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Prepared on the occasion of World Carfree Day (22 September 2009) and the associated street parties it enables and encourages
Twinning between places has long been explored as a mode of facilitating relationships, sharing expertise and local cultures. This has been most evident in town twinning, or twinning between local authorities. More recently it has been extended, with intergovernmental support, to extend what had been explored in terms of networks of excellence and the like.
There has been little exploration of twinning at an even more local level, namely between streets -- within towns, irrespective of whether those towns or their local authorities were themselves twinned. What follows is an exploration of this possibility in the light of the greater level of individual engagement at the neighbourhood level associated with streets. Streets may indeed be twinned across the world, like towns.
However the particularity of what follows is the possibility of detecting, determining and highlighting possible patterns of streets variously around the world. The focus is on the possibility that these may form local elements of global polyhedral configurations encompassing the world.
The argument is that the local-global link established by street twinning in this way may constitute an imaginative catalyst of value to the challenge of global coherence and global governance in response to global challenges that call for local engagement. A particular focus is given to the role of software facilities, such as Google Earth, in enabling the detection and formation of such street twinning configurations.
We've all seen pictures or films of far way places, or even been on holiday around the world, but we often feel distant, noticing the cultural differences without seeing what we have in common. Street twinning is a fun way of making friends with people in another country and learning directly about their lives and culture. It is also a great way of meeting and getting to know the people who live closest to you. Streets don't just have to be for cars! They can be beautiful places for playing, chatting with your neighbours, gardening, watching wildlife and having a party. Organising a street party is a great way of building your local community and making your street come to life.
How to go about it? Again there it is indicated that:
You don't need a lot of money, just a bit of time and enthusiasm. Talk to your neighbours and find out if they would be interested in having a street party. Streets Alive! can give you lots of good advice about how to do this. Find out about established twinning links your council might already have, or think about places which would be interesting to twin with. Talk to your neighbours at the party and take it from there! There is more information about how this project was organised at the history page (see also the Street Twinning Project Report).
"Twinning" is not necessarily limited to pairs of streets. More may be involved. The project described 3 streets across the world.
Approaches to twinning with streets in other countries might be based on:
Also of interest, as variants on town twinning, are the twinning of transportation hubs, such as airport twinning or railway station trimming. However, in terms of the argument here, in each case it might be of greater relevance to look at the twinning of the associated linear traffic lines, namely runway twinning and mainline railway twinning. Examples of airport twinning already exist and are potentially of particular symbolic interest in the case of those at military bases.
Much more of a stretch for street-oriented imagination is the initiative of the international relief and development organization CORD in launching the world's first global toilet twinning programme "to wipe away disease and flush away poverty". People in developed countries are offered the possibility of linking their toilet with one in a developing country -- "in the African bush". It is then suggested that one might: "Pin point your twin on Google Earth, hang its picture in your loo and bring relief to a family of six".
In addition to the approach taken above, consideration can be given to twinning between:
Any such orientation does not need to be with streets in the same area. The twinning could be with streets on the other side of the world, oriented in a particular way to each other. If the street one lives in were to extend around the world it might well pass "through" many other streets forming a chain of potential twins. Alignments of this kind are notably of interest to those who derive significance from historical leylines.
Grids of streets, forming blocks, are one of the simpler configurations of streets for any street twinning initiative. Less obvious are those of other simple, regular polygons such as the triangle of 3 streets, the pentagon of 5 streets, the hexagon of 6 streets, or the octagon of 8 streets. More complex are the decagon involving a configuration of 10 streets or the dodecagon with 12.
Such configurations might seem impossible to achieve in practice, even if the challenge was considered meaningful. That is forgetting the possibility of extending the line of each street across the map -- and possibly around the world. A school might well find it a challenge to determine with what other school streets its own formed particular configurations. What might be the most complex configuration it could discover -- offering a set of twinning possibilities? Of course extending the street in this way introduces spherical geometry.
But what might be the motivation? Aside from curiosity, there is the kind of mystery evoked for the young by the quest for the larger patterns of which a familar street might be part. Whereas town twinning cultivates relationships between distant towns, any such configuration of streets offers a more intimate relationship to distant localities -- a potential challenge to the imagination.
