The sidewalk ballet of city neighbourhoods


A statistical indicator called the Storefront Index measures the number and concentration of customer-facing businesses in the nation’s large metropolitan areas. A series of maps represent location, size and intensity of neighbourhood business clusters down to the street level for 51 metropolitan areas. The Storefront Index, claims the writer, is one indicator of the relative size and robustness of the active streetscape in and around city centers. The index material is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license and it is openly available for further investigation to researchers. around the globe



  • Joe Cortright, 2018. Quantifying Jane Jacobs. In City Commentary, full article and image available here

Critical Pedagogy, new book by Sean Michael Morris & Jesse Stommel


Critical Pedagogy is an approach to teaching and learning predicated on fostering agency and empowering learners (implicitly and explicitly critiquing oppressive power structures). The word “critical” in Critical Pedagogy functions in several registers:

  • Critical, as in mission-critical, essential;
  • Critical, as in literary criticism and critique, providing definitions and interpretation;
  • Critical, as in reflective and nuanced thinking about a subject;
  • Critical, as in criticizing institutional, corporate, or societal impediments to learning;
  • Critical Pedagogy, as a disciplinary approach, which inflects (and is inflected by) each of these other meanings.

Our work, the writers say, has wondered at the extent to which Critical Pedagogy translates into digital space.

In short, Critical Digital Pedagogy:

  • centers its practice on community and collaboration;
  • must remain open to diverse, international voices, and thus requires invention to re-imagine the ways that communication and collaboration happen across cultural and political boundaries;
  • will not, cannot, be defined by a single voice but must gather together a cacophony of voices;
  • must have use and application outside traditional institutions of education.


Preface by Audrey Watters. Book available for online reading here

The capability approach


The capability approach to a person’s advantage is concerned with evaluating it in terms of his or her actual ability to achieve various valuable functionings* a part of living

It differs from other approaches using other informational focuses, for example:

  • personal utility
  • absolute or relative opulence
  • assessments of negative freedoms
  • comparisons of means of freedom
  • comparisons of resource holdings as a basis of just equality

The capability approach is concerned primarily with the identification of value-objects, and sees the evaluative space in terms of functionings and capabilities to function (…) Choices have to be faced in the delineation of the relevant functionings. The format always permits additional ‘achievements’ to be defined and included (…) There is no escape from the problem of evaluation in selecting a class of functionings in the description and appraisal of capabilities (…) (1) What are the objects of value? (2) How
valuable are the respective objects? the identification of the objects of value is
substantively the primary exercise which makes it possible to pursue the second question (…) The identification of the objects of value specifies what may be called an evaluative space (…) The selection of the evaluative space has a good deal of cutting power on its own, both because of what it includes as potentially valuable and because of what it excludes (…) The freedom to lead different types of life is reflected in the person’s capability set.  The capability of a person depends on a variety of factors, including personal characteristics and social arrangements. A full accounting of individual freedom must, of course, go beyond the capabilities of personal living and pay attention to the person’s other objectives, but human capabilities constitute an important part of individual freedom (…) We can make a fourfold classification of points of evaluative interest in assessing human advantage, based on two different distinctions. One distinction is between (1.1) the promotion of the person’s well-being, and (1.2) the pursuit of the person’s overall agency goals (…) The second distinction is between (2.1) achievement, and (2.2) the freedom to achieve (…) The assessment of each of these four types of benefit involves an evaluative exercise, but they are not the same evaluative exercise (…0 The four categories of intrapersonal assessment and interpersonal comparison that follow from these two distinctions (namely, well-being achievement, well-being freedom, agency achievement, and agency freedom) are related to each other, but are not identical

*functionings represent parts of the state of a person–in particular the various things that he or she manages to do or be in leading a life. The capability of a person reflects the alternative combinations of functionings the person can achieve, and from which he or she can choose one collections

Excerpts from Amartyr Sen’s Capability and Well‐Being, full paper available here

Image available here



the skills of listening to others becomes as important as making clear statements/ the good listener has to respond to intent, to suggestion, for the conversation to keep moving forward/ the difference between the two terms is not a matter of either/or. the heart of it all lies in picking up on concrete details, on specifics, to drive a conversation forward. Bad listeners bounce back in generalities when they respond; they are not attending to those small phrases, facial gestures or silences which open up a discussion.

