An address is something many people take for granted today, but they are in fact a fairly recent invention that has shaped our cities and taken on great political importance. Deirdre Mask is the author of The Address Book: What Street Addresses Reveal About Identity, Race, Wealth, and Power, which looks at all the ways the world has changed since the popularization of street addresses during the Enlightenment. The book examines how addresses impact wealth and poverty, and how they serve as proxies for our most contentious debates. Mask also explores a digital future where we aren't reliant on the numbers on our homes to tell us where we are or where we're going.
The Address Book
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Humans have been living in cities brought a really long time, but like a lot of,
things about the past. Getting around cities used to be just needlessly difficult, because we did
we have reliable maps or ST signs or even addresses,
address is something we all take for granted today.
But an ancient Rome. If you want to go to a friends house new ideas, all kinds of context, clues
like you remember that the house was two blocks away from a big column, but if you reach the
stables, you gone too far,
and you had to rely on non visual cues. Like smells and noises
all sorts of noise and in a street hocker's, then you had different smells. You had the smell of email and beat market. Yes, some
I'm so glad to use meat smells to figure out where you were going, maybe one of
advocating navigate much more by your senses. You can
actually use what you're saying and what you're smelling and why?
hearing as a way of navigating around the city, this is due to mask the author of the dress book. What street
dresses reveal about identity, race and wealth and power do book.
Looks at how the world has changed, since street addresses became popular during the enlightenment, so today we're gonna. Take
tore through some of the many way street addresses shape our lives, including how we fight disease. Fifty four friends, street lighting and the office of Doktor John, so so street address has come up with something hundreds and they mean all sorts of new things possible and one of the first things they revolutionized was our approach to public health. So can you tell me how addresses related to the cholera epidemic in London a doctor caught chance? Now? This is in their victorian London. He was actually of aid procedures doctor, but he lived actually right next to Islam and where a case of cholera broke out in London, he was able to track
the cholera in the slum. At the time there was no germ theory of disease, but he had this idea that it was spreading through water and he was basically able to get death certificates. Get people's addresses do some. She left her work himself and trace. Where
Everybody was, and then you know they suffer clamping around this pump John Snow took off the handle of or not John himself. The government took off the handle of the pump, the collar
epidemic goes away. He was able to use these location and disease to find the source of the car.
Speaking the modern epidemiologists. I learned that actually watch on snow did and two days of toy in London is actually impossible and huge swathes of the world. Today, yeah, you mention the book. The countries without good address systems have a much harder time fighting disease and you bring a pity. As an example tell me what happened there. There was a terrible earthquake, as we all know, in Haiti, in two thousand ten, which was followed by a vicious case of cholera that spread throughout the country and when I spoke to lodge decisions at doctors without borders who are coordinating the response to it that the damage, basically, they were unable to track down their patients in the same way that John Snow contract down the patients in this London slum, which severely hindered their ability to stop the spread of the disease. So either it's a complicated
or a, but basically, if you dont have a way of finally tracking where people are you dont have a way of finally tracking, where diseases abuses of a lot of positive evokes like treason, disease, and they make it possible for the government to provide services and things like that, but they also give the state that a lot of power and in that power can be abused. So could you talk about the tyranny of addresses? Sends me yes in the book. I talk about the example of asked aunt, Em Habsburg Empire and during the reign of Maria Theresa, who had an issue, a problem which is that she spied
while these wars and she needed good, strong men to fight in the wars. But she was having trouble finding them. So she ended up sending out the military to number of the houses and her kingdom and, while doing so taking a kind of Sensus and people did not like these.
Ass numbers, and it makes little sense when you think about it, especially if you ve never had a number before it is numbering, is, as is the scholar named Anton TAT, nervous written about this extensively.
