Your Journals

You will write down your thoughts on a weekly basis and submit electronically. These writings should reflect on our class sessions, readings, discussions, videos, meetings, tours and your reactions to them. The idea is not to simply write a diary recounting the events of the week, rather that you think about the ideas and issues raised. Your journal should be thoughtful reflections, but they do not need to be in the form of a standard thesis essay with clear logic and linear narrative. You should consider conflicting ideas and explore what they would mean if you took them seriously. Ideally you should come to realizations during the course of writing your journals and when thinking and reflecting upon them during the following weeks of the semester.

To begin with, Bob has posed several issues  you should give serious consideration for this week’s journal entry. You should start with several questions Bob posed on the first day of class. They are questions you’ll be reconsidering periodically over the course of the semester.

  • Who’s not here?
  • Who’s been affected by racism?
  • What’s the difference between safety and comfort?
  • What’s the difference between linear thinking and synthetic thinking?

The other thing you should address in your first journal entry is the reading “Border Crossing.”

There are no “right” answers to these questions, rather they are prompts for you to reflect on. You inevitably have to start somewhere, so this first journal will mark your own tentative first steps. Later when you think about these ideas again, you will have more experiences and a larger context within which to understand these questions.

The following paragraph regarding the size/length of your journal entries should be considered in the context of Andy’s remarks below under “My Mistake!”

While there is no minimum number of words or pages, I think a good frame of reference would be to write at least 1,000 words for each journal entry. Ideally they should be more like 2,000 to 4,000 words. The benefits of writing this much is that sometimes it takes a little while to sort through the clutter inside your head. Once you get into the groove of writing and the ideas start to come, let them flow and take you wherever they lead you. You may find yourself in an expected place.

It is always a good idea to record and reflect on your thoughts and feelings as soon as possible. Ideally you would write about them immediately after a particularly powerful experience whether it is a class discussion, an article, a conversation you overheard, a tour, a video, etc.

In general longer is probably better as long as it’s thoughtful. Your writing does not need to be polished and edited necessarily. The content is the most critical thing, not the form.

If you have not already done so, please email your first week’s journal to both Bob and Andy at:

Your journals should be in Microsoft Word format (either .doc or .docx). Please give your file a title in this format:


In a similar vein, please place the following information at the top of the first page of your journal:

Your Name
Community Building
August 30, 2014

My guess is you won’t know the title when you start writing (although you might). By the end of writing your journal there will probably be some key thoughts, ideas or phrases that will jump out at you and almost automatically indicate to you what the title of this entry should be. The title could be anything from “random thoughts” to “racism and despair” to “democracy, inequity and segregation” to “I’m feeling pissed off.”

Finally, include a footer with the following text (please edit to correspond to your journal entry):

[Your Name]           Journal [#1] – [Title]          page [X] of [Y]

The idea is that you put your name (left-justified), the journal number and title (center-justified) and the page number and total page count (right-justified). Microsoft Word and Apple’s Pages applications provide a method for you to insert the page number and the total number of pages so it will dynamically update as you write.

These identifiers will help us keep them straight and ensure you get credit for turning your work in on time. Be sure to keep copies of all of your journals throughout the course of the semester. I’m setting up an upload page on the course website, but it isn’t entirely functional as yet.

My Mistake!

I was in error in making comments above regarding numbers of words that your should write. Please forget that entirely. You need to write as much as you need to. That is, you need to look inside yourself for the questions that you’re trying to wrestle with and address them. Give them a voice. Allow them to express themselves. If you’re able to write for several short bursts of time during the course of the week, you can start to go into greater depth as your mind will continue to consider and examine your previous ideas. You need to allow you process to unfold. Do not stop after some set number of words or pages.

Here are my notes from our in-class brainstorming sessions as a PDF:

Journaling Ideas, Sep 2014


The following list of topics/ideas is not separated as to class section and therefore includes some repetition. If you wish to see the concepts divided by class section, then download the full PDF at the link above.

  • Who’s not here?
  • Who has a voice?
  • Wants & needs
  • multiple viewpoints
  • listening to other’s voices and opinions
  • moving beyond ideology
  • Either/Or thinking: gentrification vs. white flight
  • Linear vs. Synthetic Thinking; Aldermanic System of structure; people live in systems/structures
  • asking real questions vs. asking unfair questions
  • connecting the dots
  • what are we not telling you
  • what are we unable to tell you
  • The DeMario test
  • unexpected community knowledge
  • importance of relationships
  • privilege
  • daily needs and wants
  • pursuit of listening
  • How we ask questions
  • safety vs. comfort
  • Who has a voice? How do we get one?
  • Empathy: gaining it, lossing it
  • Who’s effected by racism?
  • Easiest thing is to make a building stand up, the hardest thing is making a building that deserves to stand up
  • building on a site vs. building into relationships
  • Who’s not here?
  • trust in the built environment
  • considering ourselves the norm from which others deviate
  • parental vs. professional norms and attitudes
  • commitment to place over time
  • lack of communication, problems understanding others
  • if you’re not overwhelmed then you’re not facing reality


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