‘Knight Cities’ podcast: The case of the vanishing neighbor

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Are neighbors vanishing in America? Marc Dunkelman thinks so. 

Marc is a fellow in public policy with the Alfred Taubman Center for Public Policy and American Institutions at Brown University and author of  “The Vanishing Neighbor: The Transformation of American Community.”

Here are five things you should know from my conversation with Marc and from his book:

1.  The General Social Survey reports that the percentage of Americans who say they have eaten a meal with their family and with people outside their neighborhood has risen. But the percentage of Americans who say they have eaten with someone in their neighborhood has plummeted.

2.  Being “neighborly” today means that you should leave people alone, rather than engage.

3.  Thanks to technology, the opportunity to invest in relationships has vastly expanded. However, we are using tech to invest in a limited set of relationships — generally, with people who share our interests and our point of view.

4.  The way you drive new ideas in the workplace is to force together people with different perspectives, fields of expertise and ideas. But we haven’t applied that concept to the way we view communities. We no longer have conversations with people with different points of view because we’ve lost “middle-ring” relationships. 

5.  The township has been the architecture of community throughout American history. People with different points of view couldn’t avoid each other. But we are moving to an architecture of networks where there are intense nodes of inner-ring relationships and that connect to a wider range of people who share our interests.  

Listen to my conversation with Marc here. And sign up for the “Knight Cities” newsletter to get alerts as soon as new conversations are posted.

Look for new “Knight Cities” content posted every Wednesday. You can follow us on Twitter at #knightcities or @knightfdn. And if you have ideas for people you’d like to hear from, please email me.

Carol Coletta is vice president of community and national initiatives at Knight Foundation. Follow her on Twitter @ccoletta.

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