The Encyclopedia of Dead Malls

Plus four other intriguing things: a new Lorde track, open-science tools, a history of databases, and Tim Cook's tiny hometown in Alabama.
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1. DeadMalls.com: Delightfully detailed profiles of retail agglomerations in decline, like the Duck Creek Plaza in Bettendorf, Iowa.  

"With the Duck Creek Plaza roster reduced to Marshalls, Walgreens, Bishop's Buffet, Talbots, Shoe Carnival, and a handful of specialty stores by 2002, talks of redeveloping the mall began to get louder. In January 2003 the Bettendorf City Council approved a redevelopment plan from Equity Growth and The Daly Group of Chicago that would convert Duck Creek into a strip mall. The new mall would include free-standing Home Depot and Walgreens stores, a new Marshalls store, a Schnucks supermarket, and two buildings to house smaller tenants. The existing mall was demolished in stages, with only THE National Bank's office tower remaining from the original mall structure. In addition to Marshalls and Walgreens, some of the remaining Duck Creek businesses (including Kile's Hallmark and Gulliver's Travel) opted to stay on the property while other businesses either moved elsewhere (including Shoe Carnival and Talbots) or closed altogether (notably Bishop's).

"Home Depot and the new Walgreens -- fitting the company's 'modern corner drugstore' motif -- opened in December 2003. The rest of the original mall was demolished in early 2004 to make room for Schnucks and a new parking lot. The new Marshalls opened in May 2004, while the remaining tenants from the old mall settled into the new buildings along Middle Road. McDonald's opened a new restaurant on the site shortly afterwards, and the first Starbucks in the Quad Cities opened in one of the new buildings in January 2005. The St. Louis-based Schnucks opened its only Iowa supermarket to date in May 2005 amid much fanfare, and the redevelopment of Duck Creek Plaza was completed by the end of 2005. The vacant strip mall south of Duck Creek Plaza was demolished a few years later to make room for a new development called 'The Shoppes at Duck Creek' anchored by a free-standing Burlington Coat Factory."

+ If you grew up on the pre-2000 Internet, this site may induce something like acid flashbacks to the old, weird web. 

 

2. This new Lorde-Son Lux track is really good, also about surveillance.

“Pull out your heart / 
To make the being alone / 
Easy, easy / 
Easy, easy / 
You switch the screens off / 
All the rest of the foes /
Easy, easy.”

 

3. A collection of tools, sensors, and platforms for doing science without a lab.

"This guidebook intends to provide a light introduction to democratized science instrumentation. Democratized science instrumentation refers to tools and systems, spanning both hardware and software, that significantly enhance or increase the opportunity of people to participate in scientific discovery or process. These instruments and their emerging social structures are considered signals or early indicators informing the guidebook’s outlook on the future....

"The cost, size and accessibility of instrumentation are often some of the main barriers to entry in scientific exploration. These hurdles regularly inhibit individuals working outside of science institutions such as universities, research institutes and government agencies. Within the science industry, many scientists and researchers are working with limited resources and are thus affected by these same hurdles. This guidebook introduces an assortment of 25 instruments that are breaking down barriers by enabling open, accessible, cheap and citizen-led science."

 

4. A history of databases.

"Which is a shame, because the use of databases actually illuminates so much about how we come to terms with the world around us. The history of databases is a tale of experts at different times attempting to make sense of complexity. As a result, the first information explosions of the early computer era left an enduring impact on how we think about structuring information. The practices, frameworks and uses of databases, so pioneering at the time, have since become intrinsic to how organizations manage data. If we are facing another data deluge (for there have been many), it's different in kind to the ones that preceded it. The speed of today’s data production is precipitated not from a sudden appearance of entirely new technologies but because the demand and accessibility has steadily risen through the strata of society as databases become more and more ubiquitous and essential to aspects of our daily lives. And turns out, we're not drowning in data, we instead appear to have made a sort of unspoken peace with it, just as the Venetians and Dutch before us. We've built edifices to house the data, and witnessing that this did little to stem the flow have subsequently created our enterprises atop and around them. Surveying the history of databases illuminates a lot about how we come to terms with the world around us, and how organizations have come to terms with us."

+ This is from a new site called VVVNT from a group that includes 5IT favorite, artist Sascha Pohflepp.

 

5. Tim Cook's home town, Robertsdale, Alabama (pop. 5500).

"Robertsdale, said Geraldine, 'was just a little hole in the ground.' But it was cozy, and they were glad to be there. The family house, a split-level place, was one of the few on East Silverhill Avenue.

"The older boy was Gerald. Youngest was Michael. Tim was in the middle, born in Mobile 11 years earlier.

"Don and Geraldine Cook both hailed from rural Alabama. She was from a country town outside of Greenville in Butler County; he was from neighboring Crenshaw County.

"Don served as a foreman for Alabama Dry Dock and Shipbuilding, the largest employer in Mobile at the time, building and repairing ships for the military on Pinto Island. Geraldine worked at Robertsdale’s Lee Drug Store, one of the only pharmacies around.

"Robertsdale, riding on a farm economy and the dollars from tourists passing to and fro to the beaches at Gulf Shores 40 minutes away, ranged over only about five square miles, so folks generally had an idea about who was who."

 

Today's 1957 American English Usage Tip:

assay, essay, vv. A differentiation tends to prevail by which assay is confined to the sense 'test,' & essay to the sense 'attempt.' Assay is also used fig., to analyze or appraise critically. Essay itself has by this time the dignity attaching to incipient ARCHAISM.

 

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Alexis C. Madrigal

Alexis Madrigal is the deputy editor of TheAtlantic.com, where he also oversees the Technology Channel. He's the author of Powering the Dream: The History and Promise of Green Technology. More

The New York Observer has called Madrigal "for all intents and purposes, the perfect modern reporter." He co-founded Longshot magazine, a high-speed media experiment that garnered attention from The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and the BBC. While at Wired.com, he built Wired Science into one of the most popular blogs in the world. The site was nominated for best magazine blog by the MPA and best science Web site in the 2009 Webby Awards. He also co-founded Haiti ReWired, a groundbreaking community dedicated to the discussion of technology, infrastructure, and the future of Haiti.

He's spoken at Stanford, CalTech, Berkeley, SXSW, E3, and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and his writing was anthologized in Best Technology Writing 2010 (Yale University Press).

Madrigal is a visiting scholar at the University of California at Berkeley's Office for the History of Science and Technology. Born in Mexico City, he grew up in the exurbs north of Portland, Oregon, and now lives in Oakland.

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