A Primer on the Proposal of Social Connectedness through New Urbanism
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Humans are social beings that are driven to communicate and interact with one another. This fact is made evident in the countless apps and media outlets dedicated to increasing social connectedness or the internal sense of belonging and subjective sense of connection with the social world (Lee & Robbins, 1995, 1998). Yet social connectedness has generally been absent from core considerations within land-use development regulations. For New Urbanists, this lack of attention given to social connectedness by planners is a major problem given the rise in asocial behaviours and the ubiquity of suburban sprawl. In consideration of the debates surrounding community and society, I have within this research navigated the solutions New Urbanism posit and question how plausible they are. Based on my readings of the literature, New Urbanist planning has always been concerned with issues around the intersection between built form and social-connectedness. This led me to question whether the social conclusions associated with New Urbanism can be substantiated. New Urbanism advocates for a process of land-use planning that is socially inclusive, equitable, and communitarian, yet I demonstrate that the notion of physically building social connectedness through planning remains problematic. While land-use planning regulations cannot explicitly regulate places for who can use them, professionals can design, market, and price places to control who may generally inhabit these spaces. Nonetheless, proponents of New Urbanism and those more skeptical of its physical determinist views are addressed to weigh the merits of their arguments and their value in furthering the understanding of the social jurisdiction of New Urbanist planning. In the last chapter I present four fundamental reasons why New Urbanism fails to live up to its social conclusions: a romanticized past, the non-deterministic socio-spatial relationship, limitations of empirical research, and the complications of reality.