Community happens at many scales. For me, community happens first in the studio and includes those students that I work with directly, discussing problems and working out solutions (or more problems). To a lesser degree, I find some sense of community within RISD at large. At a larger scale, within the city of Providence, I sense the community a little less. I believe the problem for RISD lies in our (in)ability to navigate these different scales of community.
I would like to say first that I will make certain generalizations pertaining to my own experience at RISD. These generalizations may indicate problems within the community that affect me, or problems with me that affect the community (or my perception of community).
I would like to start by talking about the immediate community, the few people that we (I) spend the most time with. For many of us (RISD students) this means our studio. Jacobs offers what she thinks are “the most important habits of thought,” referring to cities. I think they are valuable to the smaller scale community as well. The first important habit of thought is “to think about processes.” It is important to understand that relationships are more complex than we might think. They are likely more complicated that we can comprehend, as they depend on their context for meaning, and context is relevant at infinitely many scales.
The second important habit of thought is “to work inductively.” [more thoughts later]
What creates community at RISD?
Providence? Do I find community in Providence? What is lacking? The larger the scale of reference of a community, I think, the more difficult it is for an individual to approach, or even comprehend. We naturally do this through the creation of smaller communities or groups, which may be constructed solely for the purpose of addressing the greater community, such as political groups.
How does the individual deal with these varying scales of community?
Do these different communities overlap? How? What is lacking?
What do we need to better connect existing communities? More overlap.
I think there are two issues that must be dealt with to solve problems with community. I think we lack overlapping space. Work space, crit space. When we feel disconnected, we make a cafeteria. This is fine, but it’s not enough. A small space in the RISD store to sit and read books is fine as well, but it is a simple solution to a complex problem. I think a place to work with students from other departments is needed.
The second issue that concerns me is the lack of overlap of our theoretical spaces. I think this is the space that will help us build community. Of course, this is a complicated problem. How do you bring students together from various departments to talk about their work in a way that connects them to other students? The problem is in its likelihood to fail. This is the case with all complex problems. That is to say, it may not always work to bring students from varying disciplines together to discuss their work, especially if they don’t have a common background, a common training, and a common jargon. However, I think it would be invaluable for students to better understand our parallels as artists and designers, and probably worth suffering some failed attempts. Our disciplines are becoming ever more specialized in the name of efficiency, and I mean efficiency in terms of economy. Perhaps we could benefit from some redundancy.
“It was early realized by such planning theorists as Stein and Bauer that preplanned shopping centers within cities must also be monopolistic or semimonopolistic, or else the statistics would not predict, and the city would go on behaving with dark and foreboding irrationality.”