Giuliano’s questions as divining rod

As I’ve written before, this summer is dedicated to writing my Out the Window article and preparing for my qualifying exams. (I could write a teeth-gnashing [I think] post about a particular aspect of that academic hullabaloo/psychological torture/rite of passage, but I’ll skip it.) In our school, members of one’s qualifying exams committee draft the major and minor field qualifying exam questions directly from the student’s field statements. We turned ours in on May 31st and will receive notes, new readings, etc. on June 29th. From there, it’s go-time.

Gratefully, we did not compose our statements in a vacuum. Led by the stunningly insightful, incredibly generous, and direct Genevieve Giuliano in this spring’s research design course, we all managed to come through with presentable documents. In my case, she gave the first draft a savage working over. The community development (major field) section was woefully iffy and the arts in the city (minor field) lacked a connection to my big idea, that planning’s weirdly analog in a digital world. So I worked on it, with a lot of help from the inimitable and equally brilliant Lisa Schweitzer and brought that version to a meeting with the professor. By the end of that single conversation, I had an entirely new and exciting minor field: media arts in the public sphere. I want to stress here that Professor Giuliano is a transportation expert — one of the transportation experts — but insight is insight. And I am grateful.

The third run at the community development field statement, she liked much, much better. The media arts component still needed work, however, to which I was only partially able to attend before May 31st. This set of questions and proposals will guide my reading and writing not just this summer, but well into the future:

A good start, but I don’t think you have figured out how to structure this essay. I think you want to look at the potential role of media in community development as you have defined it. Seems to me there are lots of issues in addition to digital divide (or there are many aspects of digital divide): (1) who determines content or message (2) how do people to learn to be savvy consumers of media message (3) how are media used in political process (4) doesn’t media reinforce class advantage (5) media can fragment and play to all sorts of prejudices. So, bottom line, while conceptually we can imagine the positive potential of media, we can also imagine the negative potential. What evidence do we have either way?

And what is the role of planners in all of this? Cities are already on Facebook and Twitter.

Excellent points, all. I haven’t even gotten to the meat of the media arts reading list, and already I know Berger (1990) and Castells (1989) provide strong countervailing opinions to Burnett’s (2005) (and my field statement’s) utopianism.

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