In the first section of this podcast, the show brings in a physicist who did some research on the average walking speed in a given city. Surprisingly, he found that most people in a single city walked at about the same speed - Dubliners walked really quickly, and another place in Liberia walked really slowly. But what’s more surprising is that based on this data that they gathered, they could predict a range of things about that city: the number of libraries, the number of registered patents, the population - all kinds of stuff! As I’m listening to it, I’m thinking, “This guy’s got it figured out! Holy shit!” I was tempted to get out my stop watch and start counting steps on Butler Street. You can’t help but be impressed. But when it came to the question of what really makes a city what it is - that is, it’s essence, it’s lived experience, its… well, you know what I mean - there was disagreement.
Call me crazy, but knowing the number of registered patents in Pittsburgh, doesn’t really give me an idea of what the city is like to live in. OK, OK, we could draw a few conclusions based on that. But outside of our largest nerd stockpile (looking at you CMU, and I mean that with affection, of course), how will I experience this? I couldn’t help but wonder if there would be significant differences in their data among the neighborhoods in Pittsburgh (or any other city for that matter). Do Larryvillers (are we using that term yet?) walk slower than Shadysiders? Shadysiders slower than Pitt students? Do I walk more slowly when I’m in Lawrenceville than I do when I’m in Oakland? I might. But why? Why has the experience of the city or neighborhood affected my beat? And how does that affect my lived experience of these places?