Tag Archives: importance of place

Lachmann, R. (1988). Graffiti as career and ideology. _The American Journal of Sociology_, 94(2):229–250.

Richard Lachmann, Sociology PhD from Harvard University, is Chair of the Department of Sociology at SUNY Albany. His studies include: sociology of culture, popular culture, political sociology, war and terrorism, U.S. decline, military spending, and fiscal crises.

In this article, he asserts that neither the Beckerian (1963) nor the subcultural theories of deviance explain “for the interaction of organization and ideology in the individual and collective experiences of graffiti writers” (248). While writers enter the graffiti art world through Becker’s local ties and social networks, the importance of reputation is not enough to continue careers. Taggers require gang patronage and neighborhood muralists privilege gallery-endowed adulation and monetary rewards over local advocacy.

Throughout their careers, writers “use their immediate social ties to construct generalizations about their opportunities for fame” (249). However, they judge their own work based on the reputation and attendant rewards enjoyed by another. Writers’ corners had encouraged muralists’ earlier (Beckerian) views of fame and worth, but absent those locales, commercial fame preempted local admiration.

“…we must amend [Becker’s] insight by recognizing that…social actors…must reconcile what they learn and do in their individual careers with their broader experiences and observations, or, in the language of Marxist cultural theory, with the hegemonic culture” (249).

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Lim, M. & Kann, M.E. (2008). Politics: Deliberation, mobilization, and networked practices of agitation. In _Networked Publics_, K. Varnelis, ed. Cambridge: MIT Press.

Merlyna Lim, PhD, Science & Technology Studies and Technology & Development from the University of Twente in Enschede, the Netherlands, is Assistant Professor in the Consortium for Science, Policy, and Outcomes and the School of Social Transformation – Justice and Social Inquiry Program at Arizona State University. She researches information and communication studies (ICT), particularly the social shaping of the Internet in non-Western contexts.

Mark Eliot Kann, PhD, Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is USC Associates Chair in Social Science and Professor of Political Science and History at USC. He researches earlier American political thought and gender studies.

In this chapter, Lim and Kann consider the democratic modes on the Net: deliberation, citizen involvement in discourse, and mobilization, the development of expansive social networks. They compare Habermas’ (1998) Between Facts and Norms and Rawls’ (1995) Political Liberalism, the two 1990s contributions to the deliberative democracy debate. The former upholds a renewed public sphere that’s based on equitable, inclusive, public deliberation. The latter assumes people have different ideas about the common good, so the institution of deliberative democracy requires a knowledgeable and reasonable citizenry that can advocate for particular policies.

However, not all forums on the Net reflect either of these concepts and are instead in turns “uncivil, anarchic, and even undemocratic” (80). While they agree with Henry Jenkins’ view that amateurs spreading their media and engaging in participatory culture “is an important aspect of democracy in contemporary society” (99), they are slower to call it democratic: “it is convivial” (ibid). Some may consider blogs to be change catalysts, but in truth blog readership is uneven and the blogs themselves to be politically polarized.

For democratic action to take place (in the literal sense of the word), Internet initiatives won’t suffice. They must be done in coordination with “other media networks, as well as between cyberspace and geographical place” (90).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Literacy, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Zukin, S. (2011). Reconstructing the authenticity of place. _Theory and Society_, 40(2): 161.

In this article, Zukin asserts the importance of looking at both economic motives and cultural strategies of urban and rural placemaking. There are “three necessary and sufficient factors that create both a structural and institutional base for modern settlements to develop distinctive, contrasting cultures” (161).

  1. People must be free to choose where they live.
  2. A local history, appealing to outsiders, must exist “through the social construction of either a material or a symbolic landscape” (162).
  3. Local entrepreneurs must market these attractive elements while suppressing others.

Under these conditions it is possible for residents to “engage in the reflexive creation of a spatial habitus” (162). Place branding is a powerful rhetoric that becomes a growth strategy, articulating zoning and other laws that ban traditional income engines in favor of making the areas more attractive to newcomers. Sometimes these makeovers are unsuccessful, if attempted, because if a local economy is not already diverse it’s less likely locals will band together around a new growth scenario.

