[Robert Fishman] argues the tradition has not been a story of centralized, rational planning, coordinated through governmental agencies. In his view,the great planning accomplishments of American history were instead the product of a great “urban conversation” where elites and common citizens alike engaged in an “intense and impassioned” discussion of urban and regional strategies. Fueled by the selfish interests of both the actors and the cities themselves, this urban conversation is the true source of the power in directing the development of our cities. Indeed, history shows Americans have invested heavily in common infrastructure in the past, building freeways and transit, urban parks, train stations, ballparks, and convention centers.There's a lot of that happening right here in Greensboro -- some of it right here on this blog.
We are living through remarkable times, when the very medium of our urban conversation is being transformed. No longer are our major urban newspapers the exclusive forum for the civic minded. Newspaper circulation and readership has declined, niche publications catering to various interests and languages have sprung up. The most potent tool of this revolution - the internet - has exploded in influence and scope over the past decade. At a fundamental level, it has empowered every organization and every individual to communicate directly with any other person on the planet.
As we might expect, this has changed the nature of the urban conversation fundamentally. No longer does it take place through several well-known forums, today it happens on websites, over neighborhood email lists, in blog comments, on message boards, or through email threads among co-workers or friends. While there is much disorienting about this brave new world, it has empowered citizens to seek direct information from the government.