The ingredients for a thriving life together
Cities, town, villages – anywhere we have gathered over time – have always been negotiated spaces. Our human gatherings are so vital precisely because they are not homogeneous. The most important ingredients of a thriving life together involve significant differences of role, function, and order at all scales. The nature of these negotiations remains a telling expression of the best and worst of who we are.
In an effort to understand one aspect of those negotiations, I have been exploring the emergence of institutions and the role of social interactions by using computer modeling. This particular instrument allows exploration of very complex interactions like city scale dynamics but it can also be used to understand the very small scale originating dynamics. Next week, I will be meeting with a group I have helped organize in Santa Fe, New Mexico to continue our use of these tools to try and understand inequality, particularly economic inequality. I will be presenting a paper and offering an afternoon discussion workshop. We are also developing core work in anticipation of Alife 2020 in Montreal, July 13-18, 2020.
The Conversation, a science journalism website, has recently approved me as a contributor and I provide a brief overview of the inequality work there as well: "Wealth and poverty gap: Using tech to uncover the roots of urban inequality." It is important to work hard to gain the credibility to write for the kinds of readers who follow outlets like The Conversation. We need to sharpen our thinking, deepen our research to seek understanding, and provide frameworks that can lead us to better policy.
I am excited that Social Cities has begun working with Brian Grim, President of Religious Freedom and Business Foundation, on a project that will calculate the impact of religion in Canada on GDP. We are hoping to have preliminary results in the new year. You can see the U.S. study here.
Social change in our time has a range of effects, one of which appears to be increasing loneliness and social isolation. The Tamarack Institute continues to do excellent community development work across the country, bringing together leading thinkers and practitioners across a wide range of sectors. I was privileged to be able to contribute a webinar recently called “Social Patches: The Art of Reweaving our Relational Fabric” for a very engaged group of listeners. We need to understand how we arrived at our current state of affairs if we are to have any chance of changing those patterns toward stronger relational ties and greater belonging.
Finally, we'll be releasing two case studies soon. These studies will be compact introductions to the core dynamics of an economic development effort that has grown in Buffalo out of Westminster Presbyterian Church and a downtown social development effort in Guelph, Ontario that developed out of suburban Lakeside Community Church.
Program Director, Social Cities
What is Milton Reading?
I’ll note two things to watch and listen to respectively.
First, this documentary that features Jane Jacobs and Robert Moses in New York City in the 1950s is worth watching for the very different guiding ideas that they represented for city development and redevelopment. Many local libraries have copies.
Second, listen to this podcast from David Cayley on the work of Richard Sennett who reminds us that in reflecting on our communities and cities, we do not need to be specialists in any sense but we do need to pay attention (which may be the greatest hurdle in our time). As you will see, the personal and the immediate is vital to us and is something we don’t need experts to tell us about. Part I and II are about 55 minutes each.
As always, your comments, ideas, and reflections are both needed and welcomed.
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