Urban Omnibus is pleased to be holding our second annual essay competition, on the topic of cost, metrics, and measurement in urban life. With this competition, Urban Omnibus invites writers to infuse the quantitative language that pervades environmental understanding with narrative, theory, history, or humor. In so doing, we seek to advance our dedication to redefining the culture of citymaking by questioning how we talk about urban, environmental challenges.
For more information or to submit, visit: http://urbanomnibus.net/2013/02/call-for-essays-fuzzy-math/.
What are the metrics or dimensions that govern your behavior in a city?
What are the “costs” and what are the “benefits” of living or working in a city?
How do you quantify your actions – literally or figuratively – in ecological, economic, or political terms?
Environmental imperatives – and the urgency of shocking people out of climate change complacency – have accelerated the quantification of consumption habits and settlement patterns. This quantitative turn, supported by the availability of big data, has distracted us from unpacking the qualitative, cultural attitudes that underlie political inaction.
Meanwhile, the cost of some of what we consume in cities – like real estate – is reflected in its price structure, yet a lot of it – like parking, parks, or pollution – is not. Even if the environmental benefits of urban density are starting to be understood, an accepted calculus of a city’s externalities remains far from precise, subsumed in a metaphorical language of carbon footprints or numerical valuations like LEED. So let’s put it in personal terms. How do you measure your behavior: In rent? In square feet? The number of laps run around the park? MetroCard swipes? Brand of lightbulb? The distance food travels to end up on your plate? What are urban public goods – drinking water, open space, public access television, fireworks displays – worth to you?
Essays might propose an alternative data set of quality of life indicators, relate a personal story of home economics, find the comedy in cap and trade, argue for or against the right to free parking, imagine the interior monologue of New York’s 1,000,000th tree.
The jury will select one first-prize essay, whose author will receive an award of $500. Up to two second place winners will receive prizes of $250 each.
Registration Deadline: Friday, March 22, 2013.
Submission Deadline: Friday, March 22, 2013.
Competition website: Visit website