The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces

In The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, William Whyte and The Street Life Project explore the sociability of urban spaces and try to determine the design elements and human characteristics that make spaces livable. Originally a project on urban overcrowding, Whyte and crew conclude that an abundance of people gathered together throughout the day is not necessarily a problem, but instead a healthy measure of a location’s vitality. Using a combination of time-lapse photography and inferences from direct observation, Whyte shows how architecture promotes chance encounters with friends, fosters communication among strangers, and stimulates communities.

For more information on William H. Whyte, and research on “What makes a place sittable,” check out the Project for Public Spaces.

The Science of Social Policy

If you’ve spoken with me lately (say within the last six months of this post) then you know I’ve been a buzz over policy research.   For those of you unaware of this field just take what you know of clinical trials but replace drugs with social programs.  In a TED talk titled ‘Social experiments to fight poverty’ Esther Duflo presents social policy as a science, revealing that our hunches on what’s ‘right for most people’ can be tested using the same rigorous techniques employed by the agriculture and pharmaceutical giants.  For a better idea of how this field makes life more livable, check out the video below.  I promise Esther Duflo makes ANOVA look cool.