Systemic Thinking

Gallón L. (2019) Systemic Thinking. In: Leal Filho W., Azul A., Brandli L., Özuyar P., Wall T. (eds) Quality Education. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69902-8_58-1
  • Problems: Machine age problems are concerned with simple systems, boundary closed, passive parts, fully observable, and analysis and reductionism methods of understanding, and, on the other side, systems age problems are concerned with complex systems, boundary open, purposeful parts, partially observable, and synthesis and holism methods of understanding (…) To think systemically is to understand the difference between machine age problems and systems age messes.
  • Observe: Development of multiple perspectives and first-order and second-order observations; integration of both soft and hard perspectives; apart from the technical, organizational, social, economic, environmental, political and human perspectives should be included
  • Think: Convergence and divergence; analysis and synthesis; decoupling a problem in a manner that allows identification of outcomes, their derivative outputs etc.
  • Model: relations between scales of space and time (…) all models are wrong but some are useful (…) a model must contain two or more mental constructs that can serve as variables and establish relationships between variables and/or their values
  • Simulate: systems thinking + simulation= systemic thinking
  • Solution: the means needed in the attainment of specific, purposeful goals; understanding stakeholders, their motives, circumstances, context, factors, conditions, values and patterns (…) it is articulating current and desired states for a mess

Reference

Gallón L. (2019) Systemic Thinking. In: Leal Filho W., Azul A., Brandli L., Özuyar P., Wall T. (eds) Quality Education. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-69902-8_58-1

Winter School on Circularity in the Built Environment

The Circular Built Environment Hub (CBE Hub) of the Faculty of Architecture and the Built Environment, TU Delft is hosting a Winter School on Circularity in the Built Environment from Sunday, November 21 to Tuesday, November 23.

We will be discussing the topic of scales: You will have the opportunity to deepen your understanding of the theoretical aspects of circularity and circular economy and to learn from current examples from practice. You will also be required to contextualize this knowledge in Binckhorst, a district in the Hague that aspires to become an exemplary circular redevelopment for South Holland with mixed residential-commercial and industrial uses. 

Students from all levels of education (BSc, MSc) as well as PhD researchers are welcome to participate and are also invited to attend the Circularity in the Built Environment (CiBEn) Conference that will take place in Delft on the following days Wednesday, November 24 to Friday, November 26. Winter School activities and outcomes will be presented at the CiBEn Conference during a special (CBE Hub) session to be held on Friday.

Stay tuned for more information or visit our website

Review on “critiques of the CE” paper

Based on an extensive literature review the paper brings together critiques on circular economy. Following list covers some of them.

  • concept vagueness
  • conflicts and trade offs are often overlooked
  • collection of heterogeneous scientific and semi-scientific concepts
  • mostly developed by practitioners
  • conceptual fragmentation and lack of paradigmatic strength
  • not a theory but an emerging approach
  • in its multiplicity it provides with a new framing but there is increased scrutiny to its operationalization
  • cyclical systems also consume resources, create waste and emissions
  • complexity of waste: recycling markets are unpredictable
  • difficulty in connecting waste streams to production
  • waste a resource increases waste
  • emphasis on manufacturing flows rather than stocks/ stock is overlooked
  • global south is excluded
  • actual enactments are limited
  • circular business models can only be validated when products are recirculated and resold
  • lack of means to measure circularity of business models
  • circular innovation is hard to scale up
  • customers are lacking awareness
  • lack of consumer interest is a common problem for green offerings
  • issues of power remain underplayed on who’s to gain from turning circular
  • it revolves around a relatively small fraction of materials in the global throughput
  • it is uncertain on what level circular products can actually substitute for conventional linear products
  • having relied mostly on engineering and natural sciences, circular economy shows a neglect of the social pillar
  • it is not a socially or political neutral system: societal benefits of a new circular model should be established in a more fundamental and sound manner than just traditional cost-benefit analysis
  • the expectation that the individual consumer will be able to mobilize large scale change is unrealistic
  • potential gains from recycling are eaten up by increased consumption
  • risk of increased polarization between city and country and that the countryside is left out with poorer access to welfare services as a result

Sounds harsh, but most of it is true. Problem with some of this critique is that it examines CE within the linear economy paradigm. Criteria against which CE is contested here are based on either the clash of CE with existing models (ie waste stream management) or the strongly embedded modernist consumer(ist) habits. These can not possibly change overnight. Absence of the social pillar is pretty accurate though, as well as the asymmetry to CE implementation between the Global North and Global South. Which brings us perhaps to the most important point made in the paper, the acknowledgement that CE is not politically neutral. And unless CE is recognized for its political and (may I add) ethical stance, its implementation will always be lacking and the social pillar will always be suppressed.

