Current Research

My research interests center on justice, cities, and urban theory. My empirical research primarily examines transit policy and how well transit serves urban residents. Another aspect of my empirical research explores urban environments and resources available throughout the city, both during normal and disaster conditions.  More recently, I have begun work on a series of projects to contribute to urban and planning theory on subjects like restorative justice, communications, social marketing, and urban virtue.

In addition to my information here, you can find my stuff here:

I’m working on things–I really am, despite what my students think. 😉 I have three projects I can actually talk about, and a bunch more that I can’t because they only exist in my imagination.

Book project: How to Live in the City: Urban Theory for Everyday Life
This book discusses the immportant moral choices facing people who live in cities, and how these moral choices can influence both everyday conflicts among individuals and urban conflicts more broadly. My goChapter2UrbanEthics_docxal in this book is to help people think about how they can contribute to their city, region, and neighborhood while navigating the difficulties posed by life among proximate strangers in the city. The topics I discuss include home, gentrification, NIMBYism, security, and taxation both as individual and public problems in cities.

This book starts from the premise that more sustainable and just environments in cities are both desirable and possible, but that up-front prescriptions for the city as a place where justice or sustainability might occur hinge on the values and practices of city residents themselves. The book will help urban residents think about key moral questions that arise over urban growth and neighborhood changes so that readers can a) think in new ways about the choices they face in urban environments in the light of the values they currently have and b) contribute to the collective social and environmental outcomes, like equality and justice, that they want to see happen for their city.

Urban theory sounds like a boring, unapproachable topic, but it is not. Some of history’s greatest thinkers have worried about cities and what they mean to individuals living in them. From Plato to bell hooks, writers have explored how to live a truly good and moral life in cities. This book expands on those ideas and makes them accessible to today’s city dwellers.

Case studies in the book include stand-your-ground versus good samaritan legislation; little free libraries, and resistance thereto; breed-specific legislation; NIMBY conflicts surrounding elder housing and the Siracha Hot sauce plant; and a small-scale experiment over the course of four years that illustrates big issues in hospitality in a historic, but changing Los Angeles neighborhood.

Mediatized Planning: Theorizing the Role of Media and Planning in Mass Democracies
What stories should planners craft for the media, and for whose ends? These questions are important because the media select, advance and privilege particular stories that can influence the way people think about cities and planning (Flybvjerg 2012). Nonetheless, most mass media are market-oriented purveyors of information, and what sells to consumers may not be the most important information to stimulate and inform democratic discussions about cities and planning. Theorists of democratic deliberation disagree about the role that the media play, and the role that the media should undertake, in social learning and ensuring informed public political judgment, largely because media content tends towards the simplistic and spectacular rather than the complex and reasoned (Meyer 2002; Allern & Blach-Østen 2014).

This article examines the tensions planners encounter when interacting with media, particularly during agonistic conflicts over development. We argue that planning occurs within the context of what political theorists refer to as a ‘mediatized politics’ in which participants perform for and message to audiences for both long-term, reputational ends as well as to address the demands of an immediate issue or conflict. Like many other possibilities for influence , access to media, particularly premier media outlets that command large audiences, is unequal among participants in local planning conflicts, as is the expertise necessary to frame ideas to appeal to journalists who write or broadcast for mass audiences (Innes 1998). The question becomes how planners and project staff enmeshed in political conflicts should proceed in democratic contexts saturated by media engagement and coverage. In the social construction of what is real and important in cities and development, the media’s emphasis on what is entertaining, spectacular , or readily comprehended presents public deliberative decision-making, and planners who would seek to catalyze it, with both opportunities and pitfalls. Opportunities exist for professional self-promotion and marketing, while the potential pitfalls concerns democratic majorities reinforcing existing inequalities of power between state institutions and communities and indifference to the lived experiences of those engaged with large-scale urban changes.


Media, Experts, and Networks: Expertise in Mass Media and Planning
In prior work (see above), we found that media, as Noam Chomsky suggests, tends to reinforce power differences between the state and communities and between experts and community members to drive what appears to be consent about large-scale planning projects among mass media audiences. This follow-up work compares the media-expert networks across three projects–California’s High Speed Rail, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Replacement, and California Drought Planning—at different stages of planning development. A content analysis of all available media demonstrates that corporate media allow for some community voices during project development, particularly the environmental review process, but that community comments and quotes become scarce to nonexistent as projects move into implementation. Moreover, public relations specialists associated with projects significantly alter the content that appears in corporate media they also significantly alter the networks that connect project-related experts to journalists.