As with much of my scholarly work, I come away from this project with more questions than answers.
One question that I still grapple with is how do Salt Lake's residents and visitors respond to the intent of its founders?
Brigham Young's directive, that Salt Lake streets be wide enough so that teamsters could turn around their wagons without resorting to profanity, tells me that his focus was looking forward to those who would drive the city and not those transiting it on foot.
Many visitors to Salt Lake, while impressed with the orderliness of the grid system, do not appreciate the wide streets and long blocks. Here is one blogger's recent account:
One tenet of Actor-Network Theory that I did not address in my last post is that agency can be expressed by nonhuman actors within the network. That means that the "Actor" in Actor-Network Theory refers not only to human actors, but also to nonhuman forces that can express sufficient agency to alter the behavior of those human actors.
In the context of Salt Lake, the founders designed and laid out wide streets and a grid system. Human walkers, riders, and drivers altered their behavior because of the influence exercised upon them by this unique city design and system of streets.
The wide streets, while annoying to walkers, have elicited efficient solutions from the early days of Salt Lake. Besides accommodating wagon traffic very nicely, the streets have done the same for automobiles, streetcars, buses, and light-rail trains, with two traffic lanes in both directions, and in some cases a turn lane or train tracks down the middle.
Norms, laws, and expectations of one belief system (in this case, Mormonism) push everyday life in Salt Lake in one direction, and contrary forces push back, seeing increasing accommodation for diverse viewpoints, rituals, and cultural practices in race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and politics.
Digital rhetoric has accelerated this give and take, and as Losh (2009) argues, it "operates at a number of different registers and includes messages to, from, and within the personal, the governmental, the academic, and the scientific public spheres. However, these registers do not represent discrete, hermetically sealed realms of dis course, because discussions about civic participation, community membership, and appropriate timing inform each other across the multiple levels of disciplinary expertise" (p. 95).
Whether or not Salt Lake's founders intended its wide streets to include room for diversity and disagreement, that is exactly what the digital sphere has made possible.
Losh, L. (2009). Virtualpolitik: An Electronic History of Government Media-Making in a Time of War, Scandal, Disaster, Miscommunication, and Mistakes. Boston: MIT Press.