URSI 100--Introduction to the City

Intro to the City Essay Assignments

Essay 1


Write at least a 2-page essay (please type it, using spell-check and grammar check) which addresses the last question in the “Journal Research” project: 

“Based on the comparisons you just made, how have people in different times/places met similar problems in a similar fashion?  How have they done it in a different fashion?  What problems has one group had to face that the other has not?”



Essay 2


You have begun what I hope will be a lifetime of “scientific curiosity” about the places we live.  Look back on the activities (both for this project and the first project), and think about the city as a social/cultural artifact—an answer (at least for one place at one point in time) to the question of how people can live together in close proximity.

  • What makes a “great, good place”?
  • Can a solution speak across space and time (think of Eternal Rome or the Heavenly Jerusalem), or are all solutions necessarily contingent and temporary (think of Camelot, or Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again).  In other words, what role do time and place play in making a place great and good? 

Essay 3

John Donne in one of his poems wrote that “No man is an island entire of it self.”  Or, as Chief Good Thunder put it, “Mitakuye oyasin” (we are all related).  The city is a place that brings together in close proximity a diversity of people—particularly in a nation like the United States.

  • How do we create a res publica (Latin for “a thing held in common”—the root of the word “republic”)?
  • What makes an unum (one) out of a pluribus (many)?
  • Can we do without it?  (Are there workable alternatives to a republican model?  And, even if republican, does it have to be a democracy?)

Essay 4

Write at least a 4-page essay (please type it,  using spell-check and grammar-check) which addresses the following question (remember to review the grading criteria):

“What does it take to solve the ‘wicked problems’ of cities?”

NOTE:  A “wicked problem” has a specific definition (as it is used in policy analysis, operations research, and engineering.  It means a problem that

  • Is ill-defined
  • Has solutions that are better or worse, but no “right” or “wrong” solution
  • Has no objective measure of success
  • Has no alternative solutions already given (if there are any alternatives, they will need to be discovered)


© 2003 A.J.Filipovitch
Revised 1 January 06