URSI 100--Introduction to the City

Essay Assignments

Essay 1

John Donne in one of his poems wrote that “No man is an island entire of it self.”  Or, as Chief Good Thunder put it, “Mitakuye oyasin” (we are all related).  The city is a place that brings together in close proximity a diversity of people—particularly in a nation like the United States.

  • How do we create a res publica (Latin for “a thing held in common”—the root of the word “republic”)?
  • What makes an unum (one) out of a pluribus (many)?
  • Can we do without it?  (Are there workable alternatives to a republican model?  And, even if republican, does it have to be a democracy?)


Essay 2


Cities, like people, express not only “where they are at,” but also “where they have come from.”  You have already looked at a number of cities, across time and space, using a variety of evidence to reach some early conclusions (“hypotheses,” if you prefer).

  • Yogi Berra once said, “You can see an awful lot just by looking.” (or words to that effect).  What types of information did you glean from the field walk that couldn’t get from the readings & notes?  What did you get from the projects that you couldn’t get from a walking tour?  How did you learn from the readings in a way that was different from observation, data searching, or the projects?
  • Does the type of data (information) affect the conclusions you reach, or (if it is done right) does it all triangulate to the same conclusion?


Essay 3

A “wicked problem” has a specific definition (as it is used in policy analysis, operations research, and engineering).  It means a problem that

  • Is ill-defined
  • Has solutions that are better or worse, but no “right” or “wrong” solution
  • Has no objective measure of success
  • Has no alternative solutions already given (if there are any alternatives, they will need to be discovered)

Respond to this question: “Most of the interesting problems that you will face while you are making a home in the city of your choice will be ‘wicked problems.’  How can you, as just an ordinary everyday citizen, help solve the wicked problems of city living?”


© 2003 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 18 May 07