Incorporating Amos Hawley’s Theoretical Essay on Human Ecology Into My Project

When I initially began researching my project, I had found an enormous amount material. I found over two hundred addresses, which included artist lofts, galleries, performance spaces and work spaces. I also found a dozen key players of the passed downtown art world. I have taken an enormous amount of notes, collected a couple dozen books and stacks of printed out PDFs. I also, had planned on reading several books which outlined key places and figures for my project. I luckily was able to start very early in the semester and was able to complete what I had originally set out to do. However, with less than two weeks left until my project is due I still have about one third of my material untouched. I almost wish time could stop and I could finish everything I had originally set out to do. I have carefully laid out in spreadsheets the names and places I will be focusing, but a part of me still wishes I could include more information on art dealer Leo Castelli or art curator Alanna Heiss or expand my section on the Franklin Furnace Archives.

Part of my organizational strategy has been to create physical and digital folders containing all of the information for my project. Each folder contains an address with the people and activities associated with it. Each digital folder contains the same information the physical folder contains, in addition to images and documents. I also included an argument. My argument is rooted in Amos Hawley’s Theoretical Essay on Human Ecology. His theory enables me to outline the social dynamics which developed in SoHo during the late 1950s to late 1960s.

What is Human Ecology?

Human Ecology: The strength of human ecology is its ability to analyze succession comparatively by using demographic and other aggregate data for a large number of areas like census tract. Hawley argued, that “it is not prepared to provide explanations for all the manifold interactions, criticisms, and collisions that occur within the bounds of a social system” 

Creating Community in SoHo:

1. The creation of a new area.

2. Increased interaction among individuals.

3. The development of neighborhood organizations.

Keep in Mind:

Each phase reinforced the feeling the residents had for the neighborhood.

SoHo became a community unifying work, residence and ideology.

Early residents’ emotional attachment to the area developed from a number of sources:

  1. The hardships encountered and the sweat labor expended in converting raw loft spaces into usable places in which to live and work imbued these spaces with special significance for their occupants.
  2. Their efforts were often in jeopardy – on the one hand the city inspectors who might threaten them with fines and on the other from profit-seeking landlords who could evict them in favor of higher-paying tenants.
  3. The constant stress of these condition took its toll. The stress generated a stubborn commitment to the goal of being able to live and work as one wanted, in a neighborhood that supported one’s value, with those who shared one’s dreams (Hudson 83).

“The creation of a unique and vital lifestyle contributed to the sentimental attachment to SoHo. The artists moving there brought their aspirations for their work and community. These initial sentiments were reinforced through social interaction. Interaction, of course occurred from the time of arrival of the first artists (Hudson 83).”

I found about halfway into my research that it was imperative for me to have more than a list of addresses and explanations behind each address. I found Hawley’s theory provided the “glue” to hold my project together. Coming across Hawley’s essay of Human Ecology provided me with ability to take my project to another level.

Work Cited:

Hudson, James. The Unanticipated City: Loft Conversions in Lower Manhattan . Univ of Massachusetts Press, 1987. Print.

One comment

  1. Great — a theoretical framework to tell the stories linking together all those points on the map! The ecological approach allows you to explore the interaction of physical landscapes, socioeconomic changes, population, changes, etc. — all part of the urban social ecosystem. Yet the definition of human ecology that you provide — the passages you quote — don’t quite do justice to the potential utility of this approach for your project. I’d encourage you to search for some strong quotations and develop a compelling way to describe what human ecology is, and how it helps you tell the story on your map.

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