Monday, October 10, 2005

Pretty Graphics

So I'm a little stalled on the writing. The theory was harder to write than I feared (and I feared a LOT), and I got a false start. Riding to work this morning (twice -- forgot my coffee! D'oh!), I got another grasp on a different and hopefully less imposing point of entry.

Last week, had a meeting with my last committee member who asked the devastating question: how do you know? If you're going to say they're leaving out segments of the population, what have YOU done to contact those missing people? Ummm. Yeah. That's problematic.

But looking at the data this weekend (Whoa! I have data! Trippy...), I think these segments weren't left out, or not as left out as I was claiming. The issue moving forward is how to insure that they stay represented -- in the process but also on the ground in any physial proposals made. That's a tricky question with no good answer. How do you know when space works well for people?

The issue with all the theory is this: you can talk all you want about spatial practices and the possibility of political and cultural spaces of representation, but how do you design that? Most of the readings spend a lot of time laying the theoretical groundwork for political and cultural identities to show up in urban spaces, and there are some case studies of things that have worked in other places, but because places are such unique compendia (ooo, who's been reading theory, who has?) of layered identity, it is almost by definition impossible to find a good model for the place I want to talk about.

How do you balance on the razor thin wire between making recommendations for designing places that accomodate the different spatial practices of different cultural, individual, and community identities and stereotyping these interactions just to be able to move forward with some kind of real-world recommendation?

Let me just say: it's hard. How do you know when you're doing it right versus doing it at best poorly and at worst racist-ly? The short answer is: as much as possible, have the people design the spaces they will use.

But how possible is that? How much do they want to do that? Isn't there something to be said for the division of labor that someone somewhere should have some clues about where to start? And how high on their list of priorities is designing community spaces? I think it should be high, but ... there are economic realities that undercut "place" as a priority concern.

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