Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Tower of Babel

According to the Old Testament, the Tower of Babel was a tower built by a united humanity to reach the heavens. God, observing the unity of humanity in the construction, resolves to destroy the tower and confuse the previously uniform language of humanity, thereby preventing any such future efforts. —from wikipedia.

I've always thought something was screwy that we can't get our act together.

Consider this babble: area, arrondissement, borough, circumscription, canton, city, commune, community, country, county, department, district, emirate, enclave, hamlet, league, megalopolis, metroplex, metropolis, municipality, nation, neighborhood, parcel, parish, place, precinct, prefecture, province, region, republic, section, shire, state, subdivision, territory, town, township, tribe, vicinity, village, ward, zone. Don't get me started on acronyms.

To be fair, some of the above name different kinds of political units, e.g. emirate vs parish. You can bet definitions of the same word vary from country to nation, city to state. Even if we define a set of "regions", we can't agree on the same set. Every company in America has their own set.

But, a geo-gazetteer shows quite a number of countries (?) having similar kinds of political divisions, and interesting variations on a few themes. We'll remix nations later. For now, let's consider some Portland Babble.

What is a region? The Oregonian refers more often than not to the Metro Area. Maybe they like to use Region to refer to the Pacific Northwest. In other words, "Regional" issues affect a larger area than an area. Mixed up yet? "Metro Area" nicely describes the, uh, urban area. I agree with these uses.

So, can we say that Metro is not a "regional" government? Can we say that Metro is a (local) area government? Can we say (consistently) that our region is the Pacific Northwest? If not, why not? (Hint: Tower of Babel)

Consider neighborhoods. To me, a neighborhood is the domain of a child, Mr Rogers, and families. Just a small number of houses. Not thousands of houses. Some so-called "neighborhoods" in Portland have 20,000 people in them. That's larger than a small town! What if we call these larger things "Villages" instead... and Villages can be associations of neighborhoods (smaller things). And a neighborhood can be a collection of .... watch groups. Communities and continents zooming in and out.

I'm Babelling toward the one, big, remix.