Coverage of our work by the media
Custodians of the Neighborhood
April 1, 2015
A few weeks ago, a car bumped into the stop sign at the end of our street—leaving it awkwardly off-kilter. As someone with “custodial tendencies,” I quickly said to myself that if the town didn’t come and fix it soon, I’d head to the end of the street with my shovel and a level, and set it straight. I just finished doing that right before I sat down. I do stuff like that all the time. I’m not fully sure why I have such custodial tendencies, but I figure it could be worse.
This said, as luck would have it, there is some great research out there on understandingsuch custodial behaviors from an evolutionary perspective. This research, largely conducted by David Sloan Wilson (2011) and his students at Binghamton University, examines behaviors of individuals within neighborhoods from an evolutionary-ecological perspective. That pretty much means that we can understand neighborhood behaviors by applying an evolutionary lens—asking how patterns of behaviors of individuals within neighborhoods serve the individual actors, their families, their neighborhoods, and their broader communities.
Council considering law on police, minority relations
March 20, 2015
Massey, a Binghamton University professor, also said ongoing door-to-door surveys conducted in the city have found that black residents have much less trust in the police than white residents have. The survey team is composed of local community members, researchers who are part of BU’s Binghamton Neighborhood Project and students from BU.
Project puts focus on religion, spirituality
January 30, 2015
As an evolutionary biologist, David Sloan Wilson has studied beetles and fish. Now, he said with a laugh, he’s studying Methodists and Catholics. The Binghamton University distinguished professor is the driving force behind the Binghamton Religion and Spirituality Project, seeks to understand the nature of religion and spirituality by understanding how they operate in the context of everyday life.
Guest Viewpoint: What to do about the deer?
September 19, 2014
Social planners sometimes use the phrase “wicked problem” to describe problems that have complex causes, no easy solutions, and a lot of uncertainty and disagreement about what to do. That’s a good description of the problem that Greater Binghamton residents are having with deer. Once upon a time, deer were those gentle creatures that you felt lucky to encounter on a hike in the woods and contributed to your experience communing with nature. Now they are those brazen creatures crossing our yards in broad daylight and forcing us to erect 8-foot fences to protect our flowers and garden vegetables. It’s funny how love can turn to hate when your plants are at stake.
In deal with City of Binghamton, University pays 50K to reassign officer
September 12, 2014
Although half of Binghamton University’s undergraduate student population resides off campus – many in the city of Binghamton – the University has never employed an officer to work off campus. Starting this semester, the school will have a presence Downtown.
Officer Dan Flanders, a veteran of the Binghamton police force, was selected in late August to be a liaison between the Binghamton Police Department and Binghamton University. According to the terms of the deal, BU will reimburse the city for Flanders’ $50,000 annual salary, while the city will pay for his health and retirement benefits. In exchange, Flanders will still report to the Binghamton police chief, but focus his efforts on student-related issues.
City Council approves Blueprint Binghamton
July 24, 2014
After nearly two years of planning and community involvement, the city has a vision to guide its future development. The city council approved the new comprehensive plan, Blueprint Binghamton, during its meeting Wednesday night. The vote was 6-0, with one absent.
Alternative Media Growing in Tier
May 13, 2014
While classrooms are being flipped, news is becoming less traditional and moving into alternative venues- Tuesday at the Lost Dog Cafe, the Binghamton Community Lab discussed the role of local and alternative media in getting out stories and concerns that might be skipped over by other news organizations. Guest speakers included members of “The Binghamton Bridge,” a web publication that allows ‘you’ to be the writer –the co-founder of Bingspot.com- a lifestyle guide to Binghamton with over eleven thousand likes on Facebook— as well as other local media such as BU’s local radio station, WHRW.
Environment, living conditions may affect child development
February 14, 2014
Where a child grows up may affect his or her achievements later in life. This trend was the topic of the Binghamton Community Lab’s monthly talk in the Violet Room of the Lost Dog Cafe on Tuesday. Chris L. Gibson, professor in the sociology, criminology and law department at the University of Florida, lectured about the different possible factors that shape the emotional and mental growth of children. He said genetics and neighborhood conditions can play a role in molding a child’s thought processes and ability to work through emotions.
Are Floods Increasing?
August 20, 2013
Are intensive floods actually increasing in this area, or does it just seem that way?