Dehumanizing and you know nobody likes to think of themselves as a number of,
it has its function of view, are able to live your life in relative
privacy and then suddenly, you're revealed to the state by a number painted on your wall. There is something deeply upsetting in their so
the good thing in a sense to get number, because often this ushered in positive changes like in taxes and getting around, and people love the post,
but there a downsides this as well, because now the state can can find you
and prison you. They are all
some negative aspects to be found as anyone who's ever received, junk mail or solicitations could know what a milder form the story of what happened in Austria and also across Europe. As house numbers came up, is a story basically of the conflicting views we have about the state being able to find us and identify us I'd, never be reconsidered,
since your side of addresses, until like a little while ago, actually at a friend of mine, whose journalists and long time in Cambodia, the government was you're trying to impose addresses in parts of Cambodia,
who you know within living memory, hand, genocide and purge of peace.
For in the citizenry. There was like that, like I don't want the government to have any.
I wonder where I am, and I would come blew my mind because I thought of addresses
Merely the ending of an all out of them is neutral things. Did you notice in your research that, depending on how benevolently you viewed the government and viewed type of control, how people took to the concept of addresses verses people who didn't have that
periods but sounds very familiar to me. That's the way I got started on this whole project. The first thing I wrote that was that West Virginia about very rural coming in West Virginia called Mcdowell County
which, at the time had no street addresses this state embarked on a huge project to give them so
The dresses and I went on. I interviewed in lots and lots of people in some ways. It is certain that sort of like a Corky story because
People would fight over naming their street crunchy granola road or Ino inner. There was a street one official told me where you know a certain kind of older lady lived on that was called Cougar laying it was. This first was quite quirky. He started
hearing stories, but people who really didn't one addresses- and you talk the addressing coordinators and they actually found
their work really difficult em and there are reports of people coming out in meat,
addressed within machetes in their back pockets and people off
say: oh, those are just you know they would see them as being ignorant or backwards or l, but
what the boy I read about addresses the boy. I realise that that they knew what a lot of other people didn't knew that these address as well.
Just designed, as they were being pitch to provide emergency services, even though that's extremely important, I'm not denying that. That's not an excellent reason to give addresses, but they knew there
other benefits to the government of being able to finally track citizens
This was seen as a violent act, actually exposing them to the eye of the state. So I guess
comes down to how much you trust your government as well and obviously in the
will you gave a fear dissident
If you're, someone who the governments not going to like for whatever reason, you're, probably not going to like address, is either today. Its believed that over a billion people in the world do not have an address. That includes people that home and
stands of small towns and encampments in not having an address, creates a lot of problems now fixed address. So you make a case that, having an address, it is actually an equity issue, not not about just having a home but like having an address. So what is it?
plus give you access to this really comes up. When I was researching homeless because then you're in my head, I was like who were the people who don't have addresses, and obviously it's people without home and when they
and from talking to the experts and homelessness, but also activist was that when people are ass well
people about homes are asked. What do you need by definition, they need a home, but when
of them, said, whereas they needed and address, and so there
stories. Inner of people saying that, basically, what they needed was a way of pretending that they weren't homeless. When you apply for jobs, it lists, address,
even though there is no way you know, you're gonna get mail to this addresser employers, Michel, but your door, but they said they needed and address, even though it is called yeah
when you homeless, it's hard enough to get a job, but you can't even apply for a job in many cases like when you, when they have these mandatory addressed lines on applicants
for the World Bank has seen addresses as one of the cheapest ways of lifting people out of poverty, because if you give people addresses, they have a way of pretending that they are homeless and a way of accessing all kinds of services. So to go back to your question is all sorts of things. You can't do you
to get a bank account or struggled to vote. You know where I live in England, amateurs and national health service. Almost all communication is done through letters and when I was
researching this. I was calling up JP practices to find out how you register
being homeless, and even though I am a person with a home. I found it incredibly difficult to get out to even put
for my inner investigating into homelessness, but not that incredibly difficult is through way to level the playing field for people without addresses here
after one of their proposals that that's been made, a cynical bam address, which has been model?
