Daniel: This blog post, “Cities Don’t Think,” calls out a bad habit of many of us who write about, think about, or study cities for a living: anthropomorphizing them by making statements like “City X wants ____” or “City Y has chosen to ____.” I would extend the author’s caution to related ideas like “the community” or “the public,” where there is similarly no simple answer as to who or what we actually mean by those words, which describe a collective that doesn’t, in reality, act with a single intention or consensus.
I’ve caught myself doing this before, and I’ll take this post as a useful reminder to take care not to. It’s not merely that it’s bad writing; the real problem here is that it’s a habit that encourages lazy thinking. Essentializing in this way makes it easy to engage in motivated reasoning, affirming for yourself the things you already believed while failing to acknowledge the complexity and contradictions inherent in planning or making public policy.
Finally, from all of us, a warm welcome to the newest members of the Strong Towns movement: Mary Jane Canose, Walter Chatham, Adam Herrmann, Kenneth Robertson, Benevity, Erica Lasley, and Kyle Boyd.