Monday, January 31, 2005

Production of Cyberspace

Smith's account of the development of social space and absolute space in terms of Marxist theory begs some intriguing questions about where the Internet fits into such an analysis. Assuming we can agree that the Internet is a form of space as Smith defines it, Internet populists might argue that the Web has thus far developed as primarily social space and at this point neither the market nor the state have managed to establish authority and dominate it. (Dear & Flusty refer to this phenomenon as "hyperspace.") Others would likely contend, however, that cyberspace has for all intents and purposes now been largely carved up among the competing commercial forces and thus has become absolute space as Smith defines this phenomenon of capitalism, especially in the wake of the .dot com market crash as counterhegemonic economic and cultural players dropped out of the picture. Which picture do you think is more accurate?

Thursday, January 27, 2005

A new kind of Yellow Pages

This seems like a good candidate for human geography and mass comm news -- (Amazon's search/infodump arm) is now serving up photos with their Yellow Pages listings. They're launching the service with coverage of ten cities and over 20,000,000 pictures. You can also virtually "walk" up and down the block, moving from one business's storefront to the next to get a sense of how to find what you're looking for. As an example, I spent about $25 on three terrible drinks at this Manhattan bar last summer, but looking at this picture is the first time I've seen it in daylight. They've got details on how they did it.

[Via Metafilter and]

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

a hindsight

I have thought about the urban culture on the way home this afternoon. While we were talking about the various elements of the urban culture from the four scholars, I think that tolerance and diversity are the most essential characteristics or values in the metropolitan because without those values, the urbanites couldn't have coexisted in this anonymous, compact space of city. I know that this idea may be derived from my ethnic background as a minority. However, if we try to understand the urban culture from this perspective, I think that the framework will be much more differentiated from the scholars.

Atlantic Monthly link, kind of...

Here is the link to the Atlantic Monthly article I mentioned today in class... however it only shows first couple paragraphs and subscription is required, anyone have a subscription? Otherwise, sure we can track down on campus, maybe in reading room.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Studying Individual, Environment and Interaction of the Two

I spent last weekend working on these readings while visiting good friends who left Boston six months ago to live in the heart of downtown Chicago. These friends moved specifically re professions, big-city amenities and the opportunity to eventually buy a house for less than 400K (in the suburbs). Re the readings and thoughts, I’m thinking about the ebb and flow of people into, out of and within urban areas (in modern days or generations ago) – how much of what drives the city and these individuals is interdependent? In some ways, the readings range from over-generalizing populations to under-estimating effects of individual and environment. Gans’ insights help show a way to study such forces, but how can we better understand the multiple layers within the individual, the environment and interaction between the two?

Social Evolution, Differentiation, or Individual Choice?

One key area of concurrence among Simmel, Burgess and Wirth is that their analyses all frame social change, that is the movement from the traditional, rural way of life to the modern, urban form, as essentially a linear, evolutionary and inevitable process that basically overrides individual choice. Likewise, each sees the urban way of life causing changes in personality and behavior that collectively add up to a new kind of society. Gans, however, in his discussion of urbanism and suburbanism, suggests that various forms of collective social behavior can co-exist in time and place and, moreover, that people may choose what mode they want to inhabit based on individual characteristics such as class and age. So the question is to what extent in modern society is an individual's way of life a matter of choice and to what is extent is that way of life pre-determined by larger forces and trends--historical, economic, social and cultural--that are beyond individual control. Put another way, can an individual choose to live a more "traditional" way of life in contemporary society or is that just a self-deception?

Monday, January 24, 2005

frameworks of urbanization and urbanism

While reading this week's articles, I have concluded that framework is really important for urban (community) studies. From Simmel to Gans, they tried to explain social change - particually urbanization - based on their historic and theoretical perspectives. Put it simply, Wirth's analysis seems to be based on the theory of mass culture/socieity whereas Gans explained on the basis of popular/folk culture and socieity. As Gans acknowledged, I think that investigating urban or cities is also time bound.

I think that framework is strongly associated with meta-theoretical issues such as epistemology, ontology and axiology. In addition, historical background needs to be considered. As a future describer or researcher, how should I approach to urban issues? What framework do I need to bring about for my studies? Of course, it is not a simple question to require a prompt answer. It is more likely to demand reflective thinking as an intellectual who is willing to study human and society from me.

Am I too serious from the start?^^

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Personal Freedom?

I understand Simmel wrote at the turn of the 20th Century but I question whether the amount of personal freedom attributed to inhabitants of the city applies in modern society. Are we all not confined by the expectations of those with whom we interact regardless of environ? Regardless of where we live we still have close social networks that influence our actions, beliefs, and atttiudes. Therefore, the city simply consists of the combination of multiple "closed" communities in one location but the pressure to conform to reference group norms is no less. Yes, I understand that in the city you may have more contact with unknown others but I would argue in modern society this also occurs in small towns, contradicting Simmel's claim as I understand it. The more relevant question may not be locale but rather how strong are the social networks the individual belongs to and the amount of influence they exert on the individual.

OK, I've rambled enough for tonight.

discussion question numero uno

While I was reading the articles for this week, I kept thinking of an article I'd read a few months ago (I think it was in Slate, but for the life of me I can't find it in their archives)that said that many peoples were joining an exodus away from the cities and back to the small towns. The reason cited was better schools with smaller classes for their children, but I also wonder if an equal part of their rationale had to do with the "difficulty of giving one's own personality a certain status within the framework of metropolitan life" (Simmel, 42). Such an endeavor is easier to accomplish within the framework of a small community, and therefore the effort of making oneself eccentric is not as necessary.


Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Syllabus is set!

The web site for J880 is now operational at and all the readings are listed. Tomorrow I will send the packet over to ASM StudentPrint in Memorial Union; the readings should be available for purchase by the first day of class. See you soon!