Land use, blogs, and Adorno: I’m running out of code

Whoever freely reflects about objects confiscated from organized science, may often escape taedium scientiae. But he is not only rewarded for that with the ignominious praise of the stimulating and intuitive, but must in addition put up with the proof, of either deficient knowledge of the subject matter or the staleness of what is instantly twisted into hypothesis and ground between the millstones of ‘where is the proof?’ and ‘where is the novelty?’

Theodor W. Adorno
Against Epistemology

I am running out of code. I have one chapter left. So I am in a reflective mood. I know the Adorno quote above is somewhat incomprehensible. Adorno was post modern when post modern wasn’t cool. He and his allies criticized the project of modernity and science, specifically solving the worlds problems through narrative. Adorno was among those who argued that telling a big story results in bad outcomes like fascism. To infinitize things that are only momentary causes people to elevate themselves as little gods, imposing on the world some certainty with good and bad people, winners and losers.

I felt that way, sometimes, when I read and wrote about the code. But Adorno suggests that, if we are reflective and acknowledge our limits we can avoid bad outcomes. I can’t think of a better metaphor for writing about a complex thing than being “ground between the millstones of ‘where is the proof?’ and ‘where is the novelty?'”

And that’s what I have done, hopefully, is offer words that have been ground down to form a flour with which we might use for bread or tortillas or something edible. I probably have been short on proof much of the time. When I said “Shazam!” the housing affordability problem could be solved by overbuilding transit areas I was surely being novel at the expense of proof. But it’s a blog. And Adorno seems to have understood what blogs would do: escape the tedium of facts in favor of intuition.

I don’t think this endeavor ought to end with the finishing of the code, but I’d like to hear thoughts about what’s next. It’s always inadvisable thing to do on a blog, especially with a post referencing an obscure and incomprehensible philosopher best understood in German. But what should I write about next? Ongoing land use drama? That’s enough to keep a blog going. But I’m not a reporter exactly. Look for submissions? I welcome other participants for sure.

In the end, this is a place to de-mistyfy land use. As Adorno suggests, anyone who wades into a complex subject must be willing to be exposed for “deficient knowledge of the subject matter or the staleness of what is instantly twisted into hypothesis.” Is anyone game to be ground down in the comments by “where is the proof” and “where is the novelty?” Is anyone willing to be an intellectual “jackass” for land use.

More thoughts in what must be a wonderful film. I just don’t understand what they’re talking about.

This makes a lot more sense to me.

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3 Responses to Land use, blogs, and Adorno: I’m running out of code

  1. Matt the Engineer says:

    How about more grinding? You’ve introduced us to the basics of the code, but there’s certainly other levels. How does the code affect actual buildings? When I look up in Belleview, how much of what I see came from the code, and how much came from architectural vision or developer profit?

    I appreciate what you’ve done here. If I had the time or if anyone had the interest to follow me I’d do the same for the energy code. Codes shape our world, yet it’s a force that few of us even know about, let alone see. Since I’ve been involved in the density debate I see artificial code-created ceilings everywhere I walk.

  2. Mark S Johnson says:

    More Code, perhaps, but another thought would be to walk through the Comp Plan and marvel at the many and sometimes conflicting goals we have articulated forthe City.

    If it is Code you like, you might try SEPA (SMC 25.05), which is ripe for a fresh look. The issues are more abstract than in the Code, but just a look at the overview policy and the the polciies for specific elements of the enivironment would make fine grist.

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