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How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life


How Qualities of Place Shape Social Life

Let’s set the scene: there’s a regular on his barstool, beer in hand. He’s watching a young couple execute a complicated series of moves on the dance floor, while at the table in the corner the DJ adjusts his headphones and slips a new beat into the mix. These are all experiences created by a given scene—one where we feel connected to other people, in places like a bar or a community center, a neighborhood parish or even a train station. Scenes enable experiences, but they also cultivate skills, create ambiances, and nourish communities.

In Scenescapes, Daniel Aaron Silver and Terry Nichols Clark examine the patterns and consequences of the amenities that define our streets and strips. They articulate the core dimensions of the theatricality, authenticity, and legitimacy of local scenes—cafes, churches, restaurants, parks, galleries, bowling alleys, and more. Scenescapes not only reimagines cities in cultural terms, it details how scenes shape economic development, residential patterns, and political attitudes and actions. In vivid detail and with wide-angle analyses—encompassing an analysis of 40,000 ZIP codes—Silver and Clark give readers tools for thinking about place; tools that can teach us where to live, work, or relax, and how to organize our communities.

See an online appendix for the book.

432 pages | 7 halftones, 39 line drawings, 30 tables | 6 x 9 | © 2016

Economics and Business: Economics--Development, Growth, Planning

Geography: Social and Political Geography

Sociology: Demography and Human Ecology, Social Change, Social Movements, Political Sociology, Urban and Rural Sociology


Scenescapes proposes new tools for measuring social facts and new ways to analyze this data. The result is an excellent book—masterfully executed, clearly written, and peppered with interesting and convincing anecdotes and examples.”

Howard S. Becker, author of Becoming a Marihuana User

“We all know that places have different ‘feels,’ but until now quantitative analysis has not been able to represent these differences very well, and has focused on larger units like cities or counties rather than neighborhoods. By using data from the Census to the Yellow Pages, Silver and Clark have been able to characterize individual neighborhoods down to the ZIP code level. This is a real breakthrough. Scenescapes deserves wide attention.”

David Weakliem, University of Connecticut

“Combining wide-ranging erudition, soaring theoretical ambition, and rigorous empirical investigation, Scenescapes is a dazzling explication of a powerful but elusive concept: the aesthetic meaning of place. Thoroughly engaging throughout, it shows that local character is far from a tertiary concern even in this age of globalization, with surprising consequences not only for cultural geography but also for economic and political sociology. This is a remarkable book!”

Richard Douglas Lloyd, Vanderbilt University

Table of Contents


1 Setting the Scene
2 A Theory of Scenes
3 Quantitative Flânerie
4 Back to the Land, On to the Scene: How Scenes Drive Economic Development
5 Home, Home on the Scene: How Scenes Shape Residential Patterns
6 Scene Power: How Scenes Influence Voting, Energize New Social Movements, and Generate Political Resources (with Christopher M. Graziul)
7 Making a Scene: How to Integrate the Scenescape into Public Policy Thinking
8 The Science of Scenes (with Christopher M. Graziul)


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