Finding things: ideas about cities

In these ‘Finding things’ posts I record the paths by which I found – or didn’t find – things I was looking for online. This is inspired in part by Peter Morville’s great explanation of the ways we find things (in his book ‘Search Patterns‘.)

Diagram from book 'Search Patterns' showing how people search in different ways.

Diagram from Search Patterns by Peter Morville.


Writing presentation to introduce a film made in 1930s Shanghai – looking for information about the cultural tensions / relations between countryside and city, particularly port cities; for examples of designs which embody the state of the city and can act as touchpoints to illustrate the forces at play (economic, social, other)

Searches / finds

Failed search:

Google search gave mainly technical specialized articles, books, policy papers by urban planners of ports. Not useful. Re-formulation of specific queries (cultural history of Shanghai, modern Chinese history, etc.) produces mainly general interest, either too broad, or totally unrelated (antique store selling ancient Chinese porcelain, etc.)

Rich learning search:

Pinterest – search with ’1920′s Shanghai’ reveals a wealth of potentially interesting objects / artefacts. Saved 1920′s women’s fashion page from university course site; postcard image; various images of architectural features which could be ‘touchpoints’ for my presentation. Including:
- Jazz age portraits by Sioma Lifshitz
- publication about graphic design in China in 20′s, 30′s

Learned new terms, including names of streets and buildings and a publication and ‘qipao’, a type of dress.


NODE: NY Times article: Stealth wear aims to make tech statement
Why: I always scan the Tech section of the NY Times, to keep up with developments in interaction and media design

NODE: ‘Internet of dreams‘ blog; mentioned in the article in the context of wearable computing – future-oriented blog.
Why: The article mentions ‘untapped desires’ of people which can become new products; related to my interest in design strategy.

NODE: Re-posted blog post by Witold Rybczynski (in ‘Internet of Dreams’), ‘It’s hard to tell anymore’ about a book containing not only pictures of real building, but extremely realistic CGI renderings
Why: Perhaps interesting for an architect friend.

NODE: Witold Rybczynski’s site
After reading the original post, I notice a Book section; there I find two books that look promising:

Makeshift Metropolis

City Life

In his description of himself, Rybczynski mentions that ‘the artefacts I’ve kept longest include well-used hand tools’. Interesting – shows he may have an appreciation of the way an artefact can also be a ‘node’ revealing much about its historical context.

NODE: Amazon site, with ‘Look inside’ book function

The books focus on American cities, and aren’t quite what I’d hoped, but are definitely useful for non-professionals like me trying to find out more about cities are experienced, planned, perceived.


I once debated someone who believes that ‘traditional journalism’ – the kind of thing done by the NY Times – is dead, replaced by a flood of blogs, articles and various kinds of citizen journalism that is faster, closer to the source and more accurate.

As I ponder the way I found Rybczynski and his books, it occurs to me that this may be the answer. The combination of a heavyweight network of professionals like the NY Times journalists, and personal curation and sharing, is extremely powerful. The point is: when reading the NY Times, I always find things I need to find, whether I’m looking for them or not. And I find them quickly. And of course, the expertise and policies of the journalists guarantee a high level of reliability.

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