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That is the question.

Well I guess, actually for me, there was no question about it. Blogging was a requirement of this module, so I had to overcome my fear. Initially the thought of posting online, for anyone to see, filled me with dread. Blogging is not the platform I would have chosen to express my thoughts on urban design. Give me a stage, a speech and 500 people listening any day of the week. I struggle to articulate my critique, and love of the possibilities urban design holds, in writing. But having an online persona is becoming increasingly important in our technologically driven lifestyles, so I’m grateful for the opportunity to try something outside my comfort zone.

Although I did find the mix of colloquial tone, opinion and formal references difficult, it’s made me realise that supporting an opinion with academic or professional evidence, adds clout to it, which leads to in-depth, thought-provoking, discussion. Whilst my blogs do not solve any questions, this platform has enabled me to further challenge ideas. Blogging enables combining wider reading, new concepts and ideas in one place. Commenting has been insightful in knowledge exchange and engaging with others, who may share different viewpoints. Adding further points to people’s arguments has felt extremely rewarding. A blog format lends itself to communication with fellow citizens over an academic essay but feels missed potential in the blog. Sadly, Instagram comments were the only dialogue with others outside the course.

For future successful urban design, I feel constructive debate is necessary and something that could be encouraged more on the page. Clashes of opinion, constructive debates and thoughtful discussions occurred in response to texts and lectures throughout the semester, which are maybe not captured as well in the post and comment format. Perhaps vlogging would capture these conversations better, sharing information and knowledge, outside our ‘bubble’.

I took minutes in the first week, which enabled me to gain invaluable workplace skills, experience organising meetings and dividing responsibilities. It was engaging running a blog with my fellow cohort, working collaboratively on a shared goal, but with everyone having individual aspects.

Within the word count I found summarising the lectures and creating concise reflexive responses hard. Responding to lectures, unknown to the reader, was initially a strange concept to me, but I realised the similarity to the real-world reactions to speeches, conferences or meetings, is similar. The stimulating lectures created a range of discussion topics and I question whether writing shorter, instant reflections may have created the most insightful and critical blogs. The permanence of the posts and impending mark scheme caused me to continually edit them as I sought further improvement, perhaps losing some immediate critique. Whilst my blogs are far from perfect, I do try to ensure the highest possible standard. This means I fear commitment and the decision to publish a post, so they came out later than intended. However, more time allowed further reading and therefore created stronger, supported points.

Garry Stevens wrote architects (also applicable to urban designers) create ‘an assertation of the field’s right to judge itself, and to be the only judge of itself.’[1] Sending the blog to family and friends without design backgrounds, highlighted how distant we are from the world we desire to shape. Posting earlier in this year’s blog I reflected upon my more formal and impersonal original blog style, developing a more informal, hopefully more engaging tone, without needing professional training to relate to. In the age of smart phones, short attention spans and on-the-go lifestyles, succinct, clear and concise blogs, are, I’ve learnt, best at engaging everyone, in dialogues about urban design.

But most importantly I’ve learnt, there are multiple urban design theories and thoughts out there, no one is right or wrong. Sharing your opinion via a blog, opens up the debate, and only though that will be develop the best urban design going forward.

 

[1] Stevens, G. (2002) The Favored Circle: The Social Foundations of Architectural Distinction. New Ed edition. ed. MIT Press, Cambridge, Mass: London.

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School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

Tel: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk


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