Friday, 19 April 2013

Depth II

All the books say not to do it, but I have no choice... there isn't another word which means what his one means, so I am using a new and previously unused piece of terminology: 'depth'. I have blogged about 'depth' before, and as was probably apparent then, I have spent the past two years grappling with what it actually is. But now the time has come. I am writing up. And I need to nail my colours to the mast: what the hell is 'depth', and why am I using it as a central tenet of my thesis instead of all the alternative, perfectly good and usable jargonish words already in the vocabulary of urbanists, sociologists, geographers, and all the other waifs and strays who congregate around the academic study of cities?

First off, it needs inverted commas, so it is 'depth' and not merely depth.  Depth (sans commas) is useful because it gives a general context and meaningfulness to 'depth', but I my aim is that 'depth' will have a specific definition, and not merely be a metaphor - like plain old depth. Depth  as a metaphor refers to intensity (colour or sound), profundity (emotion), and to the unknown and unknowable (the depths). The depths are also the furthest, innermost and most extreme (the depths of despair). It is of course a metaphor born of physical dimensions and movement in the world (the depth of the well is 100m) and in these terms it always refers to things which go down and in or under, rather than up and out or over (eg. the plane is not 5 miles deep in the air, but the submarine is 5 miles deep in the ocean).

In this respect, 'depth' (note the commas) refers to what is below and what is innermost - the supporting structure connecting the apparent structures (with their inherent possibilities) of the city with the basic conditions of the world (eg. time and nature - or physis). This deep structure harbours  'formal' and 'informal' life and allows it to co-exist, for example, in a block adjacent to a high street wherein the structure supports the high street (and vice versa). The deep structure (the structure of depth) is formed of place (part of which is architecture), time, history, civic institutions and institutionalized order, as well as people.

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