Monday, October 19, 2015

No-contact improv

In "Seminar in the City" today my friend J visited and led a discussion of early urban studies at The New School, and Jane Jacobs' famous celebration of the "sidewalk ballet" of a healthy city block:
(NY: Random House, 1961, p. 50) At J's suggestion, students were sent out to observe the scene on a nearby block (West 16th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues). They came back with tales of dogs and cauliflowers and moving trucks and piles of unidentified stuff, businesses of various kinds (a "skin laundry"?), and a crowd of teenaged boys in blazers leaving a Catholic school.

As I expected we didn't get to our other reading, Alfred Schuetz' "The Stranger," which is probably for the best. Jacobs describes the city's improvised collaboration of "strangers," at once miraculous and steady, without ever explaining how people know how to play their part in it - and what happens to those who don't know. Wednesday will be fun, too!

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