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Garrett Fuller

I found the article on public journalism interesting and enlightening. I have had issues with the way journalists report the news in a “unbiased” way for some time, but have been largely ineffective at communicating that frustration to others or refining it. News stories are small parts of larger complex narratives. If journalists cannot, and will not, contextualize news stories, they will continue to fail utterly to give readers, viewers, and listeners the tools to really understand what the facts mean. Without meaning, facts and information have no power. Distrust of the media in all of its forms is very high in America. In a 2009 pew research poll 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate. http://people-press.org/2009/09/13/press-accuracy-rating-hits-two-decade-low/ Why is that if objectivity in presenting the facts is the ostensible goal of journalism? I could go into a rant about corporate media, but instead I will talk about utility. The press has proven that it serves no purpose. If fails to fact check government stories, it only tells us the bad news, and it fails to present us information that has meaning in our lives. I would argue that people do not look to the news to be entertained. They look to the news to be informed. If they do not feel informed, you lose their attention. What is a democracy like without the a viable press? Ask a young Egyptian. In news, credibility and utility is everything. Or at least it should be.

I would be interested to get an update on how his project is going. After 2001 sometime Bush altered FCC regulations that prevented certain media from becoming monopolies. The argument was that the regulations preventing press monopolies were outdated since so many people get their news from the internet now. Here in Seattle we lost the PI to those new regulations. That story was repeated all over the US. I had a hard time finding a story about the new news monopolies and their effect on journalism when I tried to look it up.

I really liked his definition of public scholarship as the quest to know things that can only be known with others in the public arena. I thought his rejection of expertise was a valuable lesson and his strong focus on relationship building are fundamental building blocks of functional engaged public scholarship.

Most of the rest of the articles were a treasure trove of practical advice on how to make organizational-institutional partnerships work. The points seem like common sense. Community activists want a sense of parity, they want respect as professionals and experts. They want clear goals and regular communication at all levels where there is space to openly address the potentially uncomfortable systemic issues that fundamentally drive inequity. Community members want to be involved in early stage planning, and want full detailed disclosure on what is expected of them.

Universities struggle to maintain contacts with the community given that active members cycle in and out, and people are busy. I challenge you to go through the article about University-Community Partnerships and note how often “not enough time” was a limiting factor for potential activist involvement. A great deal of the effort spent by the Task Force was simply in building organizational capacity to realistically address educational challenges.

Resources are limited. Respecting the contributions and limitations of all parties, with an eye towards reciprocal benefits is key to successful partnerships. I feel that having a clear understanding of what elements make partnerships like this work can allow parties on both sides be explicit and realistic about their needs in the planning stages. Exciting.

Garrett Fuller

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Two concepts particularly interested me in this week’s readings: language styles used in communication and “give-back” to communities who are being studied and “helped.”

The Leiderman article talks about community groups opposing the use of jargon in community/university partnerships, because it allows participants (especially academics) to keep their activities in the realm of theory, rather than applying it in the real world. It also makes the work of the partnership – research performed and insights gained – difficult to access outside the confines of academia. This became evident to me during my first year of graduate studies after reading a collection of academic literary criticism. The language was often terse, abstract and difficult to anchor to anything concrete. After reading a number of these articles it appeared that the authors’ intent was more to “get published” and impress scholarly peers than to convey usable information.

This leads to the second point, also raised in the Leiderman article and echoed by Laura Pulido, the Latina activist and USC professor who spoke at an earlier Now Urbanism seminar. Scholars have a tendency to use communities as an object of study for generating new information and advancing their own reputation with little or no direct “give-back” to the groups they study. Even opportunities for giving back indirectly are overlooked because jargon and high academic style reduce accessibility to the studies’ findings. This creates a barrier to third-party individuals and organizations which, if they understood the import of the study, might be able to assist.

These two factors, among a number of others mentioned in this week’s articles, are reasons why community groups might be leery of partnering with universities and colleges. This is a valuable insight since the usual assumption is that the highly-considered academic institution, with its superior knowledge, reputation and resources, deigns to assist the hardscrabble community group. It is clear from the readings that community groups see matters quite differently, and often consider a potential academic partner as a liability, with more to lose than to gain.

– Axel Thorson

how interesting this week’s reading set is!
Universities vs public, academic expression vs common expression, museum as academy vs museum as tourist attraction. how interesting!

the Gene Bunnell & Catherine Lawson’s article (Public university as city planner and developer…..) talks about everything too physical, in my opinion. well maybe that’s this paper’s purpose but….still, this makes me thinking of last Thursday. Three elites sat together, talking about universities and communities….yet it was mostly about campus…buying properties….expansions….plans (in physical forms). the organization of this article is actually too complicated. It is long, and lots of parts make me feel pointless/can’t catch up with the main thesis.

resource, funds, partners, and continuity seem some main ideas of the Baum article. It seems like when we talk about university vs public we always start with this. yet these things suppose to be really basic. they are in the bottom of the structure.

