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A Place in the World Program

A Place in the World: Geography, Identity, and Civic Engagement in Modern America

Friday, March 11, 2010

Session One - 2:00-3:30 p.m.
"Mobility and Membership"
Christine Rosen, Senior Editor, The New Atlantis
Ray Oldenburg, Professor Emeritus, University of West Florida

Does the expansion of choice in human life make for an expansion of happiness? Or is the relationship between choice and happiness something more complicated and paradoxical? Does the love of mobility reflect a positive American trait, reflective of the most distinctively American characteristics of autonomous individualism? How can its positive features be balanced against the need for stability, particularly in environments formative of children and young people? Does “placelessness” have damaging psychological effect on children, particularly in a media-saturated world, in which the affects of young people are often misdirected toward “virtual” objects that have no tangible presence in their lives? What is the significance of the diminishing significance of “home” as an organizing center for the conduct of life, as for example in the loss of the tradition of the regular family dinner?

Session Two - 4:00-5:30 p.m.
"Cosmopolitanism and Place"
Mark Mitchell, Chair, Department of Government, and Associate Professor of Government, Patrick Henry College
Russell Jacoby, Professor in Residence, Department of History, University of California, Los Angeles

Does the cosmopolitan ideal undermine the concept of place, as well as cognate ideas such as citizenship, patriotism, regionalism, and other more particularist loyalties? Must an economy with global reach obliterate all traces of local economy? Or is there a way of reconciling the two, and creating a modus vivendi in which both can flourish? Does the cosmopolitan ideal best express the idea of human freedom, because it frees individuals from the constraints of particular affiliation or identity? Or does it work against freedom, by working against the formation of healthy individual identity, by discouraging binding attachments to anything but the most universal abstractions? What are the implications for “placemaking” in the answers one gives to these questions?

Dinner and Keynote Address - 6:30-8:00 p.m.
"Place/Space, Ethnicity/Cosmos: How to Be More Fully Human"
Yi-Fu Tuan, Professor Emeritus, Geography, and Former J. K. Wright and Vilas Professor, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Saturday, March 12, 2010

"Why Place Matters" - 8:00-8:30 a.m.

Wilfred McClay, SunTrust Bank Chair of excellence in Humanities, University of Tennessee at Chattanooga

Session Three - 8:45-10:15 a.m.
"Place and Community in Tomorrow's Cities and Neighborhoods"
William Schambra, Director, Bradley Center for Philanthropy and Civic Renewal, and Senior Fellow, Hudson Institute
Alan Ehrenhalt, Director, Information, Pew Center on State, and Lecturer, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland

Can a more robust federalism foster or strengthen distinctive and healthy “places?” How might devolving of authority to both state and local governments change the nature of these places? What might be the effects on the development of active citizen participation if state and local governments had more freedom to act according to their own needs and relative to their own goals and values? Might administrative decentralization and increased political participation in administrative tasks alter citizen involvement and emotional investment in the community?

Session Four - 10:30-Noon
"Building a Place: The Shape and Scale of the Good Life"
Philip Bess, Director of Graduate Studies, School of Architecture, University of Notre Dame
Wiltold Rybcyznski, Martin and Margy Meyerson Professor of Urbanism, University of Pennsylvania

Can we design or construct places that are better suited to deeper human needs and purposes? How does our architecture and design shape or modify how we live as individuals and as communities? If we shape our buildings and then our buildings shape us, what do we know about human nature that informs the design of our homes, offices, stores, churches? How do we foster communities on a scale appropriate for human flourishing?

Lunch Session - Noon-1:30 p.m.
"Is Los Angeles a Place?"
Dana Gioia, Award-winning poet

Session Five - 1:30-3:00 p.m.
"The Public’s Role in Defining Place"
City Planner and Architect Panel

Once mainly the policy domain of planners and architects, general publics at the local level – both organized and not – are playing an increasing role in influencing local planning and building decisions. From “unchained” policies prohibiting chain stores from building in town centers to the pro/no growth arguments occurring throughout the country, the field of “participatory planning” has grown dramatically in the last decade. What are the factors (technical, political, societal) that are pushing this movement? What are the policies/decisions on which the public seeks engagement concerning this defining of place? Are there types of questions planners and architects should be asking of their public in order to maintain/stimulate this sense of place?

Session Six - 3:30-5:00 p.m.
"Public Engagement: A Chance to Build Community in the “New Normal”?"
Mayor and City Manager Panel

Declining revenues combining with increased service and public sector pension obligations are producing an era being dubbed the “new normal” in local and state governments throughout America. As Harvard’s government scholar, Stephen Goldsmith, describes it, this situation is a long-term predicament: “Government at all levels now faces an inescapable reality – the promises of public services exceed our ability to pay for them – and will do so regardless of when the recession ends.” Municipal leaders in this “new normal” are finding creative ways to address policy issues from public works to education through public/private partnerships (PPPs) and the intentional inclusion and creation of civil society organizations. How serious are these challenges – particularly at the city level? How much responsibility can/should civil society be expected to assume? What are the opportunities for “community-building” through these new municipal/civil society relationships?