Scenes: Cultural Dynamics of Neighborhoods, Chicago, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo, Lessons to Share

Terry Clark

February 11, 2014 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm

Harris School of Public Policy
1155 E. 60th St.
Room 289B

Terry Nichols Clark, Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago

We have studied neighborhoods in Chicago, Paris, Seoul, Tokyo concerning urban development, civic participation and democratic processes. The arts and culture are on the rise in many countries, but not on the traditional NEA benchmark measures. How does this operate in local contexts? We introduce the concept of ‘scene’ which is the specific lifestyle of a place affecting its economy, social and political activities. We measure scenes in each US zip code and similar units elsewhere. We collected hundreds of amenity variables from several data sources in each country such as census and online Yellow Pages and contrast scene types in local areas with ARCGIS maps. We detail scene types like neighborly, utilitarian and Bohemian. The main theories from the West stressing participation as driving legitimacy, and Bohemia as driving innovation, need to be revised to explain Asian patterns. Our general solution is to construct a multi-level interpretative framework specifying how cultural, political and economic dynamics interpenetrate in distinct but varying combinations. We suggest how the Western idea that the Bohemian is the source of innovation be transformed. By breaking up the Bohemian components, we offer an answer which helps interpret the Asian data more precisely and suggests a new perspective on the West. The concept of scene helps make more precise the contexts where patterns shift. Scenes are new building blocks that can help policies transform neighborhoods and cities.

Terry Nichols Clark is Professor of Sociology at the University of Chicago. He holds MA and PhD degrees from Columbia University, and has taught at Columbia, Harvard, Yale, the Sorbonne, University of Florence, and UCLA. He has published some 35 books. He has worked on how cities use culture to transform themselves, especially in books on The City as an Entertainment Machine and Building Post-Industrial Chicago. He has worked at the Brookings Institution, The Urban Institute, Department of Housing and Urban Development, and US Conference of Mayors. He coordinates the Fiscal Austerity and Urban Innovation Project, surveying 1200 cities in the U.S. and 38 other countries. Since 2004, he has focused on Scenes, comparing neighborhood cultures in 42,000 US zip codes and in monographs on Chicago, Paris, Seoul and other key cities. See the site: