Prosocial Spatial Urbanism

Updated: Jul 10

by L. Lo Sontag Employing Prosocial Positive Change Methods to Facilitate Equity, Collaboration, and Climate Mitigation in Spatial Planning

Frederick Law Olmsted, Upton Sinclair, Jane Adams, Jane Jacobs, and Rosa Parks all used positive change methods. Politics is a method of change.

Prosocial is a practical method of change based on evolutionary theory and complex system science. These two paradigms are the theoretical foundations for virtually any subject, including the subject of positive change (Wilson, 2020). Positive change is not an original idea. Aristotle said, "The whole is more than the sum of its parts.” A complex system is a collection of parts that, when interacting, appear to move in unison in such a manner that you often forget the parts are all themselves systems (Gel-Mann, 1988). Examples of complex systems are Earth’s global climate, the human brain, transportation systems, an ecosystem, social and economic systems, like cities, metropolises, and regions — and finally, the entire universe.

In the 20th century, cultural change and personal change separated themselves from evolutionary theory and the material world. They became a priori rather than a posteriori, transformed into personal narratives and thought exercises drowning in confirmation bias. Economics, urban planning, climate science, history, ethnic studies, and political science all need to be communicating in order to facilitate positive change and they all should entertain the idea of a posteriori thinking. Evolution is not just for science. Evolution is any issue that includes— variation, selection, and replication. These are all ideas embedded in urban planning. Prosocial is the first practical change method solidly grounded in the best of our current knowledge about complex systems and evolution. It is philosophical, meaning it allows us room to contemplate deeper questions, but it is still practical as it provides us with a toolkit to support planners, economists, and activists in building better communities, better neighborhoods, and better cities. (Atkins et al., 2019; Wilson, 2020)

Prosocial Spatial Urbanism's goals are to create better regions and better communities, through better planning by meeting the needs of all.

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Atkins, P. W. B., Wilson, D. S., & Hayes, S. C. (2019). Prosocial: Using evolutionary science to build productive, equitable, and collaborative groups. Context Press/New Harbinger Publications. Gell-Mann, M. (1988). Simplicity and complexity in the description of nature. Engineering and Science, 51(3), 2-9.

Prosocial World. (2020). Introduction to prosocial. David Sloan Wilson. Evolution Films [Video]. Vimeo.

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