Speaker discusses social infrastructure

Bradley Bennett, Staff Writer

Professor of Sociology and Director of the Institute for Public Knowledge at New York University Eric Klinenberg visited the school this Wednesday to discuss his work in the field of social science and infrastructure.

Director of the Center for Community Values and Action (CCVA) Dr. Jeremy Leeds invited Klinenberg because Leeds believed students would be interested in Klinenberg’s perspective on social infrastructure and his book, Palaces for the People, Leeds said.

Palaces for the People is a standard foundation for the service learning and ethics that are important to us in the CCVA,” Leeds said. “One of our emphasises is how important institutions are, not just individual people, and this book exemplifies that idea.”

“I want to help students recognize the power of social scientific thinking, which we urgently need if we want to rebuild the world better and smarter,” said Klinenberg. He also looked forward to speaking to students about ways to repair some of the world problems they have inherited, he said. 

During his visit, Klinenberg held an open discussion at the CCVA office during D and E periods in addition to visiting Leeds’ B period ethics class.

“Since I had never previously discussed social infrastructure, it was eye opening to learn about how drastically your neighborhood conditions can affect your own life,” Lindsey Cheng (10) said.

At the discussion, Klinenberg spoke about his book , ways to improve social infrastructure in Chicago and New York City, and how social infrastructure effects the health and longevity of individual communities.

“I believe that you can learn a lot about what works and what doesn’t work in the world by looking closely and thinking scientifically,” Klinenberg said. “I’m speaking to students directly involved in civic life, who are thinking about what it means to be part of a community and to contribute something to life.”

After Klinenberg’s visit, students internalized his message and now hope to apply it to their own lives.

“One of the major points that I took away from Dr. Klinenberg’s discussion was that communal spaces and an inclusive society are critical for various different groups of people, yet corporate culture, economics, and politics consistently make them inaccessible,” Alex Gerstenhaber (10) said.

“Dr. Klinenberg taught the importance and value of having connections with many different people in your neighborhood,” Cheng said. “I will try to take advantage of the community spaces near me and talk to those who live in my town.”

After listening to Klinenberg, Lauren Port (12) will be more conscious of her cell phone use in public spaces such as libraries and school, she said.

“I believe it is difficult for any one individual to make a large impact on an issue like this, but merely going to public spaces like libraries or athletic fields more often can have a positive effect on my life, and marginally improve the health of these locations,” Gerstenhaber said.