culture

An advertisement for Dove body wash was recently deemed racially insensitive for its portrayal of a Black woman who removes her brown shirt to reveal a White woman wearing a tan shirt. There is a long history of advertisers being insensitive to African American consumers…when they paid attention to that segment of the market at all. The Pacific Standard article “A Brief History of Companies Courting African-American Dollars” provides an analysis.

The annual Beloit College Mindset List has been released. Providing “a look at the cultural touchstones that shape the lives of students about to enter college,” this year’s list for the class of 2021 is for students mostly born in 1999…the year I finished graduate school and became an Assistant Professor at the University of Minnesota! Items include “Zappos has always meant shoes on the Internet,” and “the BBC has always had a network in the U.S. where they speak American” [BBC America! I’m going to miss Orphan Black.]. My oldest niece starts at Whittier College next month; I’ll have to send her this list.

A Vanderbilt University professor notes, “Beloit College just published its annual Mind-Set List to remind professors of the ever-growing gap between their own cultural experiences and those of their incoming students. As a service to these new students, I am now providing the faculty version of the mind-set list. Here is your guide to the college years of a typical 50-something professor.” His “The Mind-Set List, Faculty Edition” is pretty funny!

The August 11, 2017 Google Doodle is about the 44th anniversary of the birth of hip hop. The doodle is interactive: one is invited to experiment with scratching and mixing records on two turn tables [just two turntables, though, not two turntables and a microphone]. I must admit that I spent a little too much time playing with it today! I also reminisced about my earliest experience with hip hop: with other 7th grade kids I improvised my own lines to raps by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five…I think that one of my lines was “Like Melle Mel I’m here to say, all the pretty girls come my way!” I didn’t pay much attention to hop hop again, however, until rooming with a high school buddy in my first year of college. At one time Charles Isbell maintained an online hip hop reviews page, but now he’s too busy with administration, as he’s the Executive Associate Dean and Professor in the College of Computing at our undergraduate alma mater, Georgia Tech. I wonder how many other deans out there were hip hop heads back in the day…

Citylab has a recent story about a project in which U.S. rivers are mapped using the conventions of a subway map. “If any modern-day Huckleberry Finns and Jims wanted to navigate the mighty rivers of America,” the article begins, “they’d do well to take along this delightfully crafted guide to waterways that looks like a subway map.” Fun!

The San Francisco Bay Area has a new bike sharing program. The Ford GoBike system appears to be an easy way to rent bikes for short trips in several cities in San Francisco, Oakland, San José, and surrounding areas. The annual membership is a bit steep, though, at $149/year. Why is it twice as much as the annual subscription for the Minneapolis-St.Paul, Minnesota Nice Ride bike sharing program?

The Pacific Standard magazine has a fascinating series on change makers whose accomplishments occurred later in life. Each person is at least 80 years old, and “each has post-retirement accomplishments more spectacular than most people’s life’s work. They’re part of the gray-haired ‘encore movement,’ a wave of elders who are using their golden years to do potent social justice work.” For example, 82 year-old Wilhelmina Perry received an Encore Award for her activism at the intersection of Blackness, LGBT, and religious identities. Wow!

One of my favorite websites is CityLab, a space “dedicated to the people who are creating the cities of the future—and those who want to live there. Through sharp analysis, original reporting, and visual storytelling, our coverage focuses on the biggest ideas and most pressing issues facing the world’s metro areas and neighborhoods.” The editors recently redesigned the site, and sent a note to subscribers about the changes. I’ll report the note below. I encourage everyone to visit the site!


Dear CityLab Reader,

Today, you will notice we have launched a major redesign to CityLab. The redesign is bringing you the same smart insights and strong journalism as before, but now enhanced by a design that is easier to read, and as sophisticated as you, our readers. If you want to learn more about how we redesigned the site David Dudley, our Executive Editor, wrote a great post here.

Over the coming weeks and months you will see additional changes coming to CityLab.

The first, and perhaps most visible, change to CityLab is refocusing our verticals down to an essential five.

  • Design: covering how space elevates us, engages us and makes our cities and communities special and livable.
  • Transportation: examining all aspects of mobility; from bicycles to autonomous vehicles to our own two feet.
  • Environment: exploring how cities are on the frontlines of sustainability, resiliency and making our lives more green.
  • Equity: connecting how we live in cities to how we provide opportunities for all to thrive and improve the wellbeing of all members of our community.
  • Life: a refocus of our “modern urbanist’s guide to life” to engage a new generation to think and act in their pursuit of making their urban communities better, cooler and livable.

A second change is a deeper commitment to telling stories visually, especially with maps. Cities are visual experiences and we are supporting our writers who have long desired to expand the way we tell stories. There is new innovation in cartography, infographics, and custom visual information; which will allow for strong interactive features. This type of storytelling will become a hallmark of CityLab.

The third change at relaunch is that we are introducing several new features:

  • Solutions: we will be building on our CityFixer articles by rebranding them “Solutions.” For select articles will be attaching a new “Toolbox,” so people who are inspired by the article can learn how to explore a solution for their city.
  • Viewpoints: we will be expanding our POV content to support important new voices that will change the debate about our future cities. We will have special emphasis on men and women of color and other voices who have been underrepresented in the conversation about the future of cities.
  • Newsletters: we have found that newsletters are an excellent way for audiences to connect with us, and that our newsletter subscribers become regular, deep, and engaged readers. We have already launched a new weekly newsletter tied to urban living. We will be experimenting with additional newsletters focused on Maps, and a morning urban news round-up The Lab Report.

The last big change is that we have stopped accepting advertising that interrupts your reading experience. For CityLab’s highly engaged, educated audience we want our advertising to have impact, and even at times surprise and delight you. We are now working directly with our advertising partners to create stronger, useful ads that stand to the right of the content, which, befitting our site, we call “Empire Ads,” as well as sponsor content that we create with our advertising partners.

CityLab has never been a passive voice publication. Our writers and editors don’t write about the future of cities, but with our unabashed love of urban life we are a part of the process of how urban leaders, advocates and entrepreneurs discover the future.

Our commitment is to dive even deeper into reporting the stories that change the way we think about our urban future. And now we have a site that can showcase the best urban journalism in the world!

“Cultural appropriation” is a term that is increasingly appearing in popular culture. “The Dos and Don’ts of Cultural Appropriation” is a fascinating article in The Atlantic, arguing that “borrowing from other cultures isn’t just inevitable, it’s potentially positive.” Check it out!

The Atlantic‘s new “You Are Here” series explores the [social] science behind everyday life. The “How the Internet is Changing Friendship” episode asks, “Wherever your friends are, you can always check up on them with social media. But does that mean that we’re keeping friendships alive past their natural expiration date, or are virtual connections actually making friendships stronger?” Very interesting question!

The Atlantic‘s CityLab website has a fascinating story about multiracial defenders of confederate memorials in New Orleans. One would initially think that all of the defenders are White, but, as usual, race in America is more complex and nuanced than meets the eye….