The City as a Near-apocalyptic landscape

I recently had to create a small annotated bibliography for my Urban Theory class with professor James. Up until this point I worked primarily by riding buses and conducting interviews, searching through databases for secondary sources had been a side job. I did very little until this week, yet the literature that discusses cities paints a very disparaging picture of the city that has emerged over the post World War II era.

I originally began my search in a narrow field with keywords focused on "mass-transit". This yields very little useful information for me beyond a few interesting articles that deal with transit systems in different countries. Now, there most be more studies on buses, subways, and carpools that I just didn't manage to uncover. For me, the databases could not offer quite enough. So I sat down and held a meeting with my project partner to outline some of the concerns that we have noticed through active fieldwork. Find the concern, even if this means it takes a lot to describe, reduce the description to a word or phrase, look it up. If that doesn't produce results, find a way to expand the search. This is a sure way to find material on any topic. It doesn't hurt to look too narrow. If you have an idea of what you are looking for, narrow is great. The desired object lies at the center and all further expansions should, at that point, lead to it. Sorry for the digression, but good search techniques are hardly at all intuitive and my own methods are lacking. I cannot always tap into the best materials right away. There's also another very simple method, recommended by professor James: look up one book and investigate the books surrounding it. I started in the third level of the Simpson library in the Urban Planning section HT, sniffing around with my project partner. We each took an armful of books. It just so happened that my stack affected me. Is it normal for a project to alter the way you look at something? Perhaps the anthropological detachment just made me think that it severs my own personal development and response. The most recent book I got my hands on, Don Mitchell's The Right to the City published in 2003, hit me the hardest. A discussion of whether or not public space really exists, Mitchell looks at the homeless marginality and society ultimately requiring private space to function. What counts as public anymore truly? The city, the heart beat of a country, can hardly be considered to have that sort of space as legislation is constantly attacking homelessness, as privatization pushes everything aside. Now look at the generalities and vague notions I have set up! Sorry, I am still trying to sort everything out. The next book I will be looking at (and yes Don Mitchell's also needs some further examination) is Amy Satterthwaite's -don't ask me to pronounce that!- work, Going Shopping.

All these books have twisted my head in all sorts of directions and perhaps like always I am still just asking more questions than there are possibly answers. If the issue of mass-transit and urbanism were an easy one, a satisfactory answer would be in place. Even though the status quo of suburbia proper and its destitute cousin, Urbana, seems to be a settled matter, there is still a body of people questioning if that is how things are really meant to be. If Change is a constant, why can't I make my own? If rising consumerism is a problem, can I not have a solution? Another matter of interest is the generational gaps that arise with different problems and even worse accusations for the previous gen that left them in such a dire state. Now I think I just need a nap.

No comments: