Parks, Sidewalks, and Juveniles

In the two readings, “The Uses of Sidewalks: Assimilating Children: by Jane Jacobs and “A Participation Cook Book” by Ray Lorenzo an interesting dynamic exists. Jacobs explains in depth about how certain city configurations will produce an juvenile reaction out of children. Specifically she argues, with her empirical studies, that cities dominated by parks are far more likely to suffer from resulting negative events then as those dominated by the sidewalk. The logic behind this is simple and is a concept she continues to go back to, there is a tangible surveillance that exists as a result of the high number of people in the city. There is almost a sense of randomness about it due to the fact that the concept requires somebody to be, “looking out the window” or “passing by” however since there are so many people populating a city somebody is always “looking out a window” or “driving by.” The children know this and there behavior changes as a result.

Lorenzo’s piece seems to address a next level question of Jane Jacobs work: Since parks are beautiful spaces, are there things we can do to keep children playing in them as if they were city streets? (Perhaps this was not the original intent of the article however it has an interesting application to explore). Lorenzo argues that in order for a productive interaction to take place all members of the group need to have a synchronized concept of the activities concept of participation. As a result there are effective ways of teaching groups and individuals how to go about executing activities in an effective manner. Therefore if you can teach enough children effective ways of executing a specific activity, via strategies of participation, then that activity should in theory be absent from juvenile actions. If everybody in the group knows how to play the game and finds it fun then they will play the game as opposed to explore all other facets associated with being away from parental authority. It is essentially fighting the war of juvenility through the construction of a positive and more interesting activity.

Both of these readings can be applied to what we are doing as a class. Lorenzo outlined specific fundamental elements that are integral to the continued success of a project. Jane Jacobs described the unfortunate circumstances that surround the worst-case scenarios of said projects and the importance of using the city surveillance to our advantage to protect the children.

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