Tag Archives: tools

Structures of Support Survey V 2.0

For nearly two years, our ongoing project “Structures of Support” has explored the notion of support. The essential question we raise is about the structure of support at the scale of the individual, a network of resources — obvious and unseen — which contribute to a particular quality of life. What exactly are the complicated webs of familial, social, and institutional forces that provide robust, redundant support for some while leaving others at a loss? In an effort to better develop frameworks for individual and collective support, we continue this project through qualitative research, public visualizations, and participatory conversations and workshop. We created a survey, asked you what you thought support was, and then displayed the results of that survey at the Katherine E. Nash Gallery at the University of Minnesota and at the Painted Bride in Philadelphia. We shared our own ideas and experiences of support in a series of blog posts, and we hosted workshops at The University of the Arts, Open Engagement, and Youngstown State University.

Through all of this, we have gained more clarity about the attributes and impact of structures of support. It is the power of relationships, the need for institutional safety nets, the value of public spaces, and the importance of self-awareness around our own personal supports that can create a richness of life. After reflecting on the data gathered to date, we have now revised the original Structures of Support survey, both condensing it and focusing it more on non-monetary factors. We’re using this moment of revision to share the project and survey with new audiences in the hope of continuing to collect new insights about support. We need you to help us by taking this survey. Even if you have already engaged with the project, this version focuses more on sharing stories and deep reflection, which we have found to be meaningful for those participating in our workshops and conversations. Responses will not be identified by individual, and all responses will be compiled together and analysed as a group. It should take approximately 10 minutes to complete. Follow this link to complete the survey.

Visualizing the Structures of Support (Prototype)

One of the goals of the Structures of Support work is to give people the opportunity to understand and visualize their own personal support structures — the people and resources they have or do not have. We’ve developed a questionnaire, conducted interviews, created a large-scale community assets map, and had many conversations with this goal in mind. In our installation of the work at the University of Minnesota, we began to explore the utility of providing people with more physical, three-dimensional tools to help understand the nuances of the structures of support. And now, we’ve begun to prototype and test a set of building pieces that allows participants to model their support structures and see where these are strong, but also weak. Check out some documentation of one of the early tests of this tool here.

In a state far from equilibrium

In a state far from equilibrium adapts the ecological model of forest succession in order to explore the ways in which cities change over time through a cyclical process of growth, stagnation, disaster, abandonment and revitalization. This project was created by Katie Hargrave, Meredith Warner, and Jeremy Beaudry for the exhibition "The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau” at SPACES in May 2012. It was also exhibited at “Philly Works: Qualities of Life” at the Philadelphia Art Alliance in late 2012.

  • Installation view, photo courtesy of Jerry Mann / SPACES
  • Installation view, photo courtesy of Jerry Mann / SPACES
  • Installation view
  • "Nature" category

In a state far from equilibrium adapts the ecological model of forest succession in order to explore the ways in which cities change over time through a cyclical process of growth, stagnation, disaster, abandonment and revitalization. Visitors to the project are invited to play with a physical manifestation of the urban succession model and consider their own city and neighborhoods in light of this analytical framework.

The Think Tank that has yet to be named created this project for inclusion in a group exhibition called “The Cleveland Convention and Visitors Bureau” at SPACES in Cleveland. The project was then presented at the Philadelphia Art Alliance as part of the exhibition Philly Works: Qualities of Life in Philadelphia.

TT-SPACES-01As organisms and networks, cities live and breath, ebb and flow, change according to the myriad complex currents that are social, environmental, political, economic, historical, cultural, psychic, and so on. Buildings fall down, vacant lots become overgrown, and neighborhoods falter. People hold on, others leave; the same is true of institutions, businesses, entire ways of life.

In the process called forest succession, catastrophe and disaster — whether caused by human or non-human forces — are catalysts for regeneration and reorganization. In this moment of environmental crisis, usually suppressed species of plants assert themselves and thrive in the cleared places where decimated trees and other vegetation once stood. The first signs of this regeneration are grasses, weeds, and fast-growing perennials, not majestic old-growth trees towering above. Slowly the forest evolves from weedy plants and brush to large trees. The forest is always changing; even a forest of 500-year-old pine trees will eventually fall, inviting new hardwoods to take their place.

Imagine a process like forest succession occurring in cities: call it urban succession.

A moment of stress is often a moment of transformation, an invitation for more agile and aggressive pioneer species to be the first to establish roots and claim the land. These colonizers will lay the groundwork for a changed landscape. In time, they may rejuvenate the ecosystem and usher in mature, healthy organisms, which grow tall and build strong foundations for future generations – that is, until, as the cycle dictates, a new disturbance advances the process again. Urban succession describes a state of continual change, a constant state of flux. We exist in a state far from equilibrium, with a torrent of forces swirling around us, changing our lives, our environment, and our universe.

TT-SPACES-02The occasion of disturbance in the urban environment, while devastating and demoralizing, can be viewed as an opportunity. It is a call to collective action that beckons individuals to become engaged subjects who strive to make (and remake) the world as they want it to be. Philadelphia is — as it has been throughout its history — at such a crossroads. Institutions are faltering, people are leaving, and it appears that the economic and civic foundations of yesterday are in decline, or at least tenuous.

The cycle of transformation we propose in our model of urban succession is visible in the landscape itself. It can be seen in the bifurcation of Chinatown by the Vine Street Expressway; in the rapid wave of gentrification exploding outward from the city center; in the doubling down on extravagant starchitecture such as the Barnes Foundation on the Parkway; and in the unimaginative building of a casino on our abandoned waterfront, cynically named to reference a long-gone industrial past. Who and what held these landscapes in their previous states? And what forces propelled them from one state to another? What will change the city tomorrow? What role will we play in guiding that transformation?

We invite you to use this analytical tool and make visible this evolutionary process in order to see how abandonment and regeneration are possibly related. Over time, watch the system in the model grow, look for patterns, and build a baseline of understanding that might inform future actions in the city.

Instructions for using the urban succession model:

1. Think of an agent, actor, or force for change in the life the city as you see it. Who or what shapes the city? Who or what drives changes here, both positive and negative? Who or what impacts you and your fellow citizens’ quality of life in this city?

2. Now, choose the category of game piece that best describes the agent, actor, or force that you have thought of. Choose from Nature, Institutions, Built Environment, People, or none of these.

3. Write a description of the agent, actor, or force for change on the game piece.

4. Take your game piece and place it somewhere within the urban succession cycle diagrammed on the table top. Does it belong in Growth, Stagnation, Disaster, Abandonment, or Regeneration — or somewhere where these overlap?

Photos courtesy of  Jerry Mann / SPACES