I kinda wanna ask/talk about the following questions/topics:
1. What was the structure of the Academy in Greece couple thousands years ago? by structure i mean the structure of “school vs public vs a country.” How did they work?
2. What about ancient Chinese schools? Confucius?
3. TED talk vs public
4. students who are major in planning/designing fields that has direct influence to the public (like UW directed Seattle International district night market event series) vs none-direct influenced majors.

harley

Although very (almost patronizingly) generalizing Prior’s Post-Modern reconstructing chapter is an interesting way to discuss who is shaping perceptions/structures and how is the city formed. The elitist investment in culture as shifting from private individual to corporation as a way of proving their commitment to culture and give them a positive image. He focus a bit too much on museums as representational, when I really feel that the frustration he is expressing at museums catering to spectatorship is giving rise to a model of museums as interactive centers.

The journalism article really provided a lot of good points in the way scholarship partners with real world performance and the public’s access to information. He used journalism as a lens through which to focus the fact that academia does not communicate well with the general public and this can often be alienating. Prior also brought this up in his chapter. The need to find ways to put like minded people in touch with each other in ways that allow them to communicate without alienation is key. The need to have a set of guiding policies and best practices is also important to establish the direction of a movement and make sure that it stay on course.

Leiderman and Co. do an excellent job of highlighting the community’s perspective of university efforts that I feel would have benefitted Baum greatly prior to his efforts in Baltimore. The need for clear and strategic partnerships is essential for both parties and the community is the one who should ultimately benefit. I like that they point out that education, for both the university and the institution, is the most valuable outcome of these partnerships Bunnell’s experience in Portland spoke about the fractioning of priorities by funding stakeholders and how through a clear plan they all worked together to achieve goals. The way having a clear mission and goals leads to funding and completion of projects.

From these articles I am looking forward to discussing – communication of scholarship in public spaces and how to engage people moving from talk to action. If I talk about a museum with my friends they might say ‘that sounds nice, maybe I will go to that exhibit later…’ and then they usually get to busy and don’t. If, on the other hand, I say ‘Hey, I am headed to this exhibit, wanna come?’ they are much more likely to join me.

Thank you all for a great quarter – looking forward to wrapping it all up tomorrow.

~tomasina

Before getting into my thoughts on this week’s readings, I wanted to take a second to thank you all for a really engaging, thought-provoking quarter. It’s truly been a privilege to get to meet with each of you every Friday morning to hash out our ideas. Thank you.

This week’s readings brought the quarter full-circle in some nice ways. Through the readings on ways that universities engage cities (Leiderman et al., Baum, Bunnell & Lawson), we see a broader range of modes of engagement. Bunnell and Lawson provide an interesting taxonomy of engagement that included the use of communities as laboratories, universities’ efforts as service to community needs, and universities’ efforts to empower communities and build capacity (p.25). Their study of Portland State University, however, took me back to the building-centered rhetoric of last week’s speakers. I’m not convinced that what Portland State did in this case had anything to do with community engagement. Which model does campus expansion into surrounding city blocks (albeit seemingly responsible development) most resemble in their taxonomy / historical continuum? Seems more like self-service than anything else, but I enjoyed their contribution here.

Baum demonstrated that the impetuses behind university-community engagement efforts, while likely well-intending, often resemble fantasy more than a realistic, actionable plan. He also returned us to basic questions of identity, representation, and power:

Who is the community, and who represents it, such that a university might join it in partnership? … Who is the university? A university is a notoriously individualistic institution. Can anyone represent it? … What kinds of arrangements might a university-community partnership include, allow, or require? Who can be parties to such a partnership? Can one or a few individuals in each entity agree to a partnership, or must it be authorized by specific leaders or a majority of each entity’s members? How much must the entities agree on, and what conditions must they agree to, to constitute a partnership? In what ways is a third-party funder a partner in a university-community partnership, and how should the funder participate? Who else should be a partner? (Baum, 2000, p. 236-237)

[Forgive that long quotation.]

It’s all well and good to say that the university and the city should form partnerships and develop a sense of shared fates, but, as Baum shows, the pragmatic and practical sides of such arrangements are extremely complicated.

So where does this leave us?