According to a BU professor, we can probably expect more of it, as weather patterns seem to be changing.
Investing in the community
April 16, 2013
Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) When it comes to local economic development, some groups are saying invest locally. That was the subject of Tuesday’s community lab discussion in Binghamton.
Community Lab talks Broome County food insecurity
November 15, 2013
The Violet Room at the Lost Dog Café was filled Tuesday evening with talk about programs that fight hunger in Broome County and the surrounding area.
Speakers from the Food Bank of the Southern Tier, Board of Cooperative Educational Services (BOCES) Food Service Department and the city of Binghamton addressed how their respective programs work to ensure that no one in Broome County goes hungry.
Feeding hungry families during the holidays
November 13, 2013
Binghamton, NY (WBNG Binghamton) As the holiday season approaches, a growing number of families in the area will go hungry, local officials say. The community came together on Tuesday to brainstorm ways to keep families fed. Community members gathered at Lost Dog to plan ways to help feed families struggling to get food.
Department of Public Art draws up plans for city-wide mural project
October 18, 2013
Local artists are making the streets of Binghamton their canvas in an upcoming campaign to beautify the city.
The Department of Public Art presented its vision for the city’s aesthetic appearance to an audience of students and community members on Tuesday at the Lost Dog Café.
A Project for the Children
September 11, 2012
Some local college students take a local park under their wings in hopes of giving children a better place to play. This is the latest community service project for Binghamton University’s PricewaterhouseCoopers Scholars.
Summer Literacy Program wraps up
August 10, 2012
Emmanuel Nzsi says he loves to read. He discovered a new book to put among his favorites this summer. “The fifth Percy Jackson. It’s the last one out of all of them. It’s my favorite because it’s action packed,” said Nzsi. Nzsi is one of about 60 students that participated in Binghamton’s Summer Literacy Program at Horace Mann Elementary School this summer. The six week pilot program was a collaboration between the city, the Binghamton School District and the Binghamton Neighborhood Project with the goal of helping kids maintain their reading skills over the summer. Activities ranged from reading and writing to arts and crafts as well as math and computer games. “There is a growing need to keep kids involved in education. One of the things we do see is kids get to a certain point in June and they stop and then in September, they are three months backwards, so we’d like to see them not necessarily grow their skills but at least sustain,” said Literacy Program Coordinator Suzanne Souza.
Summer Literacy Program Finishes
August 10, 2012
Employees at a local elementary school dedicate their time this summer to a literacy program. Teachers and staff at Horace Mann Elementary school helped show kids the importance of reading with The Summer Literacy Program. The Program is organized by the City Youth Bureau, the Department of Parks and Recreation, the Binghamton city school district and the neighborhood project, along with Councilwoman Teri Rennia. Friday was officially the last day of the summer program, it wrapped up with an awards ceremony.
Evolving a City
June 21, 2012
David Sloan Wilson believes that evolution is not just a description of how we got here. He says it can also be a tool kit for improving how we live together. He’s taken what he’s learned in studying evolution in animals and is now applying it to the behavior of groups in his hometown of Binghamton, New York. His goal is to help people behave pro-socially — at their best, and for the good of the whole.
Professor proposes using science to improve city life
September 5, 2011
David Sloan Wilson, a professor of biological science at Binghamton University, has garnered attention concerning his new book, “The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time.” The book was reviewed in the Sept. 1 issue of The New York Times by Mark Oppenheimer, a columnist for the paper. The piece was titled “The Evolution of Binghamton, Block by Block.” “The Neighborhood Project” narrates Wilson’s endeavors to improve the Binghamton community through the work of the Binghamton Neighborhood Project (BNP), a collaboration between BU faculty and community partners with the goal of improving the quality of life enjoyed by people in the Southern Tier. According to its website, the BNP strives to use “the most recent social scientific theory and methods to measure and improve human welfare on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis.”
Can Evolution Breed Better Communities?
August 28, 2011
Evolutionary biologist David Sloan Wilson believes that evolutionary principles work not just at the genetic level, but also on the community level. He contends that evolution is among the factors that drive community involvement. Guest host John Ydstie speaks to Sloan Wilson about his new book,The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time.
