GEOG 340 Urban Systems
Welcome to 340! • My name is Don Alexander • Michael Tripp usually teaches this course, so this will be a learning experience for all of us; nonetheless I am excited to be teaching it. • I have what may be an overly ambitious agenda for this week, so we may start to get behind on our schedule. Fortunately, we have some wriggle room at the end of the course. • Today we’ll do the mechanics of the course and then start to get into the subject matter of Chapters 1 & 2.
Welcome to 340! • This is a course about what cities are, how they evolve and why, about the challenges they are facing, and what needs to happen to cope with those challenges. • As all of us have lived in cities. Though some of us have travelled more than others, we all have a certain amount of expertise and experience we can bring to bear, even from the experience of living in Nanaimo. • Travel certainly gives us a broader basis of comparison. Who has travelled where? Also: why have you taken the course and any particular interests?
Welcome to 340! • Student Free Store 8:30 to 4 on Thursday at the Welcome Centre, and free StudentPancake Breakfast 8:30 to 11:30 on the 12th in the Royal Bank Plaza (near bus loop).
Welcome to 340! • My office is across the road in Building 359, Room 215. My office hours are Monday and Wednesday from 1 to 2, but can arrange to see you at other times if mutually convenient. • I will be away the week of September 23rd, but am arranging for guest speakers, and possibly a film. • In general, the course will be a mix of lectures, guest speakers, films, and discussion, including discussions led by you! • Lectures will be on my web site: web.viu.ca/alexander2 under “Courses.”
Introduction to 340 • This is a course about North American cities mainly. We will initially skip the chapters on cities in developing nations and return to them later, time permitting. • We will cover a bit about the origin of cities, different geographical ideas about cities, the various phases of their evolution in North America, the reasons for postwar sprawl, the problem of de-industrialization, patterns of residential segregation, neighbourhood change, urban politics/ policy and planning, and future problems and prospects. Please bring in your relevant experience.
The Textbook • The text by Knox and McCarthy is dense and sophisticated, but it means we have a lot to cover in 13 weeks. • It also focuses almost exclusively (with the exception of the chapters on the develop-ing world) on the U.S., so we will have to work to bring Canadian content in. [Many of the phenomena they describe in the book unfolded in similar ways in Canada.] • When you present on aspects of the chapters, I will ask you to give your discussions a Canadian spin where possible.
The Assignments • Look through the course outline and read it carefully. I will discuss the assignments briefly, and will provide more detailed instructions in the next few days. • The major assignment consists of two options: writing an in-depth case study on a particular city and what has made it the way it is; and compiling an e-portfolio using the suggested ‘Review Activities’ provided at the end of each chapter in the text. • You will also lead a discussion and there will be two exams – a mid-term and a final.
Chapter 1 • Key questions for urban geographers: • What makes cities and neighbourhoods distinctive? • Are there spatial regularities in the arrangement of cities and towns across a country or region of the world? • Are there spatial regularities in the organization of land uses within cities and in who lives where? • How do people choose where to live what constraints do they face? • How does where we live affect our behaviour and quality of life? • What groups manipulate the urban environment and for what purposes? Who benefits from these manipulations?
Four Key Concepts • Space- Space both shapes and is shaped by patterns of urban development and behaviour. [examples?] • Territoriality- “the tendency for particular groups within society – ethnic groups, gangs, gated communities, -- to attempt to establish some form of control, dominance, or exclusivity within a given area.” [examples?] • Distance- “influences patterns of social interaction and the shape and extent of social networks.” Relates to accessibility of goods and services to people. • Place- noting regularities of urban areas at a variety of scales as well as what gives them a distinctive ‘sense of place.’ E.g., the feel of a place can influence our sense of safety and whether it is economically attractive.
Practical Aspects • Geographers have increasingly made use of quantitative methods and Geographical Information Systems (GIS) to study housing trends and other urban geographical matters. • They can be and are consulted about a variety of issues – redrawing political boundaries, how to foster social and economic revitalization of distressed neighbourhoods, and how to do more ecologically and socially sensitive urban and regional planning.
History of Urban Geography • Different approaches have been taken over time: • Towns and cities as adaptations to natural physical conditions (e.g. rivers, oceans and harbours, resources, availability of potable water, etc.). • Spatial description of form, layout and functional patterns as partly determined by topography, availability of rivers for industry, etc. • Spatial analysis based on gathering of data to test models and hypotheses – e.g. why the rich live in certain neighbourhoods and the poor in others. • Behavioural approach that considers why people make the decisions they do and a humanistic approach that considers the meanings behind our behaviour.
History of Urban Geography • Different approaches have been taken over time: • Structuralist approach which looks at the larger political, economic, and technological structures which drive urban change and set limits to people’s choices (also includes the political economy approach). • Feminist approach which looks at unequal gender relations and experiences in cities. • Structure-agency approach which tries to strike a balance between a ‘big picture’ structuralist approach and how people choose to respond to constraints in their lives. • Finally, a post-structuralist approach which “accepts the shifting and unstable nature of the world and concentrates on questions of who defines meaning, how this meaning is defined, and to what end. It is concerned with understanding the power of symbolism, images, and representation as expressed in language, communication, and the urban landscape.”
Images/ Messages • When we see iconic images of cities, districts, and individual buildings they speak to us, they unleash related associations. Some of these are individual to each of us, and some are conditioned by the media. Can you think of examples of each? The same is true of the people we see in cities. We make assump-tions about them based on age, dress, behaviour, and a host of other factors.
What is ‘Normal’? • Our notion of a normal city is conditioned by the range of our experience, whereas if we travel to other countries we discover that cities can be something altogether different.