What a Field Guide Is For

Thinking about my maybe-project of writing A Field Guide to Basic Values, it occurs to me I should be ready to say something about the very idea of a field guide.

When I first took up birding, at the age of 12, I leaned very heavily on the battered old field guide I had available to me, at least until I could save up enough allowance to get my first Peterson guide.

Every new discovery would send me shuffling through the book, nearly at random.

I figured out almost immediately that water birds were at the front of the book and songbirds at the back, with hawks and owls in between, but for finer distinctions I was stumbling around blindly. Continue reading

From the Archive: Value Compression

As I’m busy getting the new semester underway, I’ve turned once more to the archives of my other blog, The Ethics of Metropolitan Growth, for an older post of what I hope is enduring interest.

The following was first posted on September 26, 2013.

Value Compression

I have been reading an account of a research project in urban planning, an effort to develop a more adequate model of human travel behavior in response to particular urban forms.

As part of the pilot test for the project, which ultimately involved a survey administered to a rigorously stratified sample distributed across a major world city, the researcher conducted interviews with a number of city residents selected from the same sample. The idea was to refine the survey instrument to capture more subtle gradations in travel behavior.

As the researcher described it, the interview subjects seemed eager to tell their own stories of living in and moving through the city and, according to the researcher’s account, some became quite animated in the telling.

But the researcher had taken a particular attitude toward the subjects, and the theory to which the researcher appealed made very specific, very stringent demands as to the kind of data that would be acceptable. Continue reading