Sunday, February 24, 2008

Powerful Scenes and How to Build Them: Some Dramatic Successes (and Failures)

Antanas Mockus, former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, dressed as "Supercitizen"

Academic turns city into a social experiment

Mayor Mockus of Bogotá and his spectacularly applied theory
By María Cristina Caballero

Special to the Harvard News Office

Antanas Mockus had just resigned from the top job of Colombian National University. A mathematician and philosopher, Mockus looked around for another big challenge and found it: to be in charge of, as he describes it, "a 6.5 million person classroom."
Mockus, who had no political experience, ran for mayor of Bogotá; he was successful mainly because people in Colombia's capital city saw him as an honest guy. With an educator's inventiveness, Mockus turned Bogotá into a social experiment just as the city was choked with violence, lawless traffic, corruption, and gangs of street children who mugged and stole. It was a city perceived by some to be on the verge of chaos.

'Knowledge,' said Mockus, 'empowers people. If people know the rules, and are sensitized by art, humor, and creativity, they are much more likely to accept change.' (Photo by Gerardo Chaves/El Tiempo)

People were desperate for a change, for a moral leader of some sort. The eccentric Mockus, who communicates through symbols, humor, and metaphors, filled the role. When many hated the disordered and disorderly city of Bogotá, he wore a Superman costume and acted as a superhero called "Supercitizen." People laughed at Mockus' antics, but the laughter began to break the ice of their extreme skepticism.

Further discussion of Mayor Mockus is in Clark and Silva, Was Tocqueville Wrong?, and The Harvard Gazette

3 minutes
Enrique Peñalosa, the former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia who accomplished monumentally positive changes for pedestrians and cyclists in a short period of time, talks about some of his accomplishments

This site includes many other transit linked scenes from Portland, San Francisco, New York and Bogota

1 comment:

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University of Chicago

University of Chicago
Lawrence Rothfield, Dan Silver, Terry Nichols Clark