UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Empowered engagement : how community gardens combat social isolation Mazzotta, Carmin Michael


This thesis argues that engagement in the non-exclusionary, place-based, participatory democratic forums of community gardens can empower participants to become civically engaged in the task of building healthier, safer, more dynamic and interactive communities. In so doing, community gardens offer a space from which to combat social isolation. Four interwoven forms of a globalizing experience of social isolation receive individuated focus; following each are considerations of how community gardens can assist in countering these forces, or ‘probiematics.’ For the first form, I offer the term ‘homogenized mass experience’ to describe a globalizing experience of increasing sameness and solitude in our daily routines and habits stemming from the proliferation and mass consumption of information and communications technologies (ICTs) (Harris & Pendakur 2002; Vamelis 2008). A second problematic stems from the proliferation of “non-places” (Auge 1995) — spaces such as shopping malls, arterial corridors, airports, chain restaurants, even suburbs (Flint 2006) — which perpetuate and deepen the first problematic while also being productive of dehumanizing non-identities. The bombarding presentation of mainstream news media, coupled with our reception of information in the isolation of non-places or the solitude of our ICTs, are productive of a third problematic, that of the disempowered and un(der)informed citizen (Radovan 2001; Wilson 2002). A fourth experience of social isolation is centered in consumer society, and relates to the absorption and assimilation of individuals into ICT-filtered matrices of consumption and production (Baudriulard 1998; Belier 2007). Community gardens can be an empowering forum where individuals may begin to “delink” (Baker 2004) from a social isolation found in the global and discover an engagement rooted in the local.

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