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From the Ground Up

From the Ground Up: Translating Geography into Community through Neighbor Networks

Rick Grannis
Copyright Date: 2009
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    From the Ground Up
    Book Description:

    Where do neighborhoods come from and why do certain resources and effects--such as social capital and collective efficacy--bundle together in some neighborhoods and not in others?From the Ground Upargues that neighborhood communities emerge from neighbor networks, and shows that these social relations are unique because of particular geographic qualities. Highlighting the linked importance of geography and children to the emergence of neighborhood communities, Rick Grannis models how neighboring progresses through four stages: when geography allows individuals to be conveniently available to one another; when they have passive contacts or unintentional encounters; when they actually initiate contact; and when they engage in activities indicating trust or shared norms and values.

    Seamlessly integrating discussions of geography, household characteristics, and lifestyle, Grannis demonstrates that neighborhood communities exhibit dynamic processes throughout the different stages. He examines the households that relocate in order to choose their neighbors, the choices of interactions that develop, and the exchange of beliefs and influence that impact neighborhood communities over time. Grannis also introduces and explores two geographic concepts--t-communities and street islands--to capture the subtle features constraining residents' perceptions of their environment and community.

    Basing findings on thousands of interviews conducted through door-to-door canvassing in the Los Angeles area as well as other neighborhood communities,From the Ground Upreveals the different ways neighborhoods function and why these differences matter.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-3057-2
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations and Tables
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Prologue
    (pp. xv-xx)

    It was 1995 and I sat in a Catholic church in a large city in Southern California. The mayor and the entire city council were there to respond to local residents, who were angry about a stop sign that had been placed at an intersection in their community a few months earlier. For three exhausting hours, mothers and fathers pleaded with their political leaders to remove the stop sign, which they claimed had destroyed their neighborhood community.

    Unfortunately, their lay presentations were obviously incoherent. They clearly had no idea why the stop sign had wrecked their lives. Person after person...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Neighborhoods and Neighboring
    (pp. 1-16)

    Human behavior necessarily occurs within (or must transcend) physical space. Nowhere is this truer than in residential life. As real-estate agents and homeowners (especially those with children) often declare, where one makes one’s home matters almost as much as what one does inside it. In the rapidly shrinking world of the twenty-first century, psychologists, economists, political scientists, and sociologists still acknowledge the importance of the neighborhood context.

    Not all neighborhoods are alike, however. Some neighborhoods are characterized by high levels of effective community. They offer social capital to their residents, a social organization that facilitates and coordinates cooperative action for...

  6. CHAPTER TWO The Stages of Neighboring
    (pp. 17-27)

    I argue that neighborhood communities are produced by networks of neighbors. So, what does it mean to be neighbors?

    At one level, neighboring reflects convenience and availability. At another level, it is an intentionally chosen relation. It can be superficial and passive, or it can engage some of the most important norms and values in our lives. How do these different aspects of neighboring relate to each other?

    Neighboring is a specific type of social relation, emerging in a specific fashion from other social relations, forming networks that are distinguishable from other social networks. These networks have effects that are...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Reconceptualizing Stage 1 Neighboring
    (pp. 28-36)

    While it may seem obvious, it is worth highlighting that, at its most fundamental level, neighboring is a proximity-dependent relation. When I say that someone is my neighbor, I am always making a statement about his being proximal to me. Neighbors must, by definition, live close to each other; but what constitutes the geographic proximity or availability that defines neighboring?

    Many studies have called attention to the strong role of extremely short distances in neighborly contacts.¹ At least from an individual household’s perspective, the distances associated with neighboring are often effectively measured in feet and yards.² Residential propinquity’s influence on...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Reconceptualizing Stage 1 Neighbor Networks
    (pp. 37-47)

    I have argued that there are at least four distinct stages of neighborly relations in which individuals may be involved. Each stage is embedded in or superposed on the previous stage. An individual’s stage 4 neighbor network is a subset of her stage 3 neighbor network, which is a subset of her stage 2 neighbor network, which is a subset of her stage 1 neighbor network.

    These individual neighbor networks evolve into neighborhood community networks through a process of concatenation. Residents have relations with their neighbors who interact with other neighbors, and so on. These neighborly relations concatenate and consolidate...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Selection and Influence
    (pp. 48-58)

    I have argued that neighborhood communities, which are necessarily embedded within geographic contexts, are produced by networks of neighbors interacting within them. I have argued that the relationship between these neighborhood communities and their geographical contexts results from the relationship between geography and the individual neighboring relations that concatenate to produce neighborhood communities. I have argued that the geography most relevant to neighboring relations involves walking arenas and is best proxied by tertiary streets.

    Up to now, I have focused primarily on the static portion of this process. I have focused on neighboring relations, geographic and other constraints on neighborly...

