I recently took my first introductory GIS course, where the final project aimed to tie together all of the spatial analysis tools we had surveyed, but had yet to sufficiently chew on. I'll likely expand on this post later to extol the benefits of a course in GIS for researchers and planners (contingent on the pedagogy and experience of the instructor, clearly), its use in training capable decoders and critics of the visual information with which we are inundated daily as modern men and women, etc. But for now I'd like to touch upon the more immediate, practical issue that all novices, like myself, will confront in the initial stages of any research design: bad data, old data, or an apparent lack of any data.
Let's not be sloppy, simply because we're foreign and not "in the know."
This post was actually inspired by the intraweb trails of a French doctoral student. He too had been posting questions to various Brazilian forums, inquiring in Portuguese about where to find shapefiles of the Metropolitan Region of São Paulo for his dissertation. Several geographers conventionally pointed him toward Centro de Estudos da Metropole, a site which provides very useful information and geographic data, and is sponsored by various institutional arms of the State of São Paulo. This site is highly recommended if you are researching any issue related to cities and urban areas in Brazil.
However, the shapefiles supplied by CEM are mostly stale shelf stock from the 2000 census. Census tracts have been redefined or have been newly created in many parts of Brazil since then. In addition, many of these shapefiles are already joined to tables with basic census demographics, created for practitioners and planners learning TerraView, the Brazilian/Latin American opensource mapping platform created as an alternative to ArcGIS (which is often too costly and too "elaborate" for the purposes and, arguably, the skill sets available to many Brazilian municipalities). Hence, these outdated shapefiles may also prove unwieldy and loaded with fields that you might otherwise not need, depending on your research question.
Well, unfortunately, it appears that our anonymous cyber colleague settled on the 2000 census data, since there is no evidence in the forum that he was redirected to the main source for the 2010 census: The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) website. His digital footprint leads us to assume that he handed in a doctoral dissertation in 2011 to make a contemporary observation about Brazil, using really old data from 2000.
Perhaps this was an isolated case? Perhaps foreign researchers are rarely encumbered by language barriers, research cultures, or their own natural unwillingness to undertake the frequently arduous task to find up-to-date and, importantly, clean data? My own skepticism remains in tact...
Oh yeah, and I read a study authored by an unnamed scholar who also works for the World Bank, who had also employed the 2000 census to make a non-comparative, contemporary statement about Brazil...So it's not just a junior researcher "thang." And probably not just a Brazilianist "thang," either.
Where and how to find shapefiles and demographic data for the most recent Brazilian Census (2010) (in English)
All census data (statistics, shapefiles) can be downloaded directly from The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), following a presidential decree signed by Lula to make such information available. The following example is of São Paulo, but other cities could be found by querying a different name.
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics
Shapefiles of census tract boundaries:
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics - Geociencias
1. From the IBGE homepage, navigate to “download”.
2. On the left-hand panel, click on “geociencias”.
3. Follow the path “malhas_digitais/censo_2010/”.
4. To download shapefiles of 2010 census tracts of the São Paulo Metropolitan Region, click
“setores_censitarios” and download “sp.zip (14942 kB)”.
5. To download shapefiles of favelas of Brazil, click “aglomerados_subnormais/shape” and download
“aglomerados_subnormais2010_setores.zip (6555 kB)”.
The following shapefiles for metropolitan region of São Paulo and favleas:
Excel spreadsheets containing 2010 census data of the São Paulo Metropolitan Region:
The Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics - Estatistica
1. From the IBGE homepage, navigate to “download”.
2. On the left-hand panel, click on “estatistica”.
3. Follow the path “Censos/ Censo_Demografico_2010/ Resultados_do_Universo/
4. Download “Base_informacoes_setores_2010_universo_SP_Capital.zip (165470 kB)”.
The following data sheets contain more commonly used information, such as household income, age, literacy. The guide on how to read the census spreadsheet is also located in the 2010 census download:
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Monday, October 31, 2011
As predicted, this blog has fallen into shameless disuse.
Which is probably a good thing, since, on the one hand, this probably means I am getting some amount of work done. Although, on the other, there are plenty of busy graduate student bloggers out there who seem to manage both school and regular, high caliber blogging. I guess you can't have it all.
With that said, being a cut behind the rest I decided to employ a cheap trick and dust this blog off with a short story I wrote for my Portuguese composition class. I suppose it represents my own attempt at bridging the social science and humanities in the form of urban literature.