The attractive geometry of tiling patterns suggests that even more complex patterns may excite the interest of some. The challenge remains how to integrate one's own local street into patterns that may be discovered that imply more complex possibilities of partnership and exchange with streets oriented differently to one's own.
Twinning in polygonal patterns as described above assumes that the pattern follows the surface of the globe. There is a further possibility if each street is understood to be a tangent on the surface of that globe -- as it effectively is. Extending the street further takes it beyond the surface of the Earth in both directions. The question then becomes what significant twinning possibilities result from memorable configurations of streets extended in this way such that they intersect in outer space.
Rather than polygons, it is now a question of polyhedra. The best known are the Platonic solids: the tetrahedron of 6 streets, the cube and octahedron (each of 12 streets), the icosahedron and dodecahedron (each of 30 streets). Clearly it would be a real challenge to know of 5 other streets with which one's own was configured to form a tetrahedron encompassing the globe. This would constitute a powerful trigger to the imagination -- especially for the young -- linking the local quite dramatically with the global in ways that lend themselves to striking visual representations. Discovering the configurations of this kind of which one's own street is a part would be real challenge for some. As an edge of a polyhedron encompassing the globe, each street is tangential to the surface of the Earth understood geometrically as the midsphere or intersphere.
There are of course other such configurations, less regular, such as the Archimedean polyhedra or the Kepler-Poinsot polyhedra. These would represent an even greater challenge. In the first case these include: the truncated tetrahedron (18 streets), the cuboctahedron (24 streets), the truncated cube and truncated octahedron (each of 36 streets), the rhombicuboctahedron (48 streets),the snub cube and icosidodecahedron (each of 60 streets), truncated cuboctahedron (72 streets), the truncated dodecahedron and truncated icosahedron (each of 90 streets), the rhombicosidodecahedron (120 streets), the snub dodecahedron (150 streets), and the truncated icosidodecahedron (180 streets).
Any such configuration might merit identification as what could be termed a "global city".
Such patterns of streets may seem to be too much of a challenge to comprehend. However each of the polyhedra named above is linked to both an explanation and an animation (in Wikipedia) -- already entering the multimedia visual language with which the younger generations are increasingly adept.
Some of those represented in Wikipedia are in fact produced by a single software package Stella: Polyhedron Navigator which enables many such configurations to be explored interactively from an extensive database of hundreds of structures.
Already street names can be added as labels to the edges of a chosen polyhedron, which can be variously rotated and exported as 3D images and movies -- such as can be uploaded to the web. Clearly this offers an ideal way of portraying such a "global network city" and one with which the younger generation can readily engage.
It is of course the case that -- no matter what the orientation of streets to each other on different parts of the globe -- it is possible to map their relationship onto some polyhedron, if not many. These may however need to be quite complex if the polyhedron is to exhibit any degree of regularity in geometrical terms. It is discovering higher degrees of symmetry through which streets are combined into a global configuration that is the challenge.
There is considerable familiarity with the web application Google Earth and its related Google Maps. These are designed to enable navigation from one location to another. Each such location of course has specific coordinates.
What may as yet be missing is the orientation of any street, given such coordinates. Clearly street twinning through polygons or polyhedra depends on being able to match (and locate) streets with a given orientation, whether parallel or at a specific angle to each other. Given the street data already held by Google, it may be relatively trivial to develop such an application. Alternativelyh it may be possible for others to develop applications which interface with Google's data.
At this point one could already struggle with such tools, in the classical tedious maner of mapping pioneers, to locate streets matching any desired configuration. The feasibility of an enabling application is so relatively straightforward that it may be expected to emerge. It is already possible that an application like Stella might be used to "drive" any Google Maps search by providing basic coordinates for any polyhedral configuration.
A possibility would then be for Google Earth/Google Maps to enable users to switch perspective from any selected street to any other in a chosen polyhedral configuration and to frame the Earth visually, on zooming out, by that particular polyhedron. Clearly a particular street might be associated with any number of such patterns.