on this ban the box movement in the: U S and by the box. It means not allowing employee
here's to ask about your criminal history in a basically stopping people from discriminating at first glance, again, some one and the
fixing whereby mantras there's. No reason that employers need your address, Elisa those early stages of the interview process and this
a very clever way- that's become come up with in England by a man and Chris Hilary, where he's basically
up with royal mail to use the the address as empty homes, so that if you could just be assigned the address of an empty home- and you could you,
stressing in the mail does not go to the house even if their own gets moved into it doesn't matter
It's the same way as if you move your mail gets forwarded for months and people currently living. There will have no idea. This is happening, and so people can get the letters that they need
but they can also use it as a shield, Joe into people that they have an address which sometimes becomes a proxy. For you know: productive member of society. A street address can indicate that someone's been fortunate in line. Many streets like poor governance in Europe, have become associated with luxury and prestige, while others.
Limitations as bad neighborhoods regulations that are sometimes totally unfair? One Martin Luther King Jr Boulevard Atlanta George, there are hundreds of Martin Luther King streets Amerika there. Often
in neighbours are less well off. Why is that? What is the cycle that is created this? The idea and the stigma monolithic king think they estimate now? Is nine hundred street seemed after Martin Luther King Jr, I'm in America today and are often, interestingly enough in the Americans, out right next to the names of confederate generals and commemorating a street after Martin Luther King, who is obviously the most prominent icon of the civil rights movement, largely use black communities that named streets after Martin Luther king as away commemorating him? Sometimes they were put in neighborhoods in air to inspire the residence I put inspired quotes butts in some of these situations. These were neighborhoods that didn't work particularly nice to put a point on it because of the forces of racism and poverty, and this meant that the name for some people was entrenched with this idea of poverty and crime and its. Why Chris Rock in on his stand up had a routine which imperfect,
But you know, if you find yourself on Martin Luther King Jr Street right, you can't tell me lasagna volcanic Ash blossom Obama became everybody laughed at me. You know I'm black myself, my life,
as well. But you know in what ways is now
twenty at all, and sometimes you can track okay streets and find out about Latin America, but also define about the perception of Latin America as well. That is one thing I found in my region.
It was that you know their researchers, for example, who have found that if you compare the economic fortunes of streets and after Martin Luther king with streets named after Jeff CARE, evoke dismay streets, the emerald city streets aren't that much economically worse off. You know their different. They have more churches, for example, or they have more and more schools, because these are white collar jobs. There were open to black people, but but they were any worse and one of the conclusions that are better come to- and I write about this- is that you know yes allowed. These streets have suffered, but also, perhaps we think of Emerald case Junior streets is dangerous streets because their black streets and were always an associate black streets with being dangerous and poor and neglected
the thinking about that is another way of thinking about race in America today, today, more more streets around the world are named after a famous people from history, and this is why
Street names have become a proxy for so many arguments about who we are and what we stand for. The british embassy at four Darcy Avenue Bobby South Stream Tehran. When was it really fascinated me in the book, was about the Bobby Sand Street in Tehran in theirs is incredible. Tens history between the UK and IRAN and making a Bobby Sand Street makes it is, like seems
a provocation? How did it end up that? There's a Bobby Sand Street and terror? It's interesting. There is a Bobby Sand straight in Tehran, which is right by the british embassy and friends
He doesn't know Bobby sands. Was you a hunger strike her in Northern Ireland, a member of the Irish Republican Army?
and so the unusual named have in Tehran, especially by the british embassy, because the British really work
poppy senses enemies yeah do I do
the story about these teenage boys who attains its. I tracked one of them down. We told me this
raising story that you know after the revolution, there were a of young people who are very politically
of including himself he'd gotten involved in politics at a very young age and their very wealthy residents of Toronto. There in a quite a fancy neighbourhood near the british Embassy- and they have this idea- they were gonna change. The names sounds to me is that, like the store
there. Things are on in their bikes, going to the hardware store and they coup that they have to powder and
mix water and in their basically able to mimic signs and they change the same. Serene Bobby Sands
this had been shortly after Bobby Sands died after his hunger strike
Did he later ratified it in this Bob Sand, street and weirdly enough for a hunger strike her there's a Bobby Sands Burger Bart, also in Tehran
and the reason tat I found this fascinating was that it's just a light on commemoration. You know why does
this matter- and in fact we know it does matter, because the british embassy actually ended up opening up a new entrants so that they didn't
have to be on Bobby San Street, which I believe used to be Winston Churchill Street did they can have a new address because, obviously they cared. I'm says
opens his window of what commemoration means and why we care so much really knew they were angry at the british Empire and they knew that they that Bobby Sands would be of a finger in there. I basically you know dislike. It is good poem. He asked that this policy is determined that there's Bobby sand streets all over the world and I think to get going.