I think we get some good direction from Leiderman and her co-authors. I was particularly struck by the idea that university representatives — be they faculty, students, administration, or staff — should find ways to articulate issues of power, exclusion, racism, sexism, classism, etc., for the common benefit of all involved in partnerships. It’s not enough to show up and pretend that past injustices are outside a partnership. Understandings and trust take time and direct, candid communication. I like that.

I also really liked the divergent paths that Rosen and Prior led us down. Rosen’s notion of “public journalism” is novel, but I wonder whether he would reconsider this discussion today. (The essay that we read was published in 1995.) Fortunately for us, it seems that Dr. Rosen keeps a regular blog going at http://pressthink.org/. I read a few of the entries and was intrigued by his arguments.

I thought that the chapter from Nick Prior actually brought the concepts, ideas, and thinkers from this quarter all together nicely. Prior’s chapter considers the macro-level transformations of cities and city life over the past forty or fifty years. I think he ties up the loose ends of his arguments a little too neatly by the end — museums are sites of populist education, collections of refined cultural cache, engines of economic development for struggling cities, AND instigators of difficult reflexive conversations? After reading this essay, I’ll agree that museums are fascinating objects of study, but just because there are a variety of museums in our world, can we say that museums are all of these things at once?

This was a really great set of readings. Thanks for being excellent curators, Axel and Tomasina.

I hope we’ll be able to take some time Friday to think over the full quarter’s themes and ideas.

Anyway, looking forward to it…

Mike

On Tuesday evening I attended a lecture by University of Oklahoma professor Peter Hays Gries, author of several books on US-China relations and Chinese domestic policy. The basis for the lecture was the results of two Internet surveys, one aimed at an American audience, the other at Chinese respondents. The surveys attempted to gauge how much each audience knows about the other and their respective feelings toward one another. The surveys also asked about attitudes toward several other countries to use as a control in interpreting the China-US results. After presenting the survey findings Gries related them to other areas, such as urbanism and ecology, and traced the evolution of attitudes in both countries. Before looking at those specific topics it is useful to know some basics about American and Chinese attitudes.

In general, the Chinese know quite a bit more about us than we know about them. One reason is that the number of Chinese who speak English far outpaces the number of Americans who know any Chinese. Access to the language provides sources of knowledge otherwise difficult to come by, such as pop culture and opinion pieces. This could be why the survey findings showed that Chinese are more apt to distinguish Americans from their government than Americans are to draw a line between the Chinese and theirs. In general, the Chinese are positively inclined toward Americans, but suspicious of the US government. Most Americans are unaware of the historic and cultural reasons for this, such as China’s “Era of Humiliation,” the memory of which informs many Chinese policy decisions.

For all their wariness of US politics, the Chinese have an overall favorable opinion of American pop culture. Names like Brad Pitt and Angela Jolie have about as much clout in China as in the US. (How many Americans know who Fan Bing Bing or Yang Lan is?) However, exportation of US culture via the media tends to project an idealized version of the American industrial-era lifestyle with its suburbs, cars and consumption-defined identity. As in other developing nations, this has come to define the “good life” for more and more Chinese. This helps us understand Chinese trends in urbanism.

In large part the Chinese continue to emulate the industrial-era design and planning models that Europe declared unsustainable several years ago, and that the United States is increasingly questioning. Particularly worrisome are suburban housing developments around Beijing and other cities whose design requires commuting by car. This is causing untenable traffic congestion and increasing an already staggering pollution burden. The situation is much like it was in the United States in the early 70s, multiplied by several million more people. Contributing to this are car manufacturers’ (including GM) campaigns to capitalize on the Chinese market by pushing car sales as high as possible in coming years.

In China, as in the United States, people and groups exist who see the inevitable outcome of these patterns and are attempting to redirect them in a more positive direction. Universities and other educational institutions (such as Tongji University near Shanghai) are leading the way, but their efforts do not enjoy overarching government support. In both the United States and China segments of government theoretically support the move toward sustainable development, but only insofar as this does not conflict substantially with economic interests.  However, the United States is much more free and fertile ground for grassroots efforts, and is thus ahead of China in public ecological action.

Gries’ main point regarding urbanism and ecology was that at some time in the future the Chinese government will likely throw its weight behind sustainable initiatives, not out of forethought as much as necessity. We have seen in the past how quickly China can change when the government decides to act. As Harley pointed out in class, Chinese policies tend to be reactive rather than proactive. That begs the question of how far the environmental damage will have to go in order to catalyze a reaction, and whether one day China could actually become an example of sustainability, rather than an ecological pariah.

– Axel Thorson

1. Sorry if I’m too rude. I do not mean it, but…..
Why this week’s panel talk became introductory presentations for 3 of the schools? (I felt like watching advertisements…) Where was the original focus?
I mean….yeah….NYU’s campus development plan??? dear
I thought we were gonna talk about “public and academy” or “community and university” etc…
this can be a talk in class tomorrow.

