Tuesday, 2 October 2007

First Seminar

After four weeks, and not much news so far, I can provide a small summary of the two seminars that we have had. The first seminar in this text and the second seminar in another text.
The theme of the first seminar was "The city as research object". We read texts by Friedrich Engels, Jane Jacobs, Louis Wirth, Lewis Mumford and Robert Putnam. These texts represented a wide range of disciplines and Zeitgeists. Engels described the slum conditions in 1845 Manchester. A city then at the height of Industrial Revolution. The article can be classified as one of the first urban sociological texts. Louis Wirths' Urbanism as a way of life (1938) represents the thoughts of the famous Chicago School. He states that life in cities differs greatly from the rural way of life. The most important symbols of the city are the clock (time is money) and the traffic light (rules are needed everywhere, in order to regulate the large flow of humans). Putnam's text Bowling alone introduces the term "declining social capital" and states that the number of people in the USA that have been bowling at least once in 1995, is bigger than the number of people that went voting. However, these people play less and less in teams, and more alone than ever before.
It is interesting how all writers use terms such as Street Ballet (Jacobs), Urban Drama (Mumford), Public Plazas (Whyte) and Social Capital (Putnam). This illustrates the will and need of combining the socio-cultural and the economic-political aspects of urbanism.
Finally, an attempt was made to put our future work on a scale provided by Ronan Paddisson and another table by Ingemar Elander.
As it turns out, most of our works (including mine) can be placed within the socio-cultural tradition concerned with Urban Reconstruction. What I'm about to do next is to try to specify this more by looking at positivism and post-positivism. A course about Geographical theories, focussing on Karl Popper e.g. would not be a luxury!

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