rhetoric based structure, to a corporate and capitalistic one.  It is succinctly captured by the phrase “education market.”

So how does ‘discursive change’ actually work at a practical level?  Essentially the agent or new author subversively engages in the discourse by hybridising a new genre of language with the old one.  The new language (which is actually in conflict with the old one) is carefully choreographed to be palatable to the existing members of the organisation (otherwise it will be rejected outright), and is then steadily grown or augmented.  The process is so powerful because the instability of the structure is precisely the rationale for the implementation of a new structure, which is administered through discourse.

“…this concept of transitional change occurs in increments or linked steps as prior existent knowledge is disrupted and eventually displaced by small additions that ultimately build into new formations.” Faber, 270.

Faber points out the remarkable clarity of the current Higher Education “co-hyponyms”, which cleverly make new words interchangeable with old ones, even though their meanings and implications are completely different:

knowledge becomes skills, and competencies
students become retailers
facilities become resources
administration become management
education becomes training.

The rationale for this change is hard to argue against, as it coincided with massive governmental pressure on University funding.  The resulting corporate commodification of Higher Education becomes a stronger discourse to defend, ironically, by implementing a discourse based on strategic ambiguity and the absence of precision (Faber, 275 from Connell and Galasinksi, 1998)
The exemplar nominalisation becomes “excellence”.

This is not a pessimistic article.  Critical discourse analysis offers an empowering strategy of discursive wariness, because it recognises (and argues) that these contested structures (which is sometimes calls genre’s or orders of discourse) are formal, everyday, and most importantly improvisational.  As I began, and as discourse theory upholds, writing reflects and constitutes social systems.  It is a fluid structure, which is continually contested, and is subject to community regulation, making it a powerfully democratic system, so long as its members are not subversively suppressed.

Authors Changing

The current transition to, and maturing of ‘computer-mediated’ communication is obviously significant for the author, and for my subject of interest, architecture education.  Systems and practices which attempt to stabilise discourses (whether they are rules, policy, curricula, accreditation criteria) seem to be under a cultural pressure (maybe what Faber calls community regulation) to adapt to practices which undermine their perceived stability, such as versioning, hypertext, blogging, crowd-funding, print-on-demand, and unprecedented degrees of collaborative writing (Wikipedia).

Institutions are slow-moving beasts though, with a stubborn vocabulary, and even the pups are complicit. Architects for example, somehow remain solitary authors, despite ridiculous odds, even despite themselves.

In a Studio session held at a well known architects office yesterday, two students referred to one of the office’s projects as being by the office’s Director (after whom the office is named), the name was even used in the possessive sense of ‘his building’, luckily the namesake wasn’t in the room, unluckily two other –completely unacknowledged– senior architects in the office were. Cringe.  I also heard an architect (at University) describe buildings with no more information than the office who designed them, “His Building”.  Authorship (dubious in the case of a building anyway) in this case was more important than programme, scale, or any description. Cringe.  The audience was not only expected to know what office they were talking about (acronyms and abbreviations are commonplace), but to know exactly what buildings they had designed.  I suspect we were also supposed to be impressed by the speakers knowledge (and our relative stupidity), which is another great strategy for protecting a body of knowledge.
Ironically, my silence so far in both of these situations is complicit to the discourse I pretend to be resisting, because “it is important to acknowledge that disciplinarity per se does not rest on a commonly accepted body of rules, but rather is definied by shifting frontiers between negotiable terms, appropriations, misunderstandings and misalignments that nevertheless allow certain identities to emerge.
-Architecture and Authorship. 2007

It seems important then, for myself at least, to understand a discourse like ‘architecture education’ and ‘the architecture profession’ more thoroughly, and become both adept and acrobatic in its everyday negotiation and improvisation.  If only to be more wary, strategically wanky, and honest about my bullshit, because everybody’s shit stinks.

I have essentially summarised ideas from the following articles, most of which are in Bazerman’s fantastic reader.  My referencing above does not do them justice at all, in fact I am more of an ‘editor’ than an author here, but I suspect you would rarely picked up a book with so many vague and possibly boring words in the title, so I felt obliged to share what I think are quite relevant ideas, particularly as a Freeranger.
Reading Material:

“History of the Book, Authorship, Book Design, and Publishing” by David Finkelstein, in:
Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text.
Edited by Charles Bazerman.  Taylor & Francis, 2008.

Anne Beaufort, “Writing in the Professions” in
Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text. 2008

Dorothy E. Smith, Catherine F. Schryer, “On Documentary Society” in
Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text. 2008

Brenton Faber, “Writing and Social Change” in
Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text. 2008

Architecture and Authorship
Edited by Tim Anstey, Katja Grillner, Rolf Hughes. Black Dog Publishing, 2007

Death Sentence: The decay of public language
Don Watson. Knopf, 2003.