O meu avô não tinha nenhum desejo de deixar as Ilhas Filipinas. Quando os japoneses atacaram a capital Manila, sua cidade natal, ele se obrigou a fugir como refugiado aos Estados Unidos. A captura da cidade foi rápida, e em meio da fuga sua família perdeu todos as suas posses materiais. Não obstante, ele não esqueceu de levar consigo mesmo uma parte da sua pátria.
A metrópole de Los Angeles é fragmentada, como um quebra-cabeça. Qualquer imagem de satélite revelaria a grade geométrica da zona ocidental da cidade, composta de retângulos cinzentos e pretos que representam os edifício e os depósitos dos vastos parques comerciais. Mas no meio há um pequeno retângulo verde, uma estrela resistindo a ser engolido do abismo industrial. Isso era a nova casa do meu avô materno, sua própria contribuição para o caos urbano.
Quando ele não estava trabalhando como telefonista, ele gastava a maior parte do seu tempo livre reconstruindo uma pequena parte do seu mundo perdido. E o que surgiu era um oásis dentro de um deserto pós-fordista.
No quintal da casa, um anel de palmeiras cercavam um lago raso, onde os lírios de água e cágados flutuavam tranquilamente na superfície da água. No meio do lago, uma ilha com uma cabana de palha tinha vista para um campo de árvores nativas das Filipinas.
Quando éramos crianças e visitávamos nosso avô, os meus primos e eu gostávamos de fingir que éramos exploradores em uma floresta tropical. Caçávamos essa presa esquiva, o langostim, que se escondia nas águas nubladas do lago. Maliciosamente tentávamos empurrar uns aos outros na água escura, onde a pobre vítima seria devorada pelas “piranhas,” os peixes pequenos que nadavam ao redor de nossos pés.
Durante um dos nossos jogos, fingíamos estar em um safári. Com dias sem alimento, era preciso que caçássemos animais grandes, e não seguir com nossa pesca insatisfatória de langostins e peixes.
Na margem do lago avistei um pássaro branco e alto, ficando serenamente de um pé só, e suavemente limpando o bico com o pé livre. Eu tinha um pedregulho na mão, pronta para disparar a besta. Queria provar para o resto que eu era a maior caçadora.
Quando eu estava prestes a atirar a pedra, o meu avô veio correndo e me deu um tapa no rosto. Ele ficava furioso. Me avisou que causar dano físico aos pássaros era má sorte, e que se eu tivesse machucado este passarinho sua casa e nossa família seriam amaldiçoadas. Um mês se passou, em que tivemos que nos contentar em ser humildes pescadores de novo.
Um dia, nossos pais nos disseram que já não poderíamos jogar no quintal do nosso avô: ele estava gravemente doente, eles nos disseram, e os médicos não sabiam o que estava errado com ele. Padres católicos foram convidados a dar suas bênçãos para ele, mas não tiveram nenhum efeito.
Chegou o dia em que tivemos que sair da casa. Me separei de meus primos e andei para o lago. A água estava completamente imóvel. Do outro lado do lago, o pássaro branco apareceu repentinamente, seus pés na água e com o mesmo comportamento tranquilo.
Meu avô tinha me avisado do crime de ofender tal besta. Entretanto, se as conseqüências fossem verdades, isso significaria que ele era mais poderoso de que os humanos cuidando do meu avô. Perguntei ao pássaro se podia usar seus poderes para curar o meu avô. Como resposta, ele bateu as asas e voou para longe. Foi a última vez que eu vi aquele pássaro no quintal do meu avô.
No dia seguinte, meu avô ficou completamente curado. Sentiu-se tão energético, tão livre, que ele decidiu colher todas as frutas maduras das árvores, bem como consertar o telhado da cabana de palha.
Agora que sou adulta, minha educação me leva a acreditar que a medicina ocidental é suprema, e que tais superstições são absurdas. Às vezes eu temo que minha fidelidade a esta velha lembrança passe a fragmentar a lógica da minha visão do mundo, e que eu sou, de fato, amaldiçoada a partir desse encontro de infância com aquele pássaro branco e misterioso.
Thursday, July 28, 2011
I love discussing São Paulo’s environmental vanguardism amongst people who love cities and/or environmental policy because the idea of São Paulo as an “innovator" is, on all grounds, incompatible with the global imaginary. Amongst planners and non-planners, good urban governance is rarely associated with Rio de Janeiro or São Paulo. The grand narrative of Brazilian cities denounces São Paulo as a concrete jungle dominated by sprawl, cars, and crime, where Rio de Janeiro is a paradoxical landscape of poverty and natural beauty. Those who have visited Brazil often slip into the quintessential comparison between São Paulo and Los Angeles, so it is little wonder that Curitiba and Porto Alegre continue to skirt about as "model cities.”
|The "megacities" rating system|
The experience of São Paulo is exceptional in that it challenges common conceptions of city management at two levels: nationally, universal take-away lessons in urban management exist outside of its more ruly, mid-sized cities. Globally, it contradicts the generalization that developing world megacities are “environmentally stressed” and inherently ill-equipped to address the challenges that both rapid urbanization and climate change present. As discussed by researchers who have closely followed the evolution of Brazilian environmentalism, such portrayals have attempted to legitimize the perception that countries like Brazil are late adopters of ideas of environmental responsibility, and thus necessarily solicit the influence of international environmental norms and standards.