‘The Neighborhood Project:’ Tackling Social Problems with Evolutionary Biology
August 24, 2011
Many U.S. cities that once depended on manufacturing — cities like Detroit, Cleveland and Binghamton, N.Y. — experienced job loss and a decline in population years before the Great Recession began. John Hockenberry grew up outside of Binghamton and watched a great, vibrant city fall. IBM, once a major employer in the area, moved its factories overseas, and other businesses followed. Today, downtown Binghamton is filled with empty storefronts and houses.
Marris, E. (2011). “Darwin’s City.” Nature, 474: 146-149. [PDF] Abstract:
David Sloan Wilson is using the lens of evolution to understand life in the struggling city of Binghamton, New York. Next, he wants to improve it.
Looks do matter, particularly when it comes to neighborhoods
May 17, 2011
It’s an unfamiliar neighborhood and you find yourself in the middle of a bunch of streets and buildings you’ve never seen before. Giving the environment a quick once-over, you make a snap decision about whether you’re safe or not. And chances are, that first “gut” call is the right one, say Binghamton University researchers Dan O’Brien and David Sloan Wilson in an article published in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. In a recent series of studies conducted in Binghamton, evolutionary biologists O’Brien and Wilson set out to test whether we do indeed have the capacity to judge urban neighborhood safety just by looking at physical structures. It turns out that we do. Through a combination of interrelated studies, O’Brien and Wilson showed participants a selection of photos taken in unfamiliar neighborhoods and then asked them to rate what they perceived the social quality in each of these environments might be. In one study, participants were asked to determine if the residents living in the photographed areas were friendly with each other, shared favors and, most importantly, would be able to organize against crime or other threats. The responses were then compared to the results of a previous study O’Brien and Wilson had conducted in which participants were asked to rate their own neighborhoods on a similar scale. Interestingly, the ratings between the two study groups proved very similar. If an outsider thought a neighborhood looked safe, people actually living were able to verify it. By demonstrating the agreement between the two groups, O’Brien and Wilson had very clear evidence that the “naïve” participants were in fact accurate when compared to the measures of community and safety drawn from the neighborhood survey.
What looks reveal about neighborhood safety
May 4, 2011
You’re in an unfamiliar neighborhood. After giving streets and buildings you’ve never seen before a quick once-over, you make a snap decision about whether you’re safe. And chances are, that first “gut” call is the right one, Binghamton University researchers Dan O’Brien and David Sloan Wilson say. In a recent series of studies conducted in Binghamton, N.Y., evolutionary biologists O’Brien and Wilson set out to test whether we have the capacity to judge urban neighborhood safety just by looking at physical structures. It turns out that we do, they write in the current issue of Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Through a combination of interrelated studies, O’Brien and Wilson showed participants a selection of photos taken in unfamiliar neighborhoods and then asked them to rate what they perceived the social quality in each of these environments might be. In one study, participants were asked to determine if the residents living in the photographed areas were friendly with each other, shared favors and, most important, would be able to organize against crime or other threats. The responses were then compared to the results of a previous study O’Brien and Wilson conducted in which participants were asked to rate their own neighborhoods on a similar scale. Interestingly enough, the ratings between the two study groups proved similar. If an outsider thought a neighborhood looked safe, people living in it were able to verify it. By demonstrating the agreement between the two groups, O’Brien and Wilson had clear evidence that the “naïve” participants were in fact accurate when comparing to the measures of community and safety drawn from the neighborhood survey. The question remained, however: What information in the streets and buildings of a neighborhood help an individual to come to these conclusions?
Helping Neighborhoods Help Themselves 2007 An introduction to the Binghamton Neighborhood Project from the 2007 issue of Binghamton Research, an annual magazine produced by the Division of Research. [Link; PDF]
Wherever you live, take a moment and look around. Whether it’s in a gated community, a neighborhood plagued by gang violence, a large urban center where the only broad divides are those between “the haves” and “the have-nots,” or a small, tight-knit rural village where neighbors know each other by name, consider the influence the “environment” within your neighborhood has had on your development and the development of others in your community. Now imagine taking the unlikely position that none of that has anything to do with how you and your neighbors view yourselves and the world around you – no impact on the choices you are likely to make, nor any effect on the major outcomes in your life. That’s exactly what David Sloan Wilson thinks too many social scientists and researchers from across the disciplines have been doing – studiously divorcing their subjects from their social environment and relentlessly focusing on individuals, stripped of their communal context.