Author: Viv Straw

The Role of Place

The fundamental question asked by geographers is “does it make a difference where things are located?” The answer is; absolutely, yes… And this is where things become interesting, because different behaviorism, cultural, economic and political responses lead to different solutions even in similar environments. How we resolve our relationship with the environment is essential to our very survival, but importantly to how we experience life. People mostly go to places because of work and for every place there is a dominant economic driver, but for lots of places it can be difficult to pick out the primary drivers from the others. But it is still a good place to begin. I think places either; make stuff, traffic in stuff, or control stuff, This discussion is about why things happen where they happen! The drivers part one. Economics of place. Of course there’s more than economics to a city and in the second part we will talk about the second layer. The second layer is about attitudes. Attitude is shaped by; social and cultural moors, relationships and Environment. Cities consume resources. Places that make things either get them from the ground or value add to raw materials. Some of our most valued resources are located in remote communities, that until recently were difficult to secure, that until recent times where the subject of intense military campaigns. Today these campaigns are...

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What will Characterise the Australian City of the Future

This is a series of articles based on themes derived from Randolph Hester and others exploring the productivity, livability and sustainability of cities using an Australian Ecological Democracy framework. The interviewer is Tony Trobe and the interviewee is Viv Straw, President of the ACT Division of the Planning Institute Australia. TT: Viv you have some radical ideas about the future of planning in Canberra and our cities in general would you like to explain them to us? VS: Tony, globally four major trends characterise changes in metropolitan typology. The first of these is urban resurgence which is a function of people moving back to cities. It is common for urban centres to be seen as attractive, lively places to live and work, and as centres of intellectual and creative capacity. The second is the High-tech, global economy which has been a driver of recent economic expansion and new opportunities in cities. The third is a recognition that there is a need to diversify land uses and build solid revenue basis and the need to create liveable urban centres. And the fourth is a trend towards an increased investment in mass transit or urban transit opportunities and to orient development toward urban transit rather than private commuting options. The convergence of these trends leads to the realisation that a substantial market exists for new forms of walkable, mixed use urban...

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Does Social Capital Influence Resilience?

Cities are the most complex undertakings of the human race. Cities are in a continuous state of change and destroy and rebuild themselves in a process that looks like creative destruction. And yet, they are highly organised with complex feedback processes that are subject to internal and external turmoil and reordering. Internally cities have complex signalling systems that monitor the flows of resources through the actions of individuals and organisations. Internal and external influences can have positive or negative impacts that can lead to; destructive, disruptive or declining processes. Even to the most casual observer it is obvious that some cities seem to thrive across relatively long periods of time while others rise, reach a peak and either declined or disappear. Why is it so? Framing the issue External influences can be broken into for general groups; economic, environmental, human, and technological. Economic influences can be as straightforward as the removal of capital from one place to another or changes in the desirability of a place for activities like tourism. Environmental impacts might include; cyclones, drought, bushfires, and might be relatively short-term or long-term impacts like the impacts of climate change. Innovation and technology can change the fortunes of a city relatively quickly. Examples might include the development of the automobile, the development of the aeroplane which allowed the bypassing of many coastal cities, the development of the shipping...

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Epistemology and ontology

If a person’s ontology is like their skin, and not like a cardigan, something that they can take off or change, it will define their epistemological approach to their research. Ontological approaches can be divided into four general groups: Realists and positivists both believe in a real physical world that can be measured, touched and quantified while people who hold a constructivist view would argue that there is no real world that is independent of our senses. In short they don’t believe that. In a positivist or realist world we have access to the world and therefore can plan for what might happen. They believe that the world can be studied objectively and that we can make causal relationships between event a and event b. A positivist would suggest that there are causal relationships in the sense that where it can be shown that event X has occurred there will be a relationship with with event W such that event W caused event X. On the other hand a constructivist will argue that there is not a real world that is independent of our senses. To understand the world they create a double hermeneutic:- 1. what we are doing is identifying what people understand about their world. 2. as observers we are not objective so the best we can do is understand our understanding of their understanding. The third...

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