2. I did not have a chance to attend protest or volunteering event this week so I will present a review of a community design project (in Taiwan) that was related to my undergraduate thesis (2008)  in class tomorrow.

Harley

Garrett

I attended an event called Democracy Hijacked & how to fix it. It was organized by a Move to Amend, a group that is trying to get the US Constitution amended to end corporate personhood. The key speaker was Riki Ott. She become an environmental activist after her experience working with the Exxon Valdez oil spill. While not officially hired to investigate the BP oil spill, she is beginning a epidemiological study to examine the impacts of the spill on the environment, and the terrible cost to human health. Tourism represents 70% of the income for many of these states, and there is enormous pressure on them to minimize and cover up the danger and toxicity of the gulf coast. The point of this response is not to talk about that specific issue, no matter how disturbing some of the things I learned were, so if you are interested, ask in class. Other speakers were, Lynne Dodson, Secretary-Treasurer of the WA State Labor Council and Craig Salins, Executive Director of Washington Public Campaigns.

Riki Ott’s presentation was interesting, but not necessarily anything I was unaware of. She essentially detailed some of the important court cases and legislative changes that occurred that have expanded corporations from contractual organizations that are subservient to the Government, read as people, to people with a full and ever expanding set of civil rights. She did mention some interesting points I had not thought about before. For example the 4th amendment guarantees people freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, among other things. Regulators cannot just show up and look for violations, they must get a search warrant. By the time inspectors arrive with warrant’s the problems are hidden. The 5th amendment protects … Corporations have been trying to have future takings defined as appropriate compensation. While they have had some success in State courts, they have not yet had success in Federal court. Internationally, corporations have maneuvered compensation for future takings into trade agreements. Wokers rights, environmental regulations, anything that might negatively affect profit, can be considered for lawsuits for compensation for lost future takings. She outlined the ways that corporate entities have been detrimental to civil society and talked about Move to Amend and its mission. As scary as that all is, it is not new news. Numerous books, articles, documentaries, pamphlets etc. have been published on this same issue. The labor representative spoke second. She gave a very decent speech about the active, important role of labor and the evils of corporate interest. Time was spent talking about the value of grassroots and the importance of regular people being active and informed. The final speaker was from Washington Public Campaigns, he talked about the importance and viability of public funding for elections. One of the points he was talking about was the push from the labor unions, WPC, and MTA to get the Washington State legislator to pass a resolution calling on the Congress to amend the Constitution. It apparently failed to pass committee this year, but they have high hopes for next year. The hope is that getting the issue into the news this way will create a “tsunami of public support.”

Riki Ott spoke in a way that really brought the urgency of the issue home. The Move to Amend organization is attempting to create a new broad based community movement. The other speakers were less engaging and, I think, less promising. The strategies of the labor union are still dependent on trying to convince the democrats to serve their agenda, while the democrats agenda is to give the labor unions as little as possible while still keeping them dependent. Continuing to organize the same way they have for the last 30 years is going to continue to offer the same results. The steady erosion of worker rights and union power. All of them are desperate for active grassroots volunteers and donations. They gave lip service to getting the youth involved, but I got the distinct impression they want the youth to go door to door, phone bank, and petition. Not participate in activist agenda setting. The average age of the room was probably much more than 50 years old. The proof is in the pudding. So what does all this have to do with active and engaged scholarship? After the meeting I got to talking with Dr. Riki Ott and some of the other attendee’s, and I acquired a huge wealth of information about organizations, web sites, news sources, etc that are doing great work, and offer a way to plug in to the local active civil community. Here was the value. I went. The speeches were… whatever. The people offer inroads to something other than academic study of the issues.

Some websites:

http://www.undeadolympia.com/ I have not gotten around to reviewing the site yet, but I understand it offers a critical view of politics as usual in Olympia.

http://celdf.org/section.php?id=33 I came across CELDF before, but I have heard good things about their democracy school. The critique I heard this time, was that CELDF focuses more on the academic history of how democracy was intended to work, and how it works now. I was recommended a different democracy school in Eureka Ca, which focuses more on how to go about doing community organizing. Unfortunately my google-foo is weak, and I have been unable to find them.

http://www.yesmagazine.org/ Yes magazine is a local progressive magazine that is, from all reports, amazing and doing good work.

http://store.bioneers.org/Activism_s/34.htm?searching=Y&sort=13&cat=34&show=100&page=1 Bioneers.org has a massive collection of talks, radio shows, books, etc. The radio shows and recording of speeches are about a dollar to download, and there is a very wide range of topics. The saying is that when something appears in public debate for the first time, it was on bioneers ten years ago.

http://ouramericangeneration.org/ Apparently has information about progressive organizations. They have meetings regularly on campus and help students break the cliquishness of college activist organizations.

http://changingtheendgame.org/ is all about energy dependence, and environmentalism. The first pretty left of center website I have ever seen.