For those who are imaginatively constrained by the grid pattern in which their street is locally embedded, global street twinning then offers a means of setting their street in a global pattern. The regular polyhedra of such patterns are comprehensible and fundamental to the sense of proportion basic to aeathetic appreciation. It is in this sense that they have resonance to those attracted to the potential implications of sacred geomentry -- especially its elusive mysterious significance, so extensively and imaginatively cultivated in popular novels and media blockbusters.
Of related significance is the esteem in which sacred geometry is held by many faiths, irrespective of its significance to a secular world. This suggests the possibility of twinning globally the streets on which churches, temples, mosques or synagogues are established (as in the school case mentioned above). In the case of churches, for example, twinning is specifically promoted by the European Church Partnership, offering a User's Guide (in English and German). They also offer resources towards a "theology of twinning". There is a US-based group, Church Twinning International, a Parish Twinning Programs of the Americas, and the twinning initiative of Parishes Without Borders (POB). Typically the intention is to give a spiritual dimension to the many successes of town twinning. It may be a feature of religious education, as with the Christian Brothers (Twinning with African Schools, 2009).
The question is whether setting street twinning within a polyhedral context would offer imaginative possibilities to some interested in this diemsnion. It is of course the case that religious edifices have traditionally been associated with leylines in patterns to which significance has been attached.
Both the precedents of twinning as a valued social process and the emerging technical feasibility from mapping tools, suggest that the approach advocated is feasible in some measure.
Local-Global connectivity: The primary impulse is to offer a means of setting local streets imaginativewly in a global context that is immediately and widely comprehensible through its geometry and the possibility of representing it -- if only symbolically. Of related significance of using such a facility to present the same street in a variety of symmetrical patterns of different degrees of complexity. It offers a new and precise framework for the old injunction Think Globally, Act Locally.
Of related interest is the sense in which street twinning in more local polygonal patterns -- assuming a flat surface to the Earth and to a country -- may also be understood as being facets of global polyhedral patterns. This addresses a concern at the imp0lication that the process of globalization is one of "flattening" the Earth, as extensively argued by Thomas L Friedman (The World Is Flat, 2005) and criticized elsewhere (Irresponsible Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2008).
Institutional twinning initiatives: The approach enriches the metaphorical and structural significance of networks and networking with which twinning is more conventionally associated (notably in the examples above). UNESCO has specifically related networking and twinning with respect to universities in its programme for University Twinning and Networking (UNITWIN). Established in 1992, in 2005 the programme consisted of 60 UNITWIN Networks, involving over 770 institutions in 126 countries. It was conceived as a way to advance research, training and programme development in higher education by building university networks and encouraging inter-university cooperation through transfer of knowledge across borders. Similarly the World Organisation for Animal Health is developing an initiative for twinning between laboratories. Twinning arrangements are also promoted by Partnerships in Environmental Management for the Seas of South East Asia (PEMSEA), the Network of Asian River Basin Organizations (NARBO), or Eurosite (one of the largest European network organisations devoted to nature conservation management). The Interagency Coalition on AIDS and Declopment (ICAD) has also developed a twinning initiative:
The Twinning and partnership site is designed to encourage community-based organizations, AIDS service organizations and NGO's to collaborate and form partnerships with like-minded organizations in other countries or regions. Twinning is defined as a formal, substantive collaboration between two organizations.
The European Commission has long promoted the development of "networks of excellence" at the individual and institutional level between countries. It promotes hundreds of twinning links between local authorities (Twinning and partnership for development) notably to facilitate the enlargement process (The Twinning: an enlargement tool, 2009). But it has a quite distinct approach to Boosting co-operation through twinning (2009) between countries, specifically:
Twinning is a European Commission initiative that was originally designed to help candidate countries acquire the necessary skills and experience to adopt, implement and enforce EU legislation. Since 2003, twinning has been available to some of the Newly Independent States of eastern Europe and to countries of the Mediterranean region. Twinning projects bring together public sector expertise from EU Member States and beneficiary countries with the aim of enhancing co-operative activities.
