I’ve had the privilege of traveling all over our country as well as overseas. Specifically with the Deep Ellum Market and with the P&G (rest in peace), my objective had been to take things I enjoyed in my travels and bring them back to my home town. In the attempt to bring new concepts to Dallas, I have consistently run crossways with local culture, or the habits that people are accustomed to. Given this experience, I’ve come up with a formula for culture: culture=habits/time.
A Google search of the term ‘culture’ yields various results from scientific to artistic, but for me, it’s more useful to apply a quantitative metric for culture in order to dig deep into an otherwise nebulous term. Instead of trying to define ‘Dallas culture’ or assign it some definition, we can look at a certain subset of people who maintain particular habits and analyze the cause and effect of those habits in an effort to understand that group. Ultimately, if we want to affect change in people’s eating or commuting or even hygiene, we have to understand what needs to change in their habits and how to sustain those changes over a period of time. This is the only way to reform culture.
I observe cycling culture when I travel. From Oakland to Milwaukee, I see many American cities implementing more shared and separated bike lanes, but I don’t see many people riding in them. I fear the same thing in Dallas, that if we build bike lanes, would people actually bike more? Would it be worth the investment to build infrastructure before understanding how we want to affect people’s habits first?
I share similar misgivings about Dallas’ car culture. While it’s easy to say that our city will always be a car-centric, if we look deeper into the habits of commuters, we find that road rage occurs more often than we care to admit. Could it be that we love our cars, but we hate to drive in traffic?
If we are to have a multi-modal transportation network, we have to consider the daily habits of what we want that culture to yield and do everything we can to make those habits as viable, convenient, and dignified as possible. If we’re able to maintain this over a long period of time, our commuting culture will build value for the city.
My intention is not to render culture heartless by assigning it a formula, but rather to gain a better understanding of how we use the word and a deeper perspective of how people behave. It’s fun to observe brunch culture, voting culture, development culture, and even cell phone culture. After all, our habits define our behavior, which defines our identity, which we often share with other people. If we can look at the behavior that we’ve maintained over time, we can find better solutions for ourselves and our city, provided we’re willing to improve our habits.