Jane Jacobs and San Francisco

As part of the Davies Forum, I recently read some chapters from The Death and Life of Great American Cities. They were pretty interesting, and some of the ideas were counter to what one might think is common-sense urban planning. for example, Jacobs argues that having a bar on your street is beneficial because it provides a draw for more people to be on your street throughout the night. Why do you want people on your street? Eyeballs. For Jacbos, eyeballs (the more the merrier) are key to reducing crime in a neighborhood. The more people there are on the street, the less likely it is that crime will occur.

Because of the eyeballs issue, Jacobs also advocates for mixed-use spaces, such as apartments above businesses. In addition to offering their eyeballs, shopkeepers also act as trusted strangers for the block. Being a trusted stranger is an important distinction because the trust is built upon the fact that the individual has no interest to meddle in your personal life because he/she does not know about your personal life. In fact, on Jacobs' block it was common to leave a spare set of keys with the nearest shopkeeper because there was no reason the shopkeepers would ever want to use one's keys.

Overall, Jacobs thinks that the more people there are on a block, the more privacy you have. I agree with her mostly, but there is a certain lack of privacy with your immediate neighbors. For example, I know that my upstairs neighbors are having a somewhat rocky time in their relationship because I can hear them yelling at each other quite frequently. Zeph used to live below a couple who routinely had the loudest sex ever in at 3 in the morning. I have more privacy then I would if I lived in a town of 50 people, but I also wonder what my neighbors know about me based on what they can hear through my walls.
* * * * * * *
Our assignment for the week was to choose a neighborhood in San Francisco that would make Jane Jacobs happy. I chose the few blocks surrounding the intersection of 9th Avenue and Irving Street.
9th and Irving 9th and Irving
9th and Irving 9th and Irving
I chose this neighborhood because there is a lot of commerce in the area which keeps the area populated with people throughout the day. There are restaurants, a show store, a dentist, an amazing bakery, a small grocery store, and a drug store. In addition, none of the shops that come to mind are are huge chains. Oh, except for the Starbucks. But the grocery store is not a Lucky, the drugstore is not a Riteaid, and the pizza place is not a Dominos.

The shopkeepers that run the stores are also very kind to residents of the neighborhood. One of them let my friend Christina use his bathroom a few times when her toilet broke, and one of the pics above shows an homage to a customer in the local pizza shop.

There are also benches along the sidewalk, which encourage individuals to sit and converse with each other in public. Holding a conversation in a public space, according to Jacobs, is preferable to a private space because there is no intrusion into one's home. Joe Schmo and I can go get a beer at the Mucky Duck without him seeing my pantyhose drying in the bathroom (which I don't have, BTW).

Overall, 9th and Irving is a great spot in the middle of the Inner Sunset, and I think that Jane Jacobs would be happy to live there.

Fred Stutzman

Fred Stutzman

Fred Stutzman was the most recent speaker in the Davies Forum series. He actually gave his talk two weeks ago, but what with spring break and all this post was delayed.

Overall, I think Fred's talk was very informative. I can definitely tell that he is from a world of academics where all anybody is interested in is what literature you draw on to support your findings and what statistical data you have to prove your conclusions. Ok, so not all academics function that way, but the ones that I find rather boring do. Unfortunately, Fred appears to be in that school, and as such parts of his talk were rather bland.

Not one to offer criticism without simultaneously giving suggestions, here is what I would do differently, Fred. Leave most of the theory out, or work it into your research without explaining it in-depth. I want to hear about Facebook and all of the interesting things you are finding, not about some guy's theory from the 1970s. Also, make your findings more prominent in the presentation. Your theories about why people got so riled up about the Facebook feeds is fascinating, and I would love to hear more about things like that, especially since, as a student, I don't need you to prove to me that it did happpen. These suggestions may apply only to undergraduate audiences, which as a Facebook researcher I am hoping you will encounter more and more.

My favorite part of the talk was the Q&A. Fred seemed a lot more relaxed, and there was less "here's what supports my argument" and more "here's my argument!" (if that makes sense to anybody but me).

As for the content of the presentation, what I found most interesting is that people assume that their profiles are only semi-public, even in terms of viewing by their "friends", who by default get to look at the entire profile. This makes me wonder if people feel the same about their blogs; even though they can be viewed by a large audience, most people assume only a very small subset of the Internet is actually reading.

