Maybe it's just me, but I get really excited when I hear or see things planning-related in an unexpected place such as a book, song, or television show/movie. Planning and popular culture seem to go hand-in-hand. What planners do on a daily basis influences the everyday lives of society. Another post on this blog has alluded to this relationship between planning and music. While others have created a list or article describing the connection between some form of media and planning.
Are there any books, television shows, or movies that you can think of that have subtly, or not so subtly, hinted at planning? Well, besides, one of the most well-known, the episode of Seinfeld where a student about to receive an architecture scholarship decides to be a city planner. This episode has made the line, "Why limit myself to just one building when I can design a whole city," famous.
Watching Traffic Go By: Traffic and Isolation in Urban America
The book discusses transportation policies and systems throughout the history of the United States within the context of popular culture. The author tries to discover why it is that Americans rely so heavily on the automobile and what might have influenced their decisions about transportation. While some topics are covered more convincingly than others, the book finds an entertaining way to appeal to a non-planning audience.
The 2012 movie is about a natural gas company salesman, Matt Damon, arriving to a small town, where his company wants to tap into the abundant natural gas available in the town. While not a must-see, five-star movie, it highlights some of the difficult situations that planners may encounter in a small-town when trying to make a big change such as an environmental group presence or people who are scared of what may happen to their small-town feeling.
What is Planning?
Only a few instances of planning in popular culture have been highlighted. However, there still remains numerous others to be explored. With so many different forms of media out there portraying the field of planning, why is it that so few know what planning is or what planners do? Perhaps, it is should be part of our role as planners to make the field more understandable by referring people to instances of popular culture instead of comprehensive plans and zoning maps. Our goal should be to make planning approachable and if we can make it more entertaining in the process through the form of books or movies, well, all the better.
--Amanda Douglas, Cities That Work Blog