City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

A note on the Slowdown Papers

Written in


Afternoon walk, Stockholm 4 April 2020

Readers —

Dark Matter and Trojan Horses is about strategic design practice and thinking. I’ll explain more about that at some later date, highlighting and unpacking some of the key concepts, projects, and case studies. For now, you can see the collected articles here.

But I wanted to take this opportunity to point you at a new set of articles, as they’re very much of the present moment. Confined to the house in Stockholm—although not really under lockdown at all—I spent some late nights writing early thoughts on #coronavirus #COVID19, and specifically the ideas of ‘the curves beyond the curve’. I’ve called them the Slowdown Papers.

In the spirit of inspiring further observation, reflection, and slowing down to engage with what is going on, these are not in any way an attempt at broadcasting ‘what to do’, but instead to provide ways of thinking about how the coronavirus is an articulation of the broader climate, health and social justice crises, just as bushfires are. It’s a way of sketching ideas as to what that might mean, what the second-order implications of it could be. I’d be interested in your comments or feedback — or please do just have a quiet read.

See below. I hope you’re well. Take care, and wash your hands.

Best wishes,
Dan Hill, Stockholm.

Slowdown Papers

These are a series of observations, reflections and ideas, emerging from my view of the early impact of the coronavirus COVID–19 pandemic in the first quarter of 2020, but following the Australian bushfires over Christmas 2019.

The papers are collected in this publication—Slowdown Papers—but here, below, are the individual entries in the series as it stands, 6 April 2020.

1: Writing to memory

Observing, listening and writing, as a way of remembering the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic, from within the midst of the slowdown.

2: The pitiless crowbar of events

How will we remember the coronavirus? While we are ‘flattening the curve’, how can we think about the curves beyond?

3: Remember the bushfires to remember the virus

The Australian bushfires and floods as harbingers of the coronavirus, and a world wearing masks and blinkers.

4: We make the virus and the virus makes us

The reversed dynamics of coronavirus and climate, and how the destruction of biodiversity that created the climate crisis probably also created the virus.

5: The curves beyond the curve

Flattening the curve on corona, squeezing the curve on climate.

6: A language in crisis

How key words, phrases and concepts are being bent out of shape by the coronavirus, shaping how we think about what follows.

7: Cultures of decision-making, in Sweden and beyond

Sweden’s ‘Middle Way’ approach to the coronavirus, democracy as a political system for people who are not sure that they are right, and the role of trust, expertise and citizenship, as compared with other Nordics, Taiwan and China.

8: An A/B test on our way of life

The lumpiness of history, how events change the world, World A versus World B, and six questions to prompt reflections about what the coronavirus might mean.

9: The restoration

The coronavirus immediate creates a restored and regenerative environment, and the Slowdown starts to create new habits.

10: Another Green World

Slow cities, flightshame, fast and slow layers, energy use maps the permanent weekend, the acceptance of essential infrastructures and Universal Basic Services, and is the coronavirus forcing us to sketch new forms of governance?

11: Post-traumatic urbanism and radical indigenism

How cities post-coronavirus can benefit from the distributed patterns of post-traumatic urbanism meeting radical indigenism, Wakanda meeting Aalto, and ‘Lo-TEK’ nature-based technologies meeting contemporary infrastructures.

12: Between the roots and the stars

Another green world lying just beneath ours; what our response to the coronavirus can learn from the night sky after Katrina, a 6000 year-old eel machine in Victoria, and a spruce tree in Sweden.


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