Basically, Fred, you rock(!) for studying Facebook, and I wish your presentation rocked(!) as much as you do.

Co-Authored Paper

My friend Cassidy and I are trying to convince our U.S. Inequalities professor to let us co-author our research paper for the course. We want to compare and contrast how pro-anorexia and fat-acceptance blogs/websites reframe medical discourse. Should be interesting, right? Come on, Nikki, you know you want to let us do it, if only so you can read the paper. :-)

I'll keep everybody updated on the progress of the project.

Bill to Make Anonymous Posting Illegal

A Kentucky lawmaker want to make anonymous internet posting illegal. From the article:
"The bill would require anyone who contributes to a website to register their real name, address and e-mail address with that site."
Apparently the current argument against the bill (or at least the only one mentioned in the article) is that it violates first amendment rights. My critique is that it inhibits rights to privacy, which should extend to the right to have an online persona that is distinct from and not connected to an offline persona. I know plenty a blogger who only continues to blog because she can do so anonymously. This is especially important when it comes to individuals who blog about controversial issues, such as fledgling civil rights movements.

In addition, I wonder what would happen to the traffic on blogs that critique the current administration were such a law to come into effect. We have already seen what happens when you bash Bush on your MySpace page: you get visited by the U.S. Secret Service.

Not to mention the fact that such a law would cost so much money to enforce that the U.S. government might have to take some money from the military spending budget in order to finance it. Hmmm, maybe this is a good bill...

Delicious Meal

Those looking for my delicious meal post should head on over to my cooking blog, Sara's Scullery, for complete details on how to make yummy pasta sauce.

Ok, you have to look at the flickr set for complete details, but wouldn't it be fun to try making it just from looking at the images?

P.S. Has anybody noticed that my favorite literary device is alliteration?

ETA: Obtainment! Part of the assignment was to blog about the obtainment of the meal! Well, all the wonderful veggies as well as the olive oil came from Westside Organics (which I ramble on about here), and the tomato sauce and wine came from Trader Joe's. BTW, I love being in a class where the assignments usually begin with "blog about..."

Second edit: Edited a second time to fix some egregious typos. Apparently when I get excited I lose the ability to type!

GWRF: Emira Woods

Emira Woods

On Tuesday the Davies Forum class headed over to USF's Global Women's Rights Forum to hear Emira Woods talk about the Stop Firestone Campaign.

Emira talked about the struggle of the workers in Liberia, as well as the current state of the campaign. The audience also got to see an in-progress documentary that is focused on the issue. The documentary, with a little work, should prove to be very interesting.

Emira left a lot of time open for questions, so I asked her a question that relates the Davies Forum class to her work: How has the Internet changed and/or helped your activism strategies?

I was expecting her to mention the movement's website and to probably say something about email lists, but her response blew me away. She easily listed 3 new technologies that she thinks are key to the campaign: mobile phones, YouTube, and Skype.

The campaign has utilized YouTube extensively, and many videos of the situation in Liberia can be found there. Skype is an essential part of the trans-continental teleconferences that are a key part of keeping the workers engaged in a movement that has grown beyond their home town, a dialog that is important to maintain lest the Liberians be otherized by their Western allies.

Mobile phones enter the picture as a way of transmitting real-time communication across the globe. Those on the ground in Liberia can send text messages when Firestone is dumping toxic waste into the river, and somebody will know about it immediately. Not a few days later, not a few hours later, that second. What better way to communicate to reporters that these atrocities are real than receiving a text message during an interview?

Emira, in a twist that is rare for speakers, then asked me what I thought about civil engagement and Web 2.0. She was even kind enough to let me think about it for a bit, and I did little but agree with her points that new technologies have the potential to bring us closer together.

But, as I have had time to think about it more, I do have one suggestion: Twitter. Emira mentioned that it is hard for the activists in Liberia to maintain a strong web presence because of the limited, expensive access to the Internet. The lack of Internet access is why text messaging is so valuable in the campaign. However, text messaging is a throw-back to the days of one-on-one communication, and for a movement to spread it needs to be able to reach many more people. Twitter is the perfect middle ground because it can work via mobile phone, allowing the employees of Firestone to post to the web without ever having to log on.

What if, every time Firestone dumped toxic waste into a river, the whole world was alerted?