Not that international standards and agreements are themselves inherently wrong, ineffectual, or out to keep the nation state hostage, as the tea-partier so dramatically proclaims. Nor has transnational activism had a negligent effect on Brazilian environmental politics.
Rather, I want to argue that political opportunities in Brazil have arisen from major political transformations which have been more important in shaping outcomes than assumed. The transition to democracy in Brazil set up a national urban reform process which recognized the democratic management of cities, the social function of property and the city, and the autonomy of municipal governments, among others.
In the State of Sao Paulo in the 1970s, politicians were incited by state actors and civil society to create regulatory frameworks that would mitigate serious environmental problems caused by air pollution and industrial emissions. For example, the municipality of Cubatão reached international press, due to its unusually high rates of anencephalia (babies born without brains) caused by lethal levels of mercury from local factory emissions.
And this is just barely scraping the surface. This multilevel interplay between Brazilian environmentalism and the new political spaces created by urban reform makes São Paulo the municipal Captain Planet that it is today.
Cities, especially third-world megacities, are now center stage in environmental policy-making. Therefore, an understanding of the case of São Paulo lends the notion that, in guiding environmental urban reform in the global South, the ways that domestic political processes shape urban “greening" must be taken into account.
|Replacing"communism" with "megacities" - I|
guess it goes against their definition to ask
meta narratives to show some originality.
Friday, July 22, 2011
Recently, an excellent Guardian Business podcast discussed the precariousness of UK high streets as many household names in retail go out of business.
1. High streets inside and outside the UK are having to creatively revamp the spaces vacated by capsized retailers. This may translate into designating spaces that were once occupied by retail for other uses, such as converting spaces above surviving retail stores into apartments. This post-planning phase of mixed-use development would provide a range of commercial and residential unit sizes and options in central districts that already tend to be accessible by multiple modes of transportation.
2. Stalled developments resulting from the financial crisis and a battered construction industry have the opportunity to be rethought, contested, and revised. For my current internship I've had to review pre-crisis housing development proposals that were targeted for smart growth policies. It was frustrating (yet unsurprising) to see that, after undergoing mandatory environmental reviews, city council members permitted the most sprawl-worthy developments to carry on without motivating any internalization of suggestions, even when the most minor modifications would increase density and support several state laws to reduce carbon emissions.
The debate unintentionally steered towards the implications that the global economic downturn poses for urban (re)development, which made me think back to some of the issues covered by a previous blog post which used a local indoor mall near Sacramento as a case to illustrate the broader geographical competition over development between traditionally central parts of cities and peripheral regions. What my post lacked, and what the perceptive Guardian contributors point out, are the profound consequences that economic and financial fluctuations have for the urban landscape. These implications even intimate a more optimistic future for environmental planning:
|Camden High Street in London,|
and in her (fading?) glory
|Perth High Street, although Australia |
has weathered the crisis better than most
Fortunately, the momentum to enforce laws to fight climate change in the State of California has been relatively sustained while developers are still hesitant move forward, allowing environmental groups that consulted (and lost) during the review process to regain their bearings. Perhaps I'm being overly optimistic because I also want all of this to actually happen, on a grand scale - but I am an aspiring and idealistic environmental planner after all, so sue me.
Tuesday, July 12, 2011
Monday, July 11, 2011
I fortuitously stumbled across this album after falling in love with the trip-electronic/Japanese transplant group Cibo Matto, the parent band of singer and fellow contributor Miho Hatori. If it weren't for the deterring shipping costs, I would buy all twelve of the15-cent used copies from Amazon.com and launch them off a skyscraper, with little parachutes attached. Like a humanitarian aid mission deploying food supplies to an underfed and at-risk population, I would be providing the needy masses with digital nourishment distilled from the New York City urban experience.
"Urban Renewal Program" is the sound of a late-night drive through New York, and combines a stellar list of hip-hop and electronic artists who have fused together to form a truly experiential program that, as a whole, cannot be separated from its host city. For example, the "city" which predominates Miho Hatori's even, slow-tempo contribution about feelings of urban anonymity and disconnectedness remains unspecified. But URP's collection and sequencing make her track, and the entire album, inextricably "New York."