Rural gentrification in such places as Vermont and Utah read a lot like city-district gentrification narratives. Newcomer entrepreneurs help develop a new place identity through creation of new art spaces, boutiques, restaurants, etc. In some cases a new place identity highlights historical elements “and present itself as respectful of the community’s authenticity — social and cultural networks of new producers and consumers create, nurture, and often capitalize on a completely new sense of place” (164). And so Williamsburg’s grittiness translates into high rents.

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Cultural Economy, Major Field, Minor Field, Research Fields

Shaw, M. (2007). Community development and the politics of community. _Community Development Journal_, 43(1):24-36.

Mae Shaw is Senior Lecturer in the Education, Community and Society Department in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Education. Her research interests include: community work history, theory, policy, practice; politics of policy; politics of care; and social movements/action.

The term “community” “has been contested, fought over and appropriated for different uses and interests to justify different politics, policies and practices” (Mayo, 1994, as cited on 24).

The dialectic is essentially the one between beneficent welfare paternalism and working class struggle. The professionalization of community development has only added to the tension. There are two specific and diametrically opposed traditions that inform our conceptions of community: (1) the liberal tradition foregrounding the individual and reason before else, and (2) the communitarian worldview upholding connectedness with others and locality as key to individual liberty. These differences cause distinct tensions in community development practice.

Mayo (1998) prefers to distinguish between professional community development’s “technicist” and “transformational” approaches, underscoring that “community development is both a professional practice and a political practice” (26). This is because at the center of community development is how agency and structure relate — “action is always mediated through the relations of power” (27). The notion of “community” is tied up in the confusion between what it is and what we want it to be. Geographic locations, material conditions, position in Bourdieu’s social field, etc. — all structure community relationships.

Not taking into account power relations almost guarantees a nostalgic and potentially dangerous version of community. For some, it means the intentional exclusion of others. These ambiguities suggest that community isn’t always perfectly apt at creating comity among social agents, but adept at manifesting or reifying social segregation and conflict.

Harvey’s (1989) critique of “neighborhood as community” (as cited on 30) says that this structuring of community obscures and reinforces social relations arising from Marxian spatial segregation. This “masking ideology” (ibid) directs attention and effort away from what is really the fundamental issue, that capitalist relations are the source of community division. Marris (1987) adds, redevelopment reproduces gender and racial inequalities.

Thus, community development practitioners are placed in an at once contradictory and strategic position between the overarching power structures and grassroots democratic ambitions. Shaw proposes we think about “community as an intermediate level of social reality in which people collectively experience both the possibilities of human agency and the constraints of structure” (32). However, to do this, we likely have to create a distance between “community as policy,” the governmental agenda of community management, and “community as politics,” the creation or appropriation of public space for democratic discourse.

Shaw finally argues that in order to get at communities as they ought to be, we need to create creative spaces for people to assert their place. This “means engaging with the politics of community in ways which offer the possibility of talking back to power rather than simply delivering depoliticized and demeaning versions of empowerment” (34).

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Crow, D. (1993). _Philosophical Streets: New Approaches to Urbanism_. Washington D.C.: Maisonneuve Press.

Dennis Crow, AICP, received his BA, MS, and PhD in Public Administration and Urban Planning all from UT, Austin. He also did post-doctoral work at Dartmouth in interpretive methods and architecture; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in history, social theory, and cultural significance of space and place in philosophy and literature, and UC Irvine in philosophy and literary criticism. At the time of publication, Crow was working at the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and is currently information architect at USDA Farm Service Agency.

This book is a challenge to both architects and planners to reevaluate their positions on the relationship between planning, theory, and the contemporary humanities, as well as provoke humanities scholars to critique their home cities/regions. Space is not a place, but “the relationships among places” (17). The “political implication of philosophical streets is that engagement for use and resistance of street-level bureaucracy is more important than ever to the life of theory and the practice of social change” (21).

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Castells, M. (1989). _The Informational City: Information Technology, Economic Restructuring and the Urban-Regional Process_. Oxford and Cambridge: Blackwell Publishers.

Like all Castells’ pieces, this book covers a large scope and does so with a lot of detail. In broadest strokes, this book is an analysis of (the then) new information technologies and urban-regional processes as they occur in a larger historical context. He identifies this new mode of development as the informational mode of development. His hypothesis: we are experiencing a historic set of transformations that relate to: capitalism as a social complex and capitalism’s restructuring (global capital flows), the informational mode of development, and IT as a potent operating instrument.

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Cultural Economy, Major Field, Media Arts, Minor Field, Research Fields