March 19, 2009


I know I'm setting a dangerous precedent by posting twice in one day, but "feh!" I say, "feh!"

This post will take a little more serious tone, as it pertains to a discussion I was in during class on Tuesday. The discussion arose when the subject came around the supposed dissolution of the "sense of community" in America.

Community tends to be a difficult term to argue about, because it can refer to a place, or the like-mindedness of a population within a well-defined or not area. And for this post, I'm talking like-mindedness, folks. I don't know what started this problem, and like most issues, it can probably be traced back to a gajillion different topics. Was it the widespread notion that children should go away to college? Or the proliferation of the car that enabled us to work in far-flung neighborhoods? Could it be the ease of access to information? Obviously, this blog isn't included in "information" as I plan to offer very little in the way of educational material, only dry jokes and inside humor four people might get. But I digress.

During class, the general theme presented seemed to focus on rapid information as the primary source, but I think I lean towards the automobile and its effects on society. How am I supposed to relate as a planner to the concerns of a populace that I may or may not have daily, direct contact with? I absolutely hope that I can, but it will be a struggle to find common ground, show the residents I work with that I do care, that I'm not some yuppie out to simply make a buck. Because THAT sure ain't gonna happen. I think we all know at least six planners that are absolutely BANKING coin. Meh

But to get back to my point, many of us live nowhere near where we work. We aren't invested in the daily concerns of the neighborhoods we frequent for eight hours a day. We put in our time, and get out of Dodge ASAP. But maybe that's why we don't live near work when we have the choice. That drive-time barrier provides a sort of sanctuary from the issues we deal with in our own communities. But millions of people don't have that choice and are forced to look for work close to their home due to not being able to afford a car, or lack of adequate child care, or a whole host of other reasons. So those of us entering the planning profession, and those already there are forced to fight new battles with old tools.

How do we encourage people to reinvest in their community, instead of leaving at 5pm and saying "sayonara, suckers!"? People obviously take an interest in the area they live in, but too often ignore the area they work in for one-third of their day. Should we try to develop insular communities for people to live and work in? New Urbanism tried this, but it doesn't seem to have worked, and often is seen as a veiled racist effort, as the majority of people who live in pre-destined housing with circular roads and neighborhood shops are white. Many planning efforts are geared either towards housing, or to employment, but without the other the one may be destined for failure. Is there a new path that can take us past the tried and true methods of activism, strikes, boycotts, and sit-ins to produce real change and open peoples' eyes to the problems others face in the two communities we all find ourselves in daily? Or will we further fragment? I wish I knew, but when I get an idea (any day now…I've been waiting for years) you'll be the first to know.


And now for your random Simpson's quote—Marge: Homer, the plant called. They said if you don't show up tomorrow don't bother showing up on Monday.
Homer: Woo-hoo! Four-day weekend!


  1. I think people for the most part are social beings and good. I think that for some odd reason a layer of fear and apprehension has made us more insular and less involved. I don't know what caused this layer of antisocial sludge, perhaps the usual suspects, media? class? materialism and the competition is promotes? Who knows.

    I think the digital age has gone a step in connecting people, heck, I'm your friend online because we're in the same program and share the same name (different spelling). The accessibility of online personas has connected me with old friends, neighbors, and strangers. It has shown an insulated society that there are lot of people out there who think alike, have similar interests, and are not to be feared.

    But I think in order to take it a step further, people need to follow up these new connections with "face time", the good old fashioned person to person meet up. Beer is a good way to facilitate such meetings. Food is even better.

    or we could live like this...

  2. Jerad, sorry for the delay, but thanks so much for posting. I do tend to agree with you that humans are likely good at heart, and that technology does have a uniting influence, but I question how much of that can and should be considered social interaction. As you pointed out, we're friends because of our educational allegiance, and Facebook, and FB has been instrumental in allowing me (and probably yourself) to reconnect with friends from highschool and beyond. Your point about "face time" is 100% correct, and beer and food are wonderful social lubricants. I only hope that we don't succumb and have I-Robot style androids/robots carrying out all of our daily tasks and face-to-face meetings.