 

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Authors Constructing Authority

Books have always been directly associated with authority and power.  The history of the ‘book’, their authors, and their authority is a small thread of a larger project about professional institutions and the ways they instrumentalise authorship and authority to obtain certain goals, in the case of my research: changing architecture education.  Over the next two blogs (the follow-up will come tomorrow), I’ll discuss some reading I’ve been doing on the history of the book, and then apply this to some contemporary contexts in the hope of understanding a little bit more about institutional authority, and the practice of writing for change.

My recent reading (I wont get into footnoting with any rigour, rather I have a few books listed at the end which I’ve been looking at) started out pretty predictably, looking historically at the rise of the book and any association it might have with authority and professions.

Things kicked off between 3000BC and 3500 in Egypt and Sumeria, when the first ‘shift’ occurs from an oral to a written system of communication.  This signals a shift to a specific type of mark-making (recording of certain information), which these researchers (Bazerman et al -see below) link primarily to economic trade, ownership, and eventually politics rather than a narrative or literary need.  So for example, if you were going to swap some goats with Osiris, you could record the trade, and claim new ownership.  This was useful as things were getting more complicated in ‘urban’ (more populous) areas with sophisticated agricultural development and trade.  Recorded ‘writing’ becomes an encoded way to make a power play, and uphold it.

So quite predictably, I also delve into some etymological research in an attempt to understand the seemingly obvious connection between the words author and authority.
It seems that the Latin-to-French auctor is the fork in the road of the two, happening around the 12C.  The older Latin root auctoritas connects to the idea of an ‘authority figure’, with terms like ‘invention’, ‘advice’ and ‘influence’ being significant.  It wouldn’t be until the 14C that the meaning ‘power to enforce obedience’ would be used, such as auctorite (prestige, dignity, gravity, right), and autorite (the ‘c’ dropped to imitate the French usage) referring to a book or quotation that would settle an argument – which fits in with the uptake of literacy and reading by acadmia/scholarship in the 12C, and the ‘professions’ in the 13C.

On the author side of auctor, the Latin root auctorem, and with it, auctus and augere refer to ‘one who causes to grow (eventually ‘augment’) or increase, an ‘enlarger’ or ‘founder’.  By the 14C it is used in the common sense as ‘one who sets forth a written document’ (coming after the two mentioned expansions of literacy in liberated (secular) scholarship and commercial professions).

Until the advent of the printing press in the 15C, the written word is sacred.  Protected by monasteries during the Dark Ages (a mighty innings from the 5C to the 11th) the practice of writing and publishing is carefully and skillfully upheld for centuries.  The practice becomes increasingly specialised, with spaces (scriptoria) and specialists dedicated to calligraphy, others to script, others to binding, and so on.  If there was ‘authorship’ (as we know it now), it would be described as collective, with little status accorded to any individual.

To reproduce – to replicate a text – was an exacting and esteemed task, reserved for the most significant words.  Clearly inherited from the status of oratory performance, the word itself held almost mystical power. The recording of the written word therefore is understandably volatile and daring, laying down such weight was an immensely powerful tool.

In 1448, the Gutenberg press rips it apart, to their disgust and imaginable disapproval.  Like Victor Hugo, they cried that this shall kill that.  Within 50 years the printing press has spread across Europe.  The Crown and Tudors got amongst it in the UK where they suppressed “seditious and heretical literature” by essentially controlling the publishing market for a couple of hundred years until the 1700s: an early (or the first?) attempt to monopolise the printed media for political gain.

From here print essentially internationalises.  News, events, (Bibles and newspapers for the colonies -New Zealand for example was printing by 1814, with an expanded programme of newspapers by the 1840s) spread the world much faster and in greater volume, and literary culture becomes increasingly central in the development of societies and nation-states around the world.

“Printing engaged writers in a manner that was different from previous scribal activity. It also undermined previous social beliefs in authorship as part of an established, collective authority – no longer were they merely cogs in an ecclesiastical wheel.”


This “preoccupation with the individualised authorial agency” signals a crucial shift in the practice of authors in the construction of authority.


“Printing shifted communication structures by being able to duplicate exact copies of texts very quickly, so allowing knowledge to be transferred more efficiently and more reliably across time and space. In the second place, this “fixing” of print would become a key factor in establishing authority and trust in the figures (authors) who produced these works.” -Finkelstein.

Tomorrow’s bit will drag this through the last hundred years of authorship and authority.

Some reading:

“History of the Book, Authorship, Book Design, and Publishing” by David Finkelstein, in:
Handbook of Research on Writing: History, Society, School, Individual, Text.
Edited by Charles Bazerman.  Taylor & Francis, 2008.

The Book History Reader, 2nd Edition

Edited by David Finkelstein and Alistair McCleery.

New York: Routledge, 2006 (2002)

Architecture and Authorship
Edited by Tim Anstey, Katja Grillner, Rolf Hughes. Black Dog Publishing, 2007

And for a bit of theory, you can’t go passed Roland Barthes’ “The Death of the Author” (1967), and Michel Foucault’s reply “What is an Author?” (1968 I think), who both contribute significantly to the theoretical and socio-cultural analysis of the idea.

 

 

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