Technology, Markets, Space. Lessons from the Calumet Region. Myths of the Information Age. Geography is irrelevant Race, class, and gender are irrelevant Frontiers are empty places
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Lessons from the Calumet Region
Free Corporations and a Wonderful Future will be Created
The space of flows is made up of discontinuous locales whose function
and meaning depend on their positioning and repositioning in a network of instrumental flows.
Manuel Castells, sociologist of the Informational City
Market incentives force corporations to transform environments into sets of manageable resources.
Unorganized individuals are not free to resist this logic.
Social worlds created by unfettered markets are not the kind we would choose to inhabit.
Myths of the Information Society
Make Flows Invisible
History of the Calumet Region
Make Flows Visible
There is a mystique involved in the steel industry that makes it a symbol of economic strength all over the world. The great industrial economies that emerged in the nineteenth century were built on steel, and wars were won with it. For more than a century, both politicians and economists have regarded steel capacity as a measure of industrial progress and a source of geopolitical power.
Business Week, 1977
The city of Gary was conceived in the counting rooms and born in a jungle. It was nursed on faith and schooled in the fiery furnace of toil. It is peopled by men and women of every living tongue and creed, while in marts of the world, it stands as the horoscope of good or evil symptoms in the final aspect of Christendom. As steel goes, so goes the world, and Gary is its prophet.
Optimistic observers hail Gary as the ‘City of the Century’ an industrial utopia made real by American technology. “Gary will be the most picturesque city of them all” wrote one booster wrote in 1909. Another admirer in 1911 wrote that Gary presented the most wonderful record of growth, in the shortest period of time, of any town or city in the civilized world.
Raymond Mohl, Steel City
We may assert that the Region has indeed produced its own myth, that of a cultural desert peopled by blue-collar workers living in the midst of polluted skies, garbage dumps, and violent ghettos.
Richard Dorson, oral historian, Land of the Millrats
Third among all national parks in biodiversity. Over 1300 prairie, deciduous forest, bog, rainforest, desert, and arctic plants in only 13,954 acres.
The dunes of northern Indiana are one of the great expressions of wild beauty in this country. They are the greatest of nature’s expressions of this beauty in the Middle West and as a type of landscape they are unequaled anywhere in the world
A keen observer, walking inland from the water’s edge, could trace a pattern of ecological succession in space which paralleled the development of vegetation in time.
The engine of progress was not so much competition between individuals as experiments by pioneering associations of organisms in more adaptive reciprocal relationships with one another and their environment.
Dr. Henry Cowles, 1896
Without organized resistance,
corporations face imperatives
which force them to transform
their environment into a set of resources.
Short term profits are maximized
at the expense of social welfare.
Early Decisions Maximized Corporate Resources
at the Expense of:
Because of U.S. Steel’s limited concept of town planning, two strikingly different Garys emerged: one neat and scenic, the other chaotic and squalid.Planned Social Segregation
The impact of HOLC in Gary, it should be clear, was to consign the city’s black sections, as well as adjacent white sections, to a future of physical decay and increased racial segregation.
Historically, the Grand Calumet River supported highly diverse, globally unique fish and wildlife
This is not to be a
smoky city, modern
methods enabling the
extraction from the
smoke of all gases
U. S. Steel’s
is the single
polluter in the
The residents of Altgeld Gardens, a public housing project on the far southeast side of Chicago are mostly black and Latinos. To the west of the housing complex are steel mills. To the south are two landfills. To the north, a sewage treatment plant. And to the east, a paint factory, two chemical plants, and a chemical incinerator. There are 52 abandoned landfills documented in the area and a high rate of cancer and birth deformities. Local activists call it the Toxic Doughnut.
The refineries were we loaded and unloaded our cargo were enormous, hellish structures, labyrinthine networks of hissing pipes and towers of flame, and to walk through one of them at night was to feel that you were living in your own worst dream....The ugliness was so universal, so deeply connected to the business of making money and the power that money bestowed on the ones who made it--even to the point of disfiguring the landscape, of turning the natural world inside out--that I began to develop a grudging respect for it. Get to the bottom of things, I told myself, and this was how the world looked.Novelist Paul Auster
Stripped down to their essences, leftover buildings and discarded spaces form cityscapes of great power. While they last, we have our ruins and the immense longings they instill in us. Even at risk of bodily harm, we need to hear the elemental chant that comes from our skeletal neighborhoods. The ‘City of the Broad Shoulders,’ and ‘Steel City,’ sing about the shortness of life, the awesome beauty of our creations, and our abject failure to create a just society. With their chant they beckon us to come home and perhaps try again.
Camilo Jose Vergara
Decisions Made Today Give Shape to the Information Age
Like the 1919
steel strike in Gary, state power maintains
urban tranquility in 1999 Seattle.