References

Corvellec H, Stowell A, Johansson N. Critiques of the circular economy. J Ind Ecol. 2021; 1–12.
https://doi.org/10.1111/jiec.13187 available here: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/jiec.13187?af=R

Great women figures in science: Barbara McClintock

Image available here

I am thinking of establishing a new thread in this blog starting from a woman who is apparently not related to my field, however, as I read has left the world with a huge legacy in rethinking gene regulation. The theory she developed in early 1950’s described that mobile elements regulated the genes by inhibiting or modulating their action (what is currently known as transposons). Despite her colleagues opposition and doubt she continued to gather evidence for her claims and had to wait for about 30 years before her contribution was finally acknowledged ending up with McClintock getting a Nobel prize for her discoveries. For more on McClintock visit: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barbara_McClintock

Emergence & Complexity Lecture

Just spent the last couple of hours listening to Prof. Robert Sapolsky, Stanford University. This was a 11 year old lecture on emergence and I’ve enjoyed every single argument and every single story he said. I can’t believe how lucky we are to have access to this kind of input on the click of a button. Interestingly (and also ironically) enough, he concludes his lecture discussing bottom-up emergent phenomena: people not needing experts or blueprints to tell them how to go about, just randomness and simple rules that in high quantity produce quality. This is around the time first xMOOCs showed up and connectivist theory was taking off. I can’t believe how related the two are.

e-waste/ death waste

Image available here (@) Kai Löffelbein

Accra, Ghana is one of the main destination for e-waste. But that’s not all. Since computers contain gold, silver and copper, 700 people -amongst them also children- smash the computers to retrieve the aforementioned materials. According to the Guardian article most get cancer and die by the time they are in their 20’s.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/gallery/2014/feb/27/agbogbloshie-worlds-largest-e-waste-dump-in-pictures

Kai Löffelbein further travelled to cities in India and China that also host e-waste facilities, only to find air-pollution levels even more alarming. “The only real solution to the rising tide of e-waste may be for consumers to give up their mania for the new new thing,” he says (See Wired 2018 article: The Hellish E-Waste Graveyards Where Computers Are Mined for Metal). His book entitled CTRL-X on the topography of e-waste is available on Amazon.

The double life of Modernism

One of the most refreshing articles I have read recently: a full on comparison between two people; two projects and two conflicting ideologies. But, most importantly, a reflection on how design decisions are informed and in turn inform our thinking and living under the underlying -and quite ironic if I may add- contradiction between ideals and the real world. Excellent read.

https://www.thenation.com/article/culture/enzo-mari-ikea-design/

Circular Building Products ProfEd, starts March 31!

So excited that our ProfEd Circular Building Products for a Sustainable Built Environment is up for a second run, starting on March 31! Watch our new teaser video to see what the course is about and who else is involved.

For more information and registrations please visit: https://online-learning.tudelft.nl/courses/circular-building-products-for-a-sustainable-built-environment/

Looking forward to working with you in turning your product into a circular one!


Big thanks to Peter Van Assche (@PrettyPlactic), Casper van der Meer (BetterFutureFactory), Olaf Blaauw, Laura Rosen Jacobson (@Buurman), Martijn Veerman (@Alkondor) & Monique Fledderman (@VMGR). And thanks to @HansdeJonge from @Oculus for the great work in making this video!

The DORA Declaration

Image available here

DORA Aims:

  • eliminate the use of journal-based metrics, such as Journal Impact Factors, in funding, appointment, and promotion considerations
  • assess research on its own merits rather than on the basis of the journal in which the research is published
  • capitalize on the opportunities provided by online publication

Dora Goals:

  • improve research by strengthening research assessment
  • changes in academic culture to ensure that hiring, promotion, and funding decisions focus on the qualities of research that are most desirable – insight, impact, reliability and re-usability – rather than on questionable proxies
  •  increase awareness of the need to develop credible alternatives to the inappropriate uses of metrics in research assessment: showcase the implementation of good practices and how policy changes have improved research assessment in hiring, promotion, and funding decisions
  • research and promote tools and processes that facilitate best practice in research assessment

Reference: https://sfdora.org/

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

Image available here

Just watched 2011 Adam Curtis 3-episode BBC series under this title of a poem by Richard Brautigan. I strongly recommend that you watch this documentary (link available here); Adam Curtis is a master at creating consistent narratives (remember ‘the century of the Self’). In the meantime, here is the poem the series owe its name to, dedicated to all my friends the cyberneticists.

I like to think (and
the sooner the better!)
of a cybernetic meadow
where mammals and computers
live together in mutually
programming harmony
like pure water
touching clear sky.

I like to think
(right now, please!)
of a cybernetic forest
filled with pines and electronics
where deer stroll peacefully
past computers
as if they were flowers
with spinning blossoms.

I like to think
(it has to be!)
of a cybernetic ecology
where we are free of our labors
and joined back to nature,
returned to our mammal
brothers and sisters,
and all watched over
by machines of loving grace.

Competition Culture in Europe 2017-2020

Well, it was worth the wait and the effort! Competition Culture in Europe 2017-2020 is now openly available! Big thanks to Architectuur Lokaal and Indira van Klooster for making it happen and a big thanks to Katerina Moustaka and Stelina Portesi the two students of NTUA who worked so hard for the research!

Abstract: Research, activities & educational outputs from the 2017 International Competition Culture in Europe (CCIE) conference, & the wider CCIE programme, are assembled here to provide invaluable resources, knowledge, & guidance. 25 European countries were involved in the programme & in 6 research programmes were set up. The 1st part provides an overview of CCIE international convocations & their outputs. The 2nd part reports on University master students research from Tirana (Albania), Sarajevo (Bosnia & Herzegovina), Sofia (Bulgaria), Athens (Greece), Dublin (Ireland) & Portsmouth (United Kingdom). These country’s outputs cover the history, development, application, & opportunities of competitions in an international context. This publication is an Architectuur Lokaal project realised with Project Compass CIC & A10 New European architecture Cooperative.