New thinking is being devoted to the articulation of twinning, notably as with respect to national platforms in anticipation of disaster (European and Mediterranean Major Hazards Agreement, Twinning of National Platforms - A European Perspective, 2008):
'Twinning' of national platforms: Sharing of experiences amongst multi- stakeholder national coordination mechanisms The twinning arrangement can be defined as a bilateral exchange between national platforms, groups of platforms or entities, which occur, possibly in a multilateral context, under the common cause of disaster risk reduction. These exchanges can be formal or informal and build on existing exchanges or be newly established for this purpose. Although the content of the exchanges shall remain flexible based on the individual circumstances of the cooperating mechanisms, they should be result-oriented, structured and work towards achieving tangible objectives as agreed on by the participating parties.
Beyond networking: Such approaches to twinning between institutions or countries may well benefit from the polyhedral approach presented here -- especially if "twinning" is simply now being treated (late in the day), as a creative means of repackaging "networking" without addressing learnings regarding its weaknesses.
The hopes attached to "networking" as a practice, a structure and a metaphor since the 1970s have not proven adequate to the challenges of recent years and those anticipated. Networks are vulnerable to "networking diseases" and are frequently merely a synonym for forms of communications amongst those who share address lists and (club) memberships (Networking Diseases: speculations towards the development of cures and preventive measures, 1978). The complementarity between hierarchy and network has not given birth to new forms of organization with a more appropriately disciplined response to the challenges of the future. Institutional adoption of twinning may be subject to similar challenges.
Of significance to this argument is new recognition of building "robustness" into networks through symmetry as argued elsewhere (Polyhedral Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization and global governance, 2008), notably with respect to research relevant to Polyhedral networks: designing for robustness and survivability. Clearly the challenge is to marry the problematic "excessive order" of hierarchies with the problematic "disorder" of networks to engender more adative and resilient structures.
It has been argued that one of the most significant implications of "network" over past decades has been as a metaphor distinct from that of "hierarchy". Even intergovernmental institutions have embraced this development. The polyhedral approach to global street twinning offers a new metaphor in that it dramatically highlights through local-global patterns the implications of the different orientations fundamental to viable engagement with the future.
Just efforts, such as those of Friedman (2005), are made to "flatten" the Earth, so assumptions are made regarding the nature of agreement necessary to viable global organization -- and local participation in it. Global street twinning highlights the manner in which the streets are necessarily of quite distinct orientation in order to constitute any global polyhedral structure capable of encompassing the globe. As a metaphor this offers a degree of guidance to the potential set of different functional orientations necessary to the viability and robustness of any global initiative. Representations of such polyhedral networks could highlight these differences if the orientation of each street within it -- constituting each edge of the polyhedron -- were to be distinctly coloured.
As an example, given the Mosque-Synagogue twinning initiative mentioned above, inter-faith twinning might be imaginatively presented by configuring into a polyhedron the street of each distinct place of worship -- thereby recognizing the distinct "orientation" of each faith.
Requisite variety: Through the set of polyhedra, this approach enables understanding of the requisite variety to encompass complexity and to enage with globality, as argued elsewhere (Metaphorical Geometry in Quest of Globality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2009). The question is whether fruitful local-global engagement for the future may depend to a degree on forms of what elsewhwere has been termed "polyhedral governance" (Towards Polyhedral Global Governance: complexifying oversimplistic strategic metaphors, 2008). The challenge increasingly evident in any "global" initiative is that "local" perspectives typically reflect different "sides" of an argument -- with little means of reconciling such "sides". Fundamental to the structure of polyhedra is that they indeed reflect the excistence of such different "sides" -- they are "many-sided" and yet constitute a coherent structure. It is on such structures that more appropriate new initiatives can be built.
The relevance of enabling software to this process has been discussed elsewhere (Polyhedral Pattern Language: software facilitation of emergence, representation and transformation of psycho-social organization, 2008; Configuring Global Governance Groups: experimental visualization of possible integrative relationships, 2008).
Towards a value architecture: In this context, whatever the value attached to any form of "sacralization", much is made of human "values" as the basis for a viable global civilization. The question however is how such values are to understood as ordered and related -- beyond the checklists characteristic of various declarations of human rights. Are there new ways of understanding values and their relationships of relevance to a global society? Through the polyhedral emphasis, global street twinning may enrich the collective imagination in approaching this challenge beyond efforts the unsuccessful efforts based on value "pillars" (cf In Quest of a Strategic Pattern Language: a new architecture of values, 2008; Coherent Value Frameworks: pillar-ization, polarization and polyhedral frames of reference, 2008).
