Thursday, September 26, 2013

Value Compression

I have been reading an account of a research project in urban planning, an effort to develop a more adequate model of human travel behavior in response to particular urban forms.

As part of the pilot test for the project, which ultimately involved a survey administered to a rigorously stratified sample distributed across a major world city, the researcher conducted interviews with a number of city residents selected from the same sample. The idea was to refine the survey instrument to capture more subtle gradations in travel behavior.

As the researcher described it, the interview subjects seemed eager to tell their own stories of living in and moving through the city and, according to the researcher's account, some became quite animated in the telling.

But the researcher had taken a particular attitude toward the subjects, and the theory to which the researcher appealed made very specific, very stringent demands as to the kind of data that would be acceptable.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Urban Apocalypse!

Coming back around to the ethics of metropolitan growth, I have just submitted the abstract of a new paper for an urban affairs conference next year. It draws together some earlier threads from this blog and incorporates some further threads from the work I've been doing lately in curriculum development.

(More on that curriculum work another time.)

Here is the abstract:

or, What We Can Learn from Imagining the End of the City

It is not difficult to find stories about the end of the city. Weisman’s thought experiment, “The City Without Us,” is especially provocative, as is Kunstler’s tragic outlook for the next few hundred years; preppers produce guides for surviving the collapse of civilization, and any number of summer blockbusters have featured scenes of empty streets and crumbling buildings. But is there any real use in telling so many stories about the end of the city, aside from the illicit thrill of theoretical rubber-necking or any tactical advantage to be had from fear-mongering?