August 1, 2014

Rhetorical Dichotomies and Urbanism

I’m finding the process of writing a script for a documentary film especially interesting in regard to the canon of invention. Much of the advice I’ve been reading — because I’m a total newb at this — says the most you can do early in the process (the research/pre-production phase) is create a general outline. Invention comes before outline. I’ve been doing research, i.e. reading to focus my idea. Previously described:

The Baby Boomers were children of the post-war suburbs and raised their own children in the sprawling communities at the edges of American cities. Owning an individual home outside of a city has long been an essential part of the American Dream. That dream is changing. The Millennial generation is changing it. Young people today are showing a strong preference for living in dense, walkable urban communities. And an increasing number of their empty-nest parents are following them.

I’m finding Charles Montgomery’s Happy City: Transforming Our Lives Through Urban Design to be especially helpful because I’ve created two useful dichotomies. “Useful” means rhetorically useful i.e. helping me say, persuasively, what it is I want to say. In an early chapter about the history of suburbia, he identifies two philosophies driving suburban sprawl.

  1. The school of separation: The good life can only be achieved by separating the functions of the city so people can avoid “the worst of its toxicity.”
  2. The school of speed: Freedom is a “matter of velocity — the idea being that the faster you can get away from the city , the freer you will become.”

So I am asserting two (kinda) opposite schools that appear to be guiding a return to cities.

  1. The school of mixed use: This is one of the guiding ideas of the Congress for the New Urbanism. The good life can be achieved by living in areas where many uses intermingle.
  2. The school of proximity: It is better to walk, ride a bicycle, or take public transit to nearby places in a mixed-use urban area.

The whole point of what I’ll call a “rhetorical dichotomy” is to create a model by which you can compare things. In this case, the things are various issues of urbanism and suburbanism. A rhetorical dichotomy ought not, it seems to me, be used to over-simplify an issue. I’ll try not to. The three issues I’ll be examining (until I change my mind) are:

  1. Energy use: How much energy does one consume to live a suburban lifestyle versus an urban lifestyle.
  2. Commute: How much time and expense is involved in commuting to work or traveling to other important destinations?
  3. Infrastructure support: What needs to be built, and what needs to be maintained, to support new urbanism versus suburbanism?

There are, of course, many more issues from which to choose. These interest me now. More to come…

[Cross-posted on Carbon Trace]

May 9, 2012

Kar Kulture

Cars kill community connections for kids:

It turns out vehicular traffic does something else, too, more subtle but equally pernicious: It changes the way children see and experience the world by diminishing their connection to community and neighbors. A generation ago, urbanist researcher Donald Appleyard showed how heavy traffic in cities erodes human connections in neighborhoods, contributing to feelings of dissatisfaction and loneliness. Now his son, Bruce Appleyard, has been looking into how constantly being in and around cars affects children’s perception and understanding of their home territory.

April 26, 2012

Self-righteous Avoidance of Judgment

What happens when people follow rules without thinking? Even worse stuff that this:

“She was kicking and screaming and fighting and in hysterics,” Croft said. “At that point my daughter ran up to her against TSA’s orders because she said, `My daughter is terrified, I can’t leave her.'”

The incident went on for maybe 10 minutes, until a manager came in and allowed agents to pat the girl down while she was screaming but being held by her mother. The family was then allowed to go to their next gate with a TSA agent following them.

Croft said that for the first few nights after coming home, Isabelle had nightmares and talked about kidnappers. She said TSA agents had shouted at the girl, telling her to calm down and saying the suspect wasn’t cooperating.

“To a 4-year-old’s perspective that’s what it was to her because they didn’t explain anything and she did not know what was going on,” Croft said. “She saw people grabbing at her and raising their voices. To her, someone was trying to kidnap her or harm her in some way.”