Design for Social Capital

This blog will serve as a running log of thoughts, terms and experiments as I pursue my MFA thesis in Transdisciplinary Design program from Parsons School of Design.

My thesis is centered on neighborhoods and the potential of human relations to foster common trust and kindness. Particularly, I'm focusing on transitory neighborhoods where people of different backgrounds – race, length of residence, age, religion, lifestyle, etc – live in the same geographic space. From my personal experience feeling as an outsider (or quite frankly, a white affluent hipster) in my Bed-Stuy neighborhood, I'm fascinated as to how I can feel more connected to my neighborhood. Just as curious is whether my neighbors also seek connection and if so, how.

My project investigates the role design can play in fostering human connection in neighborhoods. Primarily, I'm exploring how designed objects, experiences and spaces can create an interaction that leads to a human connection. 

Why the fuss about relationships with strangers? Because connecting with the people around you can bolster social capital. Social capital is defined by Robert Putnam as "connections among individuals - social networks and the norms of reciprocity and trustworthiness that arise from them." (2000).

I believe that social capital is a critical asset for a community because it emphasizes reciprocity, kindness and nondiscrimination. And by increasingly these values in a neighborhood, it becomes a more productive place to live, particularly in the variables of happiness, economy, safety and desirability.