Macroscopes

Bikes

Yesterday’s Toronto Star had two stories that reminded me of John Thackara’s macroscope idea:

A macroscope is something that helps us see what the aggregation of many small actions looks like when added together. My favorite example is that everybody in Melbourne, Australia, is crazy about building small concrete patios in their backyard as a kind of mini fashion item. When you add all those thousands upon thousands of little bits of paving stones and cement together, it turns out that more of the earth is being sealed off from the rain and nature than all the road and airport building programs put together in the same area. This aggregation of small actions is often invisible to us.

Kevin McGran had nothing but good news about York Region’s Viva while Paul Molony is worried about the future cost of driving his car ‘downtown’. Paul Molony should read Mr. Thackara’s book In the Bubble: Designing in a Complex World.

We might all learn from In the Bubble that big systems are often the result of small actions taken by many people over time. If we look at small changes in our work or lifestyle we can change big things that otherwise seem daunting.