Dialectic: the verbal play of opposites should gradually build up to a synthesis (…) the Aristotelian notion that although we use the same words, we cannot say we are speaking of the same things (..) the aim is to come to a mutual understanding (…) the listener elaborates the assumption by putting it into words (…) in the Socratic notion, the echo is actually a displacement

Dialogic: first coined by Mikhail Bakhtin to name a discussion which does not resolve itself by finding a common ground (…) though no shared agreements may be reached, through the process of exchange people may become more aware of their own views and expand their understanding of one another (..) knitted together but divergent exchange (…) a dialogic conversation can be ruined by too much identification with the other person.

Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books (pages 18-20)

Image available here

The workshop as a means for creating & sustaining sociality



The workshop is one of the oldest institutions of human society. like farming, the artisan workshop terminated the wandering way of life. Much of this also depended on the scale of their tools. In China and Greece it was the most important institution anchoring civic life which practiced the division of labor. The workshop spawned an idea of justice, artisans were allowed to choose freely how to practice their craft. Craftsmen, both Confucius and Plato believed, make good citizens. The urban craftsman in the medieval period began producing surplus: from covering the intra-city needs to inter-city needs. Guilds managed conflict

The European roots of the American workshops can be traced to Robert Owen. He originally founded New Lanark in Scotland as a prototype of a modern industry. He later formulated his plans for an autonomous village and tried to diffuse that model first in England (Orbiston) and then in the US (Harmony). He formulated a set of precepts, the otherwise known as 6 Rochdale Principles: workshops open to anyone, one person one vote, distribution of surplus in relation to trade, cash trading, political and religious neutrality and promotion of education. Owen’s idea of workshop is of an institution which combines long-term mutual benefit and loyalty with short-term flexibility and openness. Factory-style science was for him a mechanical testing of hypotheses; a more innovative laboratory engages from experiment, open to surprise discovery.

On the opposite of Owen lay Charles Fourrier version of workshop: its aim was greatest good for greatest number. He created the phalansteries (big hotels) where he crowded the deserving poor. This was top-down planning that inspired the Soviet industrial planning. People in phalansteries worked and lived in the same building.

These workshops lay the foundation for the Settlement Houses and the Hampton and Tuskegee Institutions founded in the US at the second half of the 19th century.

Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books and Leonardo Benevolo’s, Storia dell’ architettura moderna, 1990, Bari: Edizioni Laterza

Image available here

The settlement house


Originally (a solidarity exhibit in Paris Expo 1900 – musee social), a bottom-up voluntary association, located in a poor urban community, where poorly skilled workers could receive education, get advice on everyday problems or simply find a warm, clean place to hang out. Providers of service were mostly middle-class women, usually working for nothing. SH were small usually serving 600-800 people. The SH movement spread from Europe to the US. Moscow: Alexander Zelenko/ Chicago: Hull House founded by Jane Adams. The SH took up the issue of sociality in a complex society full of difference and sought to convert inner and often passive awareness of others into active engagement. To do that, it emphasized informal contact (Toll’s Rule): advise rather than direct. It gave more shape to cooperative activity and turned technical competence into a sociable activity.

Hampton (1866) and Tuskegee (1881) Institutes sought to build the skills and morale of ex-slaves. The founder was Booker T. Washington. However, the ex-slaves had developed sophisticated skills in farming, carpentering, house building and they taught lessons themselves to newer members. Temporary relocation could regenerate cooperation through daily contact with others. Gender equality was also inscribed within racial recovery. The workshop became an icon of reform. Washington emphasized that each person had something different to offer


Frances Johnston’s images show ethnic differences resolved by people working together, rather than simply being together; they make a point about the tools that enable workers to cooperate. In this famous photo, six men are constructing a staircase, each deploying a different skill yet locked together. The photo is staged, it is a narrative of the stages needed to build a staircase. They are relaxed but absorbed in performing a demanding task [image retrieved from:, Frances Benjamin Johnston: Students at work on a house built largely by them, gelatin silver print, c. 1899-90 (Washington, DC, Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division); image courtesy of the Library of Congress]


Excerpts from Richard Sennett’s book, Together: The Rituals & Politics of Cooperation, 2012, London: Penguin Books

Cover Image available here