Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Livable Communities: The Human Connection

When my GRA suggested "4D Planning" as the name for this blog, I really didn't know what he meant--nor did I have a clue what blogging was. So I neglected my blog, figuring I should at least get my digital camera figured out before venturing further into cyberspace.

I still don't have the camera issues solved (how the heck do you download a photo album to/from Facebook?!), but I now see that there is a very important, but neglected, dimension of creating liveable communities that is of great interest to me. Whether you are looking at a "Top Ten Cities to Find a Rich Partner" article on the Internet (quit that and get back to studying, you!) or you're reading an academic paper (props--but stay awake!), the data typically used to assess community liveability usually falls into these categories:
safety (including everything from cancer to drug deals to murder)
shelter (including variety, affordability, etc.), and
services (from grocery stores to bike paths to jobs).

But as I read the wise words of others, and did my own research into what makes a place really nice to live, and experienced widely different communities directly through moving and travel, I realized there is a fourth category--dare I say, a fourth dimension?--that needs to be present if our hoods are to be places where people can not just exist, but thrive. Planners call it social capital, and it includes every aspect of human connections, from knowing your neighbors to joining local groups to having places to people-watch to meeting that hot guy down the street.

Ironically, despite our Internet connectivity, opportunities for interacting with live humans in positive ways can be hard to find (especially if you don't like bars!)--and just as living in a high crime or polluted area can shorten your life, this situation can not only make you lonely, it can even shorten your life!

So thanks Prashant, for naming this blog 4D Planning. In future posts I want to explore this aspect further, and hear from you as well! What can we do to retrofit our suburbs to encourage social interaction? What can we learn from cities in other nations? Do our original neighborhoods--designed before the car--have something to teach us? Is this social engineering? Is everything social engineering? Does it matter?


Norman said...

Looking forward to hearing more about planning and life in College Station.

Norm Glickman

Prashant Das said...

I hope to keep hearing from you the expert insights on Livable Communities; and Urban planning in general!