Central Standard
12:25 pm
Wed May 14, 2014

Does Our City Bring Strangers Together, Or Keep Them Apart?

This crowd on Kansas City's westside probably assembled lots of strangers; where else does that happen, and how often?
This crowd on Kansas City's westside probably assembled lots of strangers; where else does that happen, and how often?
Credit Jean / Flickr, Creative Commons

A recent article in the New York Times compiled a growing body of evidence suggesting that the more frequent our interactions with strangers, the happier we tend to be. The findings apply to introverts and extroverts alike. In response to the enthusiasm around that article, Central Standard asked whether the people of Kansas City encounter strangers often enough in their day-to-day lives. Does Kansas City's built environment facilitate or prohibit these kinds of interactions?

The city planner on our panel suggested that Kansas City offers relatively few opportunities for strangers to brush up against one another. Contributing factors include the massive scale of our downtown structures as well as a history of prioritizing investment in highways over investment in public transit. Our resident anthropologist explored the body language and "sidewalk ballet" of people in communal spaces, relating the centers of cities to the centers of our bodies... that is, our hearts.

The song that played at the end of this show was "Strangers" by the Kinks.

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