I also got three e-mail addresses and gave out my own contact information 4 times. Engaged scholarship? The key is to actually get out into the community. Scholars who want to be effectively valuable to their community need to be a part of the community. If scholars simply attend various meetings, they will eventually find a subject that resonates with them, they can bring their expertise to bear on, and people who they want to be involved with. Is this something that can be taught? I am not sure, but I think a mandatory civics and civic engagement class would be worthwhile for all students.

Garrett Fuller

William Taylor presented an overview of his recent research from hydrologic monitoring of runoff from a number of green roofs for Seattle Public Utilities over the last three years. Mr. Taylor highlighted the fact that the City of Seattle’s priority is to reduce storm water run-off into the combined sewer system; the city stands to recover significant funds if it can reduce the total amount of flows sent to the King County water treatment plant during storm events. He summarized the data collection methods used and discussed variation in hydrologic responses seen at four green roofs in Seattle: Zoomazium, Ross Park Shelter House, Ballard Public Library, and Fire Station 10. Each site presented unique challenges for data collection. His team employed a hydrologic mass/balance method at each site by calculation “total in” (rainfall + irrigation) and “total out” (run-off + evapo-transpiration factors).

His research reinforced two main issues that are very important for designers, architects, and engineers to consider. Namely, that the effectiveness of green roofs in mitigating storm water run-off is not absolute or even consistent. First, the seasons impact the water absorption rates of green roofs because the ‘sponge affect’ of the system is reduced if the soil is constantly saturated. Second, the ability of a green roof to prevent run-off is different for each storm even based on antecedent dry conditions combined with the volume of rainfall and intensity/duration of the storm event itself.

Mr. Taylor’s lecture was both interesting and applicable to the design professions and anyone interested in the future of urbanization. There seems to be a lot of enthusiasm for green roofs, both by the general public and by architects and landscape architects because of the novel aesthetic potential of green roofs. There is a growing trend to use green roofs as a physical amenity to buildings by providing user access. We need more concrete evidence in the form of scientific modeling to predict the cumulative impacts of green roofs on either urban air quality or urban storm water discharge into surrounding water bodies. If data collected by Mr. Taylor helps to create a 40-year continuous model calibrated with parameters from actual green roofs, there are widespread implications. Quite simply, if city governments including the City of Seattle, can model the affects of converting 10% of conventional roofs in downtown to green roofs and predict significant reduction of storm water discharge during major events, the economic benefits will become tangible; less run-off = lower water treatment bills. Practitioners can expect incentives that will increase both demand for green roofs and expansion of the industry that services them.

See y’all post-Japan!

Easton

Wednesday morning I attended a meeting at City Hall in Seattle for the Committee of the Built Environment. The agenda included discussion about the Food Vendor Trucks that we had discussed a little last week and I was interested to see what the process and effect of these meetings was.

The public comment time was limited to 2 minutes per person, however, every person went over their time significantly.I found the most interesting thing to be that the ‘public’ comments were all made by individuals lobbying on the behalf of their union or organization or association. I was the only person there not representing a group, but as an individual interest. There was even a student on the behalf of the UW Greek system lobbying  to allow food trucks on Greek row that only serve Greek food. All of the commenters were what the committe chair called ‘regulars who knew the rules,’ and so it is clear that they are all very actively maintaining a stake in the ordinence making process.

Mike – it will interest you to note that one way they are allowing businesses to block food trucks and carts from setting up near them is to deny them access to a restroom. The vendors must have a contract agreement for a bathroom within 200 feet of their business at this point.

The main benefit cited for the city by allowing these carts to become more prevalent was the ‘activation and enlivening’ of public spaces. The businesses that spoke for more restrictive rules on these carts wanted the program to have more carts in public squares and piazzas. It seemed to me though that they were having a hard time coming up with very many spaces that qualified. The rules about how far from the curb and doors and through space for pedestrians were all laid out for vetting, and I have the information packet they handed out on that, which actually gives some comparative information regarding sidewalk cafes.

All in all it was actually a confidence boosting experience for me. I saw that the council members brought up questions to ask the policy writers from the public comment and followed up from previous session public comment.

Looking forward to sharing more and hearing about everyone’s experiences!

~tomasina