Speaker on Cities and Co-Owner of Spacing Magazine
Shawn Micallef has created a career around thinking about cities and culture. He's an urban columnist at Canada's largest newspaper, The Toronto Star, and an editor and co-owner of Spacing—the independent, national, Jane Jacobs Prize-winning magazine dedicated to looking at what makes Canadian cities work. Micallef is also interested in how technology and social media integrate into cities, and how they make them better. While a resident at the Canadian Film Centre's Media Lab, he co-founded [murmur], a location-based mobile phone documentary project that has been established in over 20 cities globally, often working with marginalized groups to help get their stories and voices into public life.
Micallef has spoken at The Walrus Talks and at TEDx (on the suburban-urban divide), and has given keynotes internationally. He also teaches civic citizenship and design courses at the University of Toronto and OCAD University, and was a distinguished 2011-2012 Canadian Journalism Fellow at Massey College. Micallef's books, Stroll—now in its fifth printing—and Full Frontal TO, look at the city from the inside out from an urban flâneur's perspective. (Though specifically about one city, Toronto, both books hold wide appeal, thanks in large part to Micallef’s accessible writing.) His newest book, The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure, is a provocative examination of social status, leisure, and work, and a profound call to reset our class consciousness.
The New Canadian Urbanism
It may our best-kept secret. Cities in Canada are thriving. Compared to other cities around the world, Toronto, Calgary, Vancouver, etc. are experiencing a renaissance—they are routinely voted some of the best, the safest, the most socially engaging, and economically robust places to live. They are desirable. Why? And what can we learn from their sterling example? In this original talk, Shawn Micallef looks into the new Canadian Urbanism to explain why our cities are so resilient to economic collapse (why didn’t our urban cores fall apart like some places in the States?) and so nurturing of social harmony. Drawing on history, culture, economics, art, politics, and social engagement, Micallef offers a powerful perspective on everything we do right. At the same time, he reminds us to not fall victim to complacency—to find the cracks and fix them, to protect the institutions that make us great and to junk those that don’t. This is a fascinating talk buoyed by both pragmatism and optimism—a must-see for anyone interested in a uniquely Canadian approach to doing urban living right.
The City and Us
What happens when you put a bunch of different people in the same place, call it a city, and let them do things together? How can we all benefit from cities? How will technological change affect the future of cities? And, of course, what, exactly, is the future of cities? In adaptable and humour-filled talks, Shawn Micallef uses striking examples from his extensive travels to cities around the world to show us why and how cities can be great. With grace, wit, and counterintuitive thinking, Micallef touches on local economies, public space, and architecture; examines the mixing of socio-economic populations; and addresses how to overcome the disastrous divide that separates the urban core and the suburbs. Micallef leaves audiences with a new appreciation of—and a clutch of practical solutions for—cities around the world, as well as their own.
Work, Class, and the Pursuit of Leisure
Every weekend, in cities around the world, bleary-eyed diners wait in line to be served overpriced, increasingly outré food by hungover waitstaff. What does the popularity of brunch say about shifting attitudes towards social status and leisure? In some ways, brunch and other forms of conspicuous consumption have blinded us to ever-more-precarious employment conditions. In this talk, Shawn Micallef looks more closely at the nature of work itself and solidarity among the so-called creative class. Drawing on theories from Thorstein Veblen to Richard Florida, he traces his own journey from the rust belt to a cosmopolitan city. He examines the way the evolving middle class he joined was oblivious to its own instability and insularity, explores status anxiety, and calls on us to reset our class consciousness.
Alberta Smart City Symposium
Shawn did an excellent job, covered everything we talked about and in fact much more. Really liked his focus on how cities are the engines of the new economy, and the places where culture and general society are fostered. Really appreciated how he inserted humour and unique examples into his presentation. Almost all of the feedback I heard was that it was well received, and the sponsor of the session was thrilled.
The Trouble with Brunch: Work, Class and the Pursuit of Leisure
What do your Eggs Benedict say about your notions of class?
Every weekend, in cities around the world, bleary-eyed diners wait in line to be served overpriced, increasingly outré food by hungover waitstaff. For some, the ritual we call brunch is a beloved pastime; for others, a bedeviling waste of time. But what does its popularity say about shifting attitudes towards social status and leisure? In some ways, brunch and other forms of conspicuous consumption have blinded us to ever-more-precarious employment conditions. For award-winning writer and urbanist Shawn Micallef, brunch is a way to look more closely at the nature of work itself and a catalyst for solidarity among the so-called creative class.
Drawing on theories from Thorstein Veblen to Richard Florida, Micallef traces his own journey from the rust belt to a cosmopolitan city where the evolving middle class he joined was oblivious to its own instability and insularity.
The Trouble with Brunch is a provocative analysis of foodie obsession and status anxiety, but it's also a call to reset our class consciousness. The real trouble with brunch isn't so much bad service and outsized portions of bacon, it's that brunch could be so much more.
Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto
What is the 'Toronto look'? Toronto architecture is rich with superlative facts – 'tallest' this, 'first retractable' that – but, taken as a whole, the city's built environment is underappreciated. Here, glass skyscrapers rise beside Victorian homes, and Brutalist apartment buildings often mark the edge of leafy ravines, creating a city of contrasts whose architectural look can only be defined by telling the story of how it came together and how it works, today, as an imperfect machine.
Eye Weekly columnist Shawn Micallef has been examining Toronto's architecture for many years, weaving historical information on its buildings and their architects with expansive ambulatory narratives about the neighbourhoods in which these buildings exist. Stroll collects Micallef's expanded columns alongside a number of new, unpublished essays; together, these psychogeographic reportages situate Toronto's buildings in living, breathing detail, and tell us more about the people who use them, how it feels to be exploring them in the middle of the night and the unintended ways in which they're evolving.
Writer Rebecca Solnit said that 'cities move at the speed of walking.' Stroll celebrates Toronto's details – some subtle, others grand – at that velocity and, in so doing, helps us understand what impact its many buildings, from the CN Tower to Pearson Airport's Terminal One and New City Hall, have on those who live there.
Features dozens of hand-drawn maps by artist Marlena Zuber, a foreword by architecture critic John Bentley Mays, a flâneur manifesto and a four-panel fold-out colour map.
Full Frontal T.O.
For over thirty years, Patrick Cummins has been wandering the streets of Toronto, taking mugshots of its houses, variety stores, garages, and ever-changing storefronts. Straightforward shots chronicle the same buildings over the years, or travel the length of a block, facade by facade. Other sections collect vintage Coke signs on variety stores or garage graffiti.
Full Frontal T.O. features over three hundred gorgeous photos of Toronto's messy urbanism, with accompanying text by master urban explorer Shawn Micallef (Stroll).
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