I met a man last year who was concerned about gentrification in his neighborhood. He saw rich White people moving into this historically Black neighborhood and was offended that they didn’t want to interact with him, a Black man. They put up spite fences and ignored him when he tried to get their attention. I began to tell him about my work, explaining that if he called to me from his porch I might ignore him too, not because I didn’t respect him or because I meant to change the nature of his neighborhood but because of my experience with street harassment.
When a man, alone on his porch, yells ‘Hello’ at a woman on the street it’s not a neutral or innocuous act. In my experience the man wants something from me, sometimes he’s satisfied with a nod or ‘hello’ back, but most of the time he isn’t. In my experience he wants my name, my phone number, my time, my energy, my approval, all the things men feel emboldened to ask for, and when denied, demand. In fact, this man wanted all these from me too. I gave them willingly, hoping he would spread the word. The word that sometimes women just want to be left alone, and that has to be ok.
San Quentin https://www.cdcr.ca.gov/facility-locator/sq/
California Correctional Health Care Services Lifeline@cdcr.ca.gov ,
CA Governor Newsom https://govapps.gov.ca.gov/gov40mail/
San Quentin and CCHCS would rather have not have nurses than have teleworking Nurses.
San Quentin has ordered a number of high risk nurses, who have been successfully and diligently working remotely, to report to San Quentin on Monday, 7/6. San Quentin is currently experiencing an outbreak of over 1300 COVID-19 cases
Essentially they are forcing nurses ready, willing and able to telework, to choose their job over health and family safety.
Repeat. Ready, willing and able to continue to work remotely, but essentially, Nursing management is forcing them to go out on disability or sick leave.
This is a further example of irresponsible decision making collectively by the SQ, Regional and Statewide Chief Nurse Executives working for the receivers office. They join Kelso’s ongoing incompetent responses to the COVID crisis. While the CEO, as hiring authority, could override these bad choices, he passively signs off.
It’s been a year of writing my dissertation and not updating my blog, but I think I might be able to get one in before the year (/decade?) ends. One of the things I’ve found most interesting my study of sidewalk interactions is a reflection of what the mechanism is, while I have my theoretical framework, that an interaction revolves around participant profile, bias, location and interaction type, I think fundamentally it’s about attraction. Do you want to spend more time with someone? Be closer to them? This is another way of asking whether or not you’re attracted to them. There are other reasons why you might want or need to talk to someone but I keep coming back to attraction because it’s in the word definition. If you feel are leading a fairly frictionless urban walk (you’re not in a rush and are free to go wherever you want,) who do you veer towards and who do you veer away from? There are reasons to talk to someone other than sexual attraction, but I think interest is a form of attraction. Whether you’re attracted to that type of interaction (you say hello and make eye-contact with everyone), that type of person (someone you see every day?).
I’ve been following a twitter discussion on desirability politics which I think is similar. In that cis, white, able-bodied, thin, conventionally attractive people get treated better in the US. Socio-economic status can often be inferred through clothes, accessories and other accoutrements. In my study aspects of desirability politics are noted as well as a measure of proximity. Neither leads to very strong conclusions but more interesting questions.
One of the most common experiences in a urban area is a negative sidewalk interaction on the basis of gender. Catcalling is a type of street harassment that often involves a man as initiator, in a public space, verbally trying to capture the attention of woman, who he doesn’t previously know, using sexual comments (di Leonardo via Bowman 1993). The male initiators of sidewalk interactions often defend this behavior by arguing that not only is this behavior a polite form of civil discourse but that their comments are complimentary. Campaigns going as far back as the early 20th century show women (and men) trying to fight against this misconception and explain that this behavior is unwanted. While other negative interactions are based on the person being undesirable, catcalling happens when a man wants a woman to know that he finds her desirable.
The experience is common and has been studied by many different types of scholars including feminist geographers who have interrogated the fear of violence and the way this changes the way women move through spaces.
What am I measuring? And why? One of my jokey subtitles for my dissertation was ‘quantifying the oppression olympics.’ You know the ‘oppression olympics‘ that ‘game’ you play with your friends at cocktail parties competing over who has it worse, disabled people or trans people? Black people or Latinx? It’s not a fun or particularly useful game because pain is pain, comparison isn’t usually going to get you to improve your cocktail party or lead to understanding. But exploring the question of which demographic groups are most and least respected in the US seems worthwhile.
Another way of putting this is social desirability. A friend once joked that the most powerful people in America were old rich white men and young attractive women. The term social capital is used to refer to education and other attributes that make people attractive in the economy. Social desirability includes the more attributes that make people attractive in sidewalk interactions, which often happen very quickly. On the nature vs nurture debate, I think social desirability is more nature, since it has a lot to do with what you look like, while social capital is more nurture. While completely subjective ‘attractiveness’ is also completely socially constructed, overtly political, and objective in the sense that you are treating someone else as an object rather than a subject. While it’s true for someone to say ‘I’m just not attracted to black women’ this truth was not achieved in an apolitical media vacuum and OKCupid stats bare this out.
With the recent incel news came this article: Does Anyone Have a Right to Sex. In the article, Amia Srinivasan problematizes sex-positivity which, she argues, covers for misogyny, racism, ableism, transphobia and every other oppressive system under “the seemingly innocuous mechanism of ‘personal preference.” While gay men understand and problematize this phenomenon with thing the webseries ‘What the Flip’. However, writes Srinivasan,” straight people – or should I say, white, able-bodied, cis straight people – aren’t much in the habit of thinking there’s anything wrong with how they have sex.”
