The Psychology of the City

I'll get on with more concrete items shortly, but here's one more thought, for now, about steel and why it's important.

I'm as frustrated as anyone else by conversations about Pittsburgh's "image." My interest in steel and the Steelers isn't with image; it's with how steel's history in Pittsburgh is connected with what one friend of mine calls the "psychology of the city." As in: How do you go about changing the psychology of a city? There's a fair amount of agreement regarding the diagnosis -- a refusal to let go of the past, an obsession with prior successes (sporting and otherwise), a fear of change. And there's a fair amount of agreement (not universal, but a fair amount) that the diagnosis gets in the way of material progress. But what can we do? You can't very well put a city on the couch.

Respect steel, honor steel, and deal with the legacy problems of steel, but recognize that as much as steel has been a part of Pittsburgh's past, and in some ways is still a part of Pittsburgh's present, it has little or no role in Pittsburgh's future, whatever that future is. That argument isn't about image-making; it can be about things as material as you like, like job creation. The reason I don't like the Steelers hard hats is that they reinforce the psychology of the past. I'd like to find something that embodies the psychology of the future.

Thanks, by the way, to those of you who've written such thoughtful comments.


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Pittsblog 2.0 is written by Mike Madison, a law professor at the University of Pittsburgh. Send email to michael.j.madison[at] Mike also blogs at, on law and technology. Chris Briem of Null Space drops by from time to time.

All opinions expressed at Pittsblog 2.0 are those of their respective authors and of no one (and no thing) else, least of all the University of Pittsburgh.

Pittsblog 2.0 has a motto: "It's steel good in Pittsburgh." Say it aloud, with a Pittsburgh accent.

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