What’s this blog about?

The Department of Public Life (DOPL) is about the social dimension of cities.  From my perspective at least. I’m interested in how people and organizations tick and the city is the most complex organization that we humans have come up with to date.  This blog delves into the fullness of our outer lives, how we experience each other and our physical environment.  My posts are reflections on what I see, experience, read and learn about public life.

Where does the blog’s title come from?

It comes from a tried and true method of generating names. Stealing – though I prefer the term borrowing.  I borrowed it from the lips of a great urban thinker by the name of Jan Gehl.  A couple of years ago I read that Gehl had called for the creation of a department of public life in London – a department that would study how the city works and how to improve it’s public space and transportation system. London hasn’t adopted the DOPL name, so I thought I would.

How do you define ‘public life’?

I know we commonly hear the term used to describe political service, but for me ‘public life’ is everything that we engage in, in common.  So public life would be manifest in our political participation, our shared public spaces, our social media and communicative technologies, and also our institutions and workplaces. Public life is really the context within which we all relate to each other.

What about private life?

It’s key and it very much informs the public end of things.  Things like identity, and basic human needs, whether physical or psychological are the foundation of much of our public existence.  I find the boundaries and intersections between public life and private life to be very interesting for instance.  But as far as blogging about pillow talk and/or sibling dynamics (hopefully not the two together), I’ll leave that to others.

What’s your background?  What do you do, besides steal from Jan Gehl?

I’m trained as a landscape architect and have been practicing and/or researching & writing about urban design and planning since 2003.  Before that I worked in human resources for a Fortune 500 company.  My early academic background is in sociology and political science.  If that doesn’t explain everything, I’m not surprised.

What are you hoping to achieve with your blog?

Well, I hope DOPL entertains and moreover I hope that the writings here spur reflection in readers and maybe encourage them to consider the city and their dealings with others in a new light.  I strongly believe that when we pay more attention to what’s around us, we care more and that this spurs creativity.  There’s a great need in our culture for such creativity, particularly in the service of more humane and engaging ways to experience public and civic life.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

Certainly from the world around me.  I live in Toronto, Canada, which is great city to observe public life.  It’s a big culturally diverse city, but it’s approachable and constantly reinventing itself.  It’s also a very creative and open city, which means that people are inclined to engage each other and experiment with new modes of civic participation, communication and habitation, which is really helpful, I have to say.

I’m also inspired by ideas and make a habit of reading a lot of social & cultural criticism and books & articles on politics, civic issues, urban design & planning.  As well, I have a thing for radio.  My family trained me to listen to CBC radio from an early age and there’s been no turning back.  So whether it’s CBC, NPR, the BBC or whatever, you’ll often find me sitting quietly and staring blankly into space, looking a bit daft, but really I’m just entranced by a discussion about the future of social media or the plight of  woodland caribou.

I also attend a fair number of talks, workshops, conferences and occasionally participate in panel discussions and design studios, some of which form the basis of my posts on DOPL.

Are you open to invitations to guest blog on another site or to having someone guest blog on yours?

I am.  Especially if the site has something to say about public life. Mind you, I’d also consider guest blogging about Lady Gaga because I feel so little has been said about her to date.  I’m open to hosting other writers, as long as I agree with you.  OK, that’s not a requirement but I’ll have to figure out some criteria.

What’s the best way to contact you?

You can reach me at: myles99 (at) gmail (dot) (com)

Do you think this FAQ section is a bit long and self indulgent?

Yes, I do.