Many urban planners have historically focused on positive interactions in cities. Scholars like Jane Jacobs, William H. Whyte and more recently James C. Scott, Jeff Speck and Charles Montgomery talk about idealistic communities where everyone is safe because they are keeping an eye on each other. Jane Jacobs famously asserted:
“This is something everyone already knows:A well-used city street is apt to be a safe street.”
Jacobs argued for ‘sidewalk terms’ and ‘eyes on the street,’ small exchanges and conversations that promote public respect and trust. According to this logic, dense, walkable cities promote neighborhood safety.
These neighborhoods sound like they exist in a bygone era, when life was simpler, we knew our neighbors, people weren’t on their phones all the time, kids played outside because crime was low and the air was smog-free. Through people-centered design and transit-oriented development New Urbanists like Charles Montgomery hope to build Happy Cities. The ideal city behind these positive interactions is a communitarian one (according to Martin de Waal’s urban ideal types), focused on beneficial ways we interact with each other.
I’ll write more about unhappy cities next week, and how mixed up in the nostalgia and environmentalism is a denial of racial and class differences that lead to public mistrust of certain strangers.
For AAG 2018 I presented during the Mapping Urban In/justice I: Methods session that Taylor Shelton and Dillon Mahmoudi put together in the Digital and Urban Geographies Specialty groups. In my presentation I talked through one of the problems I’m working through. I’m trying to figure out some different ways of displaying my sidewalk interactions data (which I will start collecting soon!). My main task is to create a model with all the variables to look for patterns and associations. The mondo-list of variables include demographics, locations, types of interactions and trip purpose. Particularly with negative interactions I’m interested in whether there are types of participants who experience more negative interactions and whether there are people more likely to be viewed negatively by participants.
What about the spatial component? What types of maps might be useful? My initial idea was to create a series of heatmaps along demographic lines, kinda like this one I made with Hollaback App Data a few years ago:
But will I have enough data points to see clustering? Heatmaps are problematic objects. One of the biggest problems is establishing a useful baseline. Although I titled my map Manhattan Street Harassment, it’s more of a map of people who had smartphones and had heard of the app, I don’t think it’s a very accurate or precise map of the preponderance of actual instances of street harassment.
In order to establish a baseline for sidewalk interactions I need to first map the locations of potential interactions. I’ll use observations to mark where other people are likely to be and also map out the areas of public space vs private space. I’ll also have data about the likely path that the participant is walking that way I can also note deviations from it. (Thanks to Leah Meisterlin for talking through this with me, and for her great presentation on a more phenomenological approach to visualizing distances).
I have (at least) 3 different types of absence that I need to acknowledge and hopefully display visually. One is lack of data, people whose experiences I haven’t represented. Another is areas where people walked but didn’t record interactions. In addition there’s a particular kind of interaction that I need to track, which is an absence of interaction. It’s well known to men of color, when people cross the street in order to avoid interacting with you. In thinking of how to map absence, I’m indebted to Anthony Robinson and the paper he presented during a Cartography session:
In the same session I was also inspired by Somayeh Dodge’s work on time geography. https://videopress.com/v/8otCE1IE
I’m also interested in how these visualizations will be perceived or interpreted, particularly by the participants themselves.
Some poignant words from Queen Zadie Smith in a recent Harper’s article on the movie Get Out and the painting Open Casket:
Peele has found a concrete metaphor for the ultimate unspoken fear: that to be oppressed is not so much to be hated as obscenely loved. Disgust and passion are intertwined. Our antipathies are simultaneously a record of our desires, our sublimated wishes, our deepest envies. The capacity to give birth or to make food from one’s body; perceived intellectual, physical, or sexual superiority; perceived intimacy with the natural world, animals, and plants; perceived self-sufficiency in a faith or in a community. There are few qualities in others that we cannot transform into a form of fear and loathing in ourselves.
What is Walk Score/Crime Grade?
In the past 10 years Walk Score has gone from a cool GIS startup to a popular Redfin widget, helping people plan their moves and real estate purchases based on a neighborhood’s perceived walkability. Recently Walk Score has begun beta testing Crime Grade, a measure of crime risk near an address.
How does it work?
Walk Score uses a patented system to score locations by amenity access and pedestrian friendliness including population density, block length and intersection density (Walk Score Methodology). Crime Grade‘s letter grade is calculated using a location’s per capital crime rate ranked with other rates around the city.
Why is it problematic?
Jeff Speck’s General Theory of Walkability states:
“…to be favored, a walk has to satisfy four main conditions: it must be useful, safe, comfortable, and interesting.”
While Walk Score does a pretty good job of measuring useful walks with distance to amenities, it is less effective at measuring a walk’s safety, much less the more subjective aspects of comfort and interest.
Crime Grade is scored based on reported crime: crimes reported to the local police. This is potentially very different from the measure most important to potential walkers; perceived safety. While it is useful to know what crimes are reported to the police, what keeps walkers from a neighborhood is really their perception of what crimes are committed there. Like many crime statistics, measures of perceived crime and disorder are very connected to the racial and economic demographics of the neighborhood (Sampson and Raudenbush 2004). In fact, the most powerful predictor of perceived disorder is neighborhood demographics, stronger than observed disorder and even reported crime (ibid). Crime Grade has the potential to become another in a long line of Weapons of Math Destruction, algorithms that hard code our implicit biases about race and class with potentially drastic consequences.
My research attempts to tease out some of the racial, gender and class dynamics in perceived walkability. Using data collected about people’s perceptions of sidewalk interactions I intend to analyze racial/gender and class differences.