Sunday, July 3, 2011
Last week I made an obligatory trip to my hometown’s trendy indoor mall, known as the Roseville Galleria, which is located roughly 20 miles from the downtown area of Sacramento. I loathe everything about the suburban shopping mall experience (Inflated prices! Youths!), and during the hurried stroll to make a return I came to a sudden halt in front of a wall interspersed with air ducts and speech bubble-shaped appliqués. Lingering, I excitedly recognized that I was witness to a storyboard of several local and global processes at work.
The speech bubbles, in their expanse and proximity, were aggressively chiming to an invented collective opinion that the mall in question was not just a place to buy things, where dispassionate economic transactions occur within a contained space segregated by a radial half-mile of asphalt wasteland. On the contrary, they rather glowingly proclaimed that mall was the heart and community focal point of the suburb which it borders. “It’s our town square,” avers one bubble. It’s not “just a mall, but to this community it is so much more,” supports another.
Since their rise in the mid-1950s, malls have been criticized universally for their infixed sense of placelessness. Locality and human agency are deemphasized, and malls are treated as consumption-driven, globalized spaces outturned from the same figurative cookie cutter. “I was interested in the creeping loss of regional differences,” said Michael Galinsky, who in 1989 drove across the country and documented malls across America. “I thought a lot about (photographer Robert) Frank's ‘The Americans’ as we drove from place to place without any sense of place.” But the ventilation-speech bubble camel was arguing just the opposite; that, the Galleria actually had a specific place-based identity and going as far as to declare it the “town square,” the holy grail of public spaces.
Residents of Roseville are the upper-crust of the region, and with their high incomes and spending habits perhaps the Galleria could be accurately valued as a symbol of the community. Yet to reach out and claim that the Galleria serves as the harmonious host to both high-end consumerism and civic engagement is like saying the Dallas Cotton Bowl houses the nation’s bro-iest sporting events while serving as a premier gay wedding venue: Like oil and vinegar, the former would fundamentally repel the latter.
I do agree that the Galleria is a geographically bound expression, but that this has more to with its regional relationship to the city of Sacramento rather than any near resemblance to a public space. Places, cities, and entire regions compete, and the speech bubbles are part of a larger city image-making campaign which seeks to attract economic development away from Sacramento to the urban fringe. This is nothing new, and the current era of globalization has proven the power of America’s suburban cities to attract such activities. However, in competing with the historically “central city,” Roseville is issuing and potentially acting on promises of placemaking to strategically differentiate itself- a technique which has most prominently been used by planners and “new urbanists” to reclaim the urban core by revaluing public space.
Notable examples of placemaking include the New York City Streets Renaissance, which since 2005 has turned several streets spaces into public plazas (think NY Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan’s overhaul of the Times Square portion of Broadway). Recently Rick Snyder, the governor of Michigan, has adopted placemaking as a statewide economic strategy. For Detroit, the hope is that the vanishing city would be stymied by the infusion of place capital through the improvement of streets and public space in key focal points for neighborhood urban renewal. Sacramento has also pursued its own variety of placemaking strategies, with a special focus on making the midtown neighborhood more attractive to families who have increasingly decided to nest in Roseville and the outlying suburbs.
At the global scale, the Roseville example is one of several examples which demonstrate that the contemporary link between globalization and urbanization is not strictly sameness or monoculture. The uniqueness of “place” still has a place, so to speak, where malls are the outcomes of a global capitalist logic of production and consumption with local political, cultural, and social influences.
But the example of the Galleria stands out because it underscores the additional regional dynamic existing between the city and the periphery. Suburban planners and developers are able to undermine the regional planning process by co-opting techniques originally used by central city planners to encourage economic growth. Where central planners have been able to showcase their natural endowment of public spaces, suburban planners have shrewdly understood the need to market their own veneers of public space.
An urban fringe command of place capital, it would then seem, may play an adverse role on several fronts: Among them, by sustaining the suburbanizing process, and contributing to the impoverishment of the central city where an unparalleled wealth of cultural amenities, including truly open civic spaces, does exist.
Correspondingly, suburban placemaking is often tied to projects hostile to smart growth reforms and other attempts to control urban sprawl. At this critical juncture, where cities have taken center stage in environmental policies and politics, the success at achieving state mandates to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may partially depend on the skills of suburban developers to gloss professions of community and accessibility over a determinedly compartmentalized and automobile-dependent landscape.