Imaginative catalyst: However its significance is understood, clues to its potential are to be found in the popularity of quest/puzzle stories tied to locations and the significance that may be implicit in them or associated with them.
Global street twinning creates the possibility of a global framework for local activity with which significance may be imaginatively associated. It is part of the challenge to engender memorable global frameworks that are widely valued (In Quest of Mnemonic Catalysts -- for comprehension of complex psychosocial dynamics, 2007). The worldwide role of imaginative movies and novels in this respect is not currently matched by conventional orgaizational initiatives which fail to engage the imagination (cf Topology of Valuing psychodynamics of collective engagement with polyhedral value configurations, 2008).
The "street" where people live may be usefully seen as a key metaphor for the line of thought with which they are most closely associated -- and its orientation in the world of knowledge in its globality (Engaging with Globality -- through cognitive lines, circlets, crowns or holes, 2009). Google of course currently provides unique access to this space for many. As a search engine it provides access to the many who live on any given "street of knowledge" or pursue any "line of argument". There are many social networking facilities of which that of Google -- Orkut -- is one. Whether it be social networks or citation networks, there is an emerging ability to map the linear relationships between people and their preoccupations -- the streets where they "live". This follows from the long established facility to map citation networks, notably through Google Scholar (Alireza Noruzi, Google Scholar: The New Generation of Citation Indexes, Libri, 2005, vol. 55, pp. 170-180) and the work of the ISI Web of Knowledge (Web of Sscience Introduces Citation Maps).
The "missing link" is that between the "line of thought" with which individuals and groups are specifically preoccupied and any sense of globality. Given its expertise in both street mapping and enabling access to lines of thought, Google is clearly en route to marrying the geographical and cognitive mapping metaphors. Both pose challenges of orientation. These have been solved in the geographical case through Google Earth and Google Maps. They remain to be solved in the psycho-social case, namely the challenge of cognitive mapping -- beyond the facilities offered by citation mapping.
Curiously the primary metaphor in the case of knowledge has been the "field", whereas knowledge has effectively become "urbanised", if not industrialised. People now pursue particular lines of thought and effectively live on specific "streets" in a cognitively urbanised neighbourhood -- curiously echoing the traditional pattern of streets associated with the activities of particular guilds, crafts and artisans (metalworkers, glassworkers, stonecutters, etc). Whether or not it is currently a secret project of Google, it is possible to foresee the adaptation of the existing global street mapping metaphor to that of knowledge mapping.
Global "street" mapping is likely to be reframed by Google from the MyFace metaphor -- effectively looking onto MyStreet -- into MyLine (of thought), understood in cognitive terms. Polyhedral configurations emerging from such mapping facilities are then likely to be highly relevant to global conversations, as previously explored (Future Generation through Global Conversation: in quest of collective well-being through conversation in the present moment, 1997). This could be a logical evolution of conversations around the archetypal roundtable, necessarily polygonal by the seating arrangement (Spherical Configuration of Interlocking Roundtables: internet enhancement of global self-organization through patterns of dialogue, 1998).
Given that for institutions any "line of thought" tends to take concrete form in a "budget line", giving strategic expression to otherwise abstract reflections, there is clearly the further possibility that "global street twinning in polyhedral configurations" may constitute a fundamental metaphor through which institutional budgets for global programmes may be understood -- even at the local level. Of particular interest in this respect is the possibility of the transition from a "flat earth" global mentality to one which recognizes spherical implications (Irresponsible Dependence on a Flat Earth Mentality -- in response to global governance challenges, 2008; Spherical Accounting using geometry to embody developmental integrity, 2004).
There are many examples of individual streets celebrating their identity through festive musical parades, marching and singing. The routes may thereby acquire an identity in their own right. A cult example is that of Route 66 in the USA, celebrated in a song and movie of that name. Older examples include the identity attributed to pilgrimage routes (the Way of St. James of Santiago de Compostela) and to trade routes (the Silk Road across Asia). As in town twinning, parties from each twinned street would participate in the festivities of the other.