  10. CHAPTER SIX Respondents, Interviews, and Other Data
    (pp. 59-72)

    I have made many theoretical arguments in this book so far. I have argued that neighborhood communities and their effects are produced by networks of neighbors who interact. I have argued that the neighboring relationship has four stages, geographic availability, unintentional encounters, intentional contact, and influence. I have argued that the relevant geographic availability involves walking arenas such as tertiary streets. I have argued that, because children are much more geographically constrained to walking arenas than adults, they and their families are far more involved in neighborhood life. I have argued that selection and influence work together, sequentially, to produce...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN Selecting Stage 1 Neighbors
    (pp. 73-92)

    How do we segregate our neighboring relations? We could segregate at any stage, at the stage 4 influence level, at the stage 3 interaction level, or at the stage 2 passive contact level. We could interact with those different from ourselves but only superficially, or we could have unintentional encounters with those different from ourselves but choose not to initiate contact, or we could be geographically available to those different from ourselves but arrange not to have encounters with them. All of these are possible ways we could segregate our neighboring relations. In this chapter, however, I show that the...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT Unintentional Encounters
    (pp. 93-108)

    In my survey of households, respondents desired that their neighbors be similar to themselves. Some of them, to achieve this aim, had moved from their previous home. They considered who their new neighbors would be when choosing their current residence, and some of them, if their attempts at homophily had proved unsuccessful, desired to move once again.

    Why do households care so much about their neighbors? Because, in contrast to myStar Trekthought experiment where everyone “beamed” from home directly to a destination, there is a high probability of contact between neighbors through convenient access. In fact, I have...

  13. CHAPTER NINE Stage 3 Neighbors and Tertiary Streets
    (pp. 109-128)

    The effects of tertiary street proximity on cognitive maps were quite pronounced and quite short-distance. I suggest that this implies that the effects of tertiary street proximity on passive contacts are quite pronounced and quite short-distance. The interviews clearly demonstrated that the effects of tertiary street proximity on the selection of neighborhood acquaintances are quite pronounced and quite short-distance as well, perhaps even more than they were on cognitive maps.

    Overall, 86 percent of respondents knew at least one of their next-door neighbors; 77 percent of respondents knew someone in both of the residences next door; and 79 percent of...

  14. CHAPTER TEN The Importance of Neighbor Networks
    (pp. 129-147)

    A neighborhood community network is not typically synonymous with any individual resident’s neighbor network. Instead, it is the aggregation of many individual neighbor networks; a true social entity, beyond any individual. Each resident’s neighbor network connects with the neighbor networks of other residents, who connect to still other residents, concatenating and aggregating, neighbor to neighbor to neighbor, and especially child to child to child, to form a network that extends farther geographically and socially than any one resident’s neighbor network yet maintains relatively short path lengths among them all.

    I illustrate this neighbor network concatenation with a sequence of 10...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN Network Influence Theory
    (pp. 148-161)

    In chapter 5, I argued that the flow and exchange of norms, values, beliefs, and influences among neighbors along their stage 4 influence networks can generate social capital and collective efficacy and other important neighborhood community effects. Norms and values flow and are exchanged, but precisely who influences whom and how much is a function of the structure of the neighbor networks. Residents’ efforts to integrate discrepant values and to demonstrate socially validated norms occur within these networks. Neighborhood community, social capital, and collective efficacy, and all of the other products of the flow and exchange of norms, values, and...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE Influence Networks in a College Town
    (pp. 162-177)

    How do stage 4 neighbor networks and the neighborhood community norms and values and social control they produce relate to tertiary street networks?

    In the previous chapter, I discussed Friedkin’s (1983) work, which found that academics separated by two steps (i.e., they discussed their current research in face-to-face communication with the same third alter) were more likely than those who didn’t to be aware of each other’s research. I argue that Friedkin’ s research provides a useful baseline to study neighbor networks and collective efficacy. It seems reasonable to suppose that any neighborly relation at least as intensive as discussing...

  17. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Influence Networks in a Gang Barrio
    (pp. 178-191)

    In this chapter, I ask again: How does the nature of stage 4 influence networks and the identity, social capital, and efficacy they potentially produce relate to stage 1 tertiary street networks? I ask this question in a quite different way than in the last chapter, however. There I identified a geographic area and asked to what extent it related to a reasonable facsimile of community, trying to measure which type of geographic neighborhood equivalent typically evidences the most community. In this chapter, I demonstrate the relationship between geography and community from the opposite end. I identify a well-established community...

  18. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Implications
    (pp. 192-200)

    In this book, I have argued that neighborhood communities are not mere confounds of their geographic context but rather emerge from networks of neighbors interacting within them. I have further argued that neighborhood communities are geographically constrained because the interactions that produce them are geographically constrained. More importantly, I have argued that neighborhood communities are geographically identifiable because the networks of interactions that produce them, that translate neighbor-level interactions into neighborhood communities, are constrained by predictable urban geographic substrates. Administrative units are not those substrates.

    I began by arguing that the neighboring relationship is a multiple-stage relationship in which each...

    (pp. 201-206)
  20. Notes
    (pp. 207-218)
  21. References
    (pp. 219-236)
  22. Index
    (pp. 237-242)