Five in France, for example, but interesting thing I found was that there are any actually in Ireland. So this is actually a sort of a fascinating idea that you have
fighter you in for a lot of people depending on your belief system with abandoned Marty,
in a great measure, and yet you have
these names and, after elsewhere,
but you don't have any in Ireland it and basically the exploration and came to us that Ireland doesn't have any consensus on Bobby sends up close his his legacy is a lot more complicated than it was for those teenage boys in our
This idea of commemorating is is really trying to figure out what what we're about and what Ireland has said by not giving obtained street. Is that this point at least that's not with their about? You know, Bobby's answers. Ireland is not today's Ireland in that's really for me why there is no street name after Bobby Sense in Ireland or North or south to chill one one freedom, street Hollywood, Florida Sue remain older lots of arguments
treat names, especially in U S where there are named after a confederate generals. In historical figures like Christopher Columbus in you spent months governed street names in Hollywood Florida in particular some what was happening. Hollywood Florida,
whither. He. I will tell you what Florida they were parts of the city that way,
shortly. Black part of the city called light.
Area had three street names that were named after confederates
or else and the worst of them of all in the eyes of campaigners was Nathan. Bedford, forest ass street people knew Nathan Bedford Force was. He was not only here
You know a major figure in the Confederate war, but he was also seen as one of the founders of the coup clicks clan, and so you have these
street names, not only in this part of Hollywood Florida that was really intended for black people. Implacable weren't allowed to live.
Integrated areas, and so there was an activist, amend ashes recently passed away. I am sad to say:
Benjamin Israel's in really interesting man from New York is african, american, but also orthodox jewish, and he
Basically, just four months ago appeared every city council meeting and I watched him.
If these thing you know where he would be talking about these street names, will everybody else's talkin
but urban, be regulations and finally
really started to collect and eventually they did overturn them and it really is
out of ways exposed a lot of racism, but also a lot of other feelings about street names. In the battle, and for me one of the most interesting thing was I'm african American. I end the book in general. I try to stay failing you sure about these things, but I M not
Billy Neutral nets. I thought the tree aims to change. It was interesting hearing the other side, and I listened to in many speeches about this that there were people who would say things like. I live on the street name after Robert E Lee and I dont care anything about Robert E Lee, but
I met my husband only street may babies were born only street. I wanted to be least you in my head. I connected to that which makes a lot of sense was in our brain. We do tend to connect place in memory, so it makes sense
I'm not actually promoting Lee. I just like the, namely, and I think that now the conversations change and we can't justly no rest on this nostalgia argument, even if you say you're not actually raises actually believe, as I don't actually think this for love soup. This was a show of racism, but this is this idea now that I think revive innocent. What we just have to change them. As we hear you have to take action to change them, which I think was often missing, but in Hollywood Florida they they did change the shootings it's. What would you think of the solution put forward like they didn't replace Le Grumblingly street with book?
its icons, they they replaced them with like freedom, street and Hope Street. So what would you think of that? Were that outcome? This became at bay as well over the course. The talk is because people wanted to name it after an activist, for example, who up any rate, beaches
in Florida and the light. There is even a suggestion at some point by one can
some members are just number. The streets is obviously an american solution and the nobody
think about other. Why is that time? You know just thinking about a from objective standpoint. Why is that such a bad solution to number streets? And the reason is that street names,
become like monuments away where we
preserve our memories, and there have been a lot of historians. Pierre Nora comes to mind. You talk about history moving incredibly quickly.
