Fuzzy Math

In February, 2013, the League’s Urban Omnibus announced its second annual writing competition, Fuzzy Math. The topic was cost, metrics, and measurement in urban life, asking entrants to explore or respond to — through narrative, theory, history, or humor — the increasingly quantitative language that pervades contemporary analysis of behavior, consumption habits, settlement patterns, environmental imperatives, or quality of life. The winner was selected by a jury that included Michelle Addington, the Hines Professor of Sustainable Architectural Design at the Yale School of Architecture and a professor at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies; Andrew Blum, a writer, journalist, and contributing editor at Urban Omnibus; Philip Kay, a writer and educator, and the winner of last year’s Urban Omnibus writing competition; and Shin-pei Tsay, the director of Cities and Transportation in the Energy and Climate Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

One winner and two runners-up were selected by the jury. In the winning essay, “The City That Never Shouts,” Steven Higashide imagines a near feature in which a new City agency, the Department of Externalities, monitors and evaluates the social and environmental effects of everyday actions. One of two runners-up, “Little Metrics,” follows its author Malaika Kim from childhood to motherhood as she traces how the intangibles of her life — the passage of time, acquired knowledge, and changes in lifestyle and family — have shifted her perception and experience of the physical environment in very measurable ways. In another runner-up, “The Ricotta Index,” Deborah Helaine Morris charts the shifting demographics of one pocket of Brooklyn through the dairy aisle of her local supermarkets, delis, and specialty food stores.


Published: April 29, 2013