Demolishing your front fence could be an act of kindness | 4/3/2014 | Staff
dorkyrockerdorkyrocker (Posted by) Level 3
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A few years ago, I reflected on years of doctoral field-notes documenting the homes of tinkerers—people with an extraordinary commitment to DIY living. It occurred to me that despite their DIY skills, few of these tinkerers had built or maintained front fences.

In a culture where fences are fixtures in the urban landscape, these people tended not to have clear boundaries between their homes and the street, and their gardens spilled into civic space.

Time - Momentum - Wall - Nation-states - Refugees

This might be significant at a time of populist momentum to "build a wall" between nation-states, and when 65 million refugees are seeking new homes globally.

The tinkerers I studied shared values of "open": open source, open access, open gardens, a sharing economy, creative commons and a transparent government. And those who inhabited fenceless homes didn't show any signs of feeling insecure.

Commons—that - Resources - Nature - Strips - Neighborhood

They were connected with the commons—that is, shared public resources such as nature strips, neighborhood parks and public transport. Their tinkering at home was a source of belonging and identity against deregulated job markets—a force driving the populist sentiment that's displacing people globally and erecting barriers between them.

Their stories support research suggesting that fences—or their absence—can reflect and even shape our political commitments.

Scholars - Structures - Politics - Sociologist - Langdon

Many scholars explain how our structures align with our politics. As American sociologist Langdon Winner described it: "artifacts can contain political properties."

One of his examples is the low-clearance bridges around parklands on Long Island, New York. Their structural peculiarity seems charming, but historical documents reveal the bridges were designed as fences-in-disguise.

Poor - People - Minorities - Transport - Parklands

Poor people and racial minorities, who normally used public transport, were discouraged from accessing the parklands because buses couldn't fit through these overpasses. The bridges were designed so the elite could enjoy the "public" parks free from the underclasses.

And many other civic structures function materially or psychologically to exclude people.

Architecture - Bus

Known as hostile architecture, these include bus...
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