Door-to-door singing groups are a well-known feature of cultural and religious festivals. Such singing has long been valued for its therapeutic qualities in a community -- as promoted, for example, by the Sound Healers Association ("dedicated to the research and awareness of the uses of sound and music as therapeutic and transformational modalities"). Effectively, in shamanic terms, a "street is sung" cognitively as part of the process of "laying down a path in walking" (Francisco Varela, Laying down a path in walking: a biologist's looks at a new biology and its ethics, 1988; Evan Thompson, Laying down a path in walking: development and evolution, 2007). These patterns might be fruitfully related to that of aboriginal peoples, notably those in Australia (Dreamtime interface: Songlines, 1997).
There is an understanding for those peoples that the "land is sung" and that this is vital to sustaining a healthy relationship with the environment. The pathways between locations are effectively mapped by the contents of the song -- hence the use of the term songlines to describe them. An individual is an active partner in both map and landscape beyond conventional western understandings of subject/object distinctions. The continent of Australia is covered with a network of such songlines -- some short and some covering great distances across the territories of many tribes. Individuals may be custodians of particular parts of a songline -- sacred sites along the songline may be the "place" and responsibility of a named individual. Traversing such songlines may be a central feature of rites of passage. In that sense they are understood as learning pathways.
More generally it is also the case that any places that are twinned -- as in conventional understandings of town twinning or as the ends of a pilgrimage or other route -- are effectively related by a virtual pathway, whether or not there is a physical pathway between them. Town twinning is notably promoted as offering learning to those moving between the two locations. Pilgrimage routes are specifically understood as learning experiences. Such virtual pathways might themselves be fruitfully understood through polyhedral configurations encompassing the globe.
Throughout history the stars have been admired, notably as configured into virtual constellations that are the subject of stories and myths. Street twinning, and its assocated celebrations and potential configurations, is thus effectively part of a long cultural tradition of enhancing the engagement of people with their world, both locally and on a much larger scale -- whether more concretely or more abstractly, even symbolically.
With the emergence of the virtual world of cyberspace, and its increasing social and cognitive significance, this pattern is effectively extended in ways that are already recognizable through the metaphors employed -- even to the elaboration of virtual streets in virtual communities in virtual worlds (such as Second Life). The implications of "information highways" have been recognized for decades as fundamental to the emerging global knowledge-based society. In this sense people, through their specialized or local preoccupations, already live on virtual streets -- perhaps to be understood as delineated by hyperlinks, possibly themselves configured into webrings.
Curiously, mixing metaphors, those aligned along a particular street -- whether physical or virtual -- are recognized as tending to "sing the same tune", notably in their socio-political and economic interactions in larger configurations. The metaphor is frequently used in relation to Wall Street, for example. There is even a sense that such neighbours may be expected to "sing from the same hymn sheet" in recognition of that alignment. Cultural anthropologists recognize the extent to which tribes in a region may distinguish themselves by their individual tunes. The Buganda people have distinct musical signatures for each of their 52 clans. This is indicative of the possibility of a form of polyhedral musical configuration of melodies of potential global relevance (All Blacks of Davos vs All Greens of Porto Alegre: reframing global strategic discord through polyphony? 2007)..
Such virtual streets may themselves be twinned in polyhedral configurations -- of which circular webrings might already be considered an element. As yet the global mapping of hyperlink networks is based on the relative disorganization of network geometry. It is however recognized, as noted above, that greater coherence could be ensured by enhancing global symmetry within such networks (Polyhedral Empowerment of Networks through Symmetry: psycho-social implications for organization and global governance, 2008).
Through the possibility of some form of "sacralization" of hyperlink geometry -- through the aesthetic symmetry of sacred geometry evoking psychoactive engagement -- these developments point to the intriguing future potential of "songlines of the noosphere" (Sacralization of Hyperlink Geometry, 1997; From Information Highways to Songlines of the Noosphere, 1996; Engendering psychoactive resonance through the mnemonic qualities of complex topologies, 2008). Such global configuration of hypertext pathways might be seen as a prerequisite for meaningful collective transformation. Global street twinning through polyhedral configurations then offers a readily comprehensible pattern through which such understanding can develop -- from local to global.
This work is licenced under a creative commons licence.