This idea of the acceleration of history that things just change so fast that we really have to start salting away
in passing away our memories into things so that we dont forget when things start to change again- and I think that's why suggestions like numbering built lie, because it's not just that people dont want Robert E Lee S, name down, they want to make a statement and they want their street names to make a statement. So it's not simply about the taking down it's the putting up as well and so hope. Liberating freedom ended up being something that united people in some sense. But yes, the boulder move would have been to actually name it after and activists who actually in a fought against the principles of the confederate generals, were
for new anything. That's that's solutions. Ok, like that compromise of freedom, hoping liberty- I mean here it's interesting when suddenly for me to say that somehow or not, but at the same time I mean people often do credit tat. These arguments are terrible at me. I like these arguments to me as if an looking arguments divide communities, but they make communities as well in Cuba. We didn't have these arguments, they simply numbered if they simply change it. I think actually there's a lot to be gained from people talking and listening and even now I know people don't often listened, but it out there there's engagement. There there's an exposure there. You know we're trying to decide what these things mean for our society. For Hollywood, they decided that hope, liberty and freedom will be great, and obviously you know in a lot of ways I think would have been even better had they pushed it further from my own personal perspective, but you know I do like that. There's this process through street names, often.
Then you know, exposes one people believe in what they believe the community's about and I think that's valuable as normal life becomes. Israel are physical, addresses, becoming obsolete more with Deirdre Mass Cover. This.
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Specimens from India South counts.
Oh blend, California,
we don't really need addresses anymore. You mention is that that their ways to get a driver's license or peer taxes can do a lot of stuff online. Could you imagine a world without addresses the future Ellie? I asked
it could, in a mean you can't, even in imagining some developing countries, that they're going to bypass address is altogether for something more digital yeah. There's lots of companies
and I really think that Google's gotten lack. They ve got a me no great sort of digital system as this company and describe pulled what three words which is given addresses in just three: basically, random words: are they ve mapped the whole world? So I can in some ways imagine
could you describe what three words in how it serves as an alternative to physical addresses? Basically, this company has divided up the world. I believe it's three meters by three metres glanced back
be wrong about that, but very small chunks and they basically given
every single one of these squares. Three word address: it's nice street name like we think that we have given it three words, so I clicked on a random spot, not too far from where I live. That's enough creates door statue in all three entirely random words and point of this is that even
playthings much much quicker than just three meters by three metres and also you can find things that jacket or have addresses like the middle of a part, either. If you're on a high, can you wanna map out where he took a picture. You can use a what three words addressed, but they have also been used in places that dont have addresses, so they ve been used, for example, in Mongolia, where there is in the traditional street addressing system that
familiar with say in the: U S, and you can remember it because you can remember three words pretty easily, as opposed to like some map coordinates, which are very long and obstructs from the numbers, but what it? What is the limitations of something like what three words only one of the limitations? I think of all of this is that I spoke earlier about how Edith State was uncontrolled addresses, but in love ways pretend it
to trust states more than just companies. I mean- let's see if it's true anymore here pageant of, but in general and generally do this idea. So we have a complete what three words which I think has come up with a sort of brilliant invention, but they are private company this. What we were technologies bound up in patents that using it, you can't use them as freely as you could use your address, as it does mean that you're sort of behold into a private company to find out where you are in a little ways that something about that makes me really uncomfortable. Also it takes away the meaning. Can we talk about these commemorative street names and help our street names have meaning for better or for worse? You know, addresses, are sort of the way we navigate the world and we connect ourselves to other people. So one problem with a lot of these digital dresses is that you become a string of numbers or and in what three words case, a string of words that dont connected to our neighbours or don't connected to our communities. So I think it has many uses, especially for places that
have traditional addresses or for these others uses. But I still like to hold firm to our traditional addresses. Many members, an invisible was Bruce's week by crisper. Ruby muse
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Transcript generated on 2020-09-23.