Child in the City webinar: Introducing…Helen Jarvis

Of all the ‘new normals’ that we’ve had to endure through the COVID-19 pandemic, the concept of social distancing has entered the lexicon like no other. And while most of us have accepted it as a small price to pay for staying ‘safe’, it is, for some scholars, something of a misnomer

Two very different issues, those of socialisation and social isolation, in these unprecedented times have given experts like Helen Jarvis, PhD, a whole new context in which to share their ideas of how we, as humans, are really affected.

As one of the expert speakers at our forthcoming webinar, Making Connections in Times of Corona, Helen will be looking at what she calls the ‘relational cultures’ surrounding how people connect in towns and cities across the UK, and to what extent they influence how we live our lives.

Helen, Professor in Social Geography Engagement at Newcastle University, is certainly no fan of the term ‘social distancing’, believing – as a social scientist – that it immediately conjures negative connotations around social isolation, and not just a physical distance between people. For her, the language of choice is key.

‘Relational cultures’

Building on this, in Connecting Urban Parenting to Urban Planning, Helen will reflect on civic concerns for the number of vulnerable people asking for help locally who are excluded from widely adopted communication technologies; restrictions preventing ‘household mixing’ in communities intentionally designed for mutual support between older and younger, isolated neighbours; and common-sense outcomes that can be achieved through effective group processes where established relationships offer the basis for community resilience and cohesion.

“All sectors of UK life have been disrupted, with the government closing businesses, public venues and places of worship for several months, urging people to stay home, socially isolated, alone or with members of a single household,” says Helen.

“While daily exercise and ‘good neighbour’ mutual aid groups been encouraged, ‘lockdown’ restrictions have exacerbated persistent social and material inequalities – such as access to outdoor green spaces and safe streets for walking, cycling, play and neighbourliness.

‘Distinguish between social and physical distancing’

“While the language of ‘social distancing’ has been normalised by the UK government as a measure of virus suppression, we should distinguish between ‘social’ and ‘physical’ distancing. Doing so sheds light on the significance of social infrastructure in urban planning for human flourishing,” adds Helen.

If you’d like to hear more about Helen’s ideas, then sign up for the webinar. Making Connections in Times of Corona.  It takes place on 22 September, from 1400 to 1600 Central European Time. Click here for more information and to sign up. You can also email marieke.bouman@childinthecity.org 

Helen Jarvis’s research considers common dilemmas of work-life reconciliation viewed through the prism of time-space coordination and ‘soft’ infrastructures of daily life. Current research emphasises a social phenomenology of multigenerational exchange and togetherness through experiments and innovations in collaborative housing and intentional community. 

She regularly speaks on the subject of alternative housing and sustainable de-growth by grassroots community groups as well as academic institutions overseas. Helen has also published books on Cities, Gender, Work/Life Balance and Social Reproduction.

Author: Simon Weedy

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