Systems Science

I Got This, South Minneapolis!

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics - Matt Johnson, South side boy

Photo Courtesy of Urban Dynamics – Matt Johnson, Standish neighborhood native, South Minneapolis

I grew up on the south side of Minneapolis in the Standish neighborhood. From the time I could walk to the time I shipped out to Navy boot camp, this little area of South Minneapolis was my neighborhood. It was my stomping ground.

As a young boy growing up in South Minneapolis, I attended Erickson Elementary, Bancroft Elementary, Folwell Jr. High, and Roosevelt High School. These schools resided in different neighborhoods, but it was still South Minneapolis. In addition, and during that time, I played baseball.

I played a year for Lake Hiawatha and the remainder of my little league time was spent playing for Sibley Park. My teammates and I were, and I am not being hyperbolic, a little powerhouse in South Minneapolis. I later played ball for Roosevelt High School’s summer programs: Jr. Babe Ruth, VFW, and American Legion 1149. I also played ball for the spring high school teams from freshman all the way through varsity. I was behind the plate for nearly twelve years; and I was used to taking notes. And during my time playing in South Minneapolis, I acquired quite a bit of geographical knowledge concerning the South Minneapolis boundaries and Minneapolis beyond.

During this entire time, I came to know Minneapolis as four basic areas: Southwest Minneapolis, South Minneapolis, North Minneapolis, and Northeast Minneapolis. I generally, and I do not think this is uncommon, viewed Uptown, Downtown, and the U of M Campus as distinct localities outside of the four main localities (sections). My general knowledge of these four sections became salient through my days playing ball.

My respective teams not only played ball in South Minneapolis, but my teams also traveled to the other three perceived areas of the city: Southwest Minneapolis, North Minneapolis, and Northeast Minneapolis. We viewed different areas of the city by the Minneapolis parks, but these were our unofficial perspectives accepted by fans, players, and coaches alike. For example, when we traveled to other parks, we perceived certain parks to be in certain parts of the city and it was salient in our team language, our language as young boys, and eventually our language as young men who grew up on the south side. Indeed, this language and knowledge from this language became a part of the South Minneapolis culture and consciousness.

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

Photo Courtesy of the City of Minneapolis

If we were scheduled to play ball at Armatage or Lynnhurst, we knew we were heading to southwest Minneapolis. If we had a ball game against a team from northwest Minneapolis, which was a bit more rare at that age, and we had to travel, we knew the game would be played at Waite park or Windom park. And if we were scheduled to play ball at Folwell park or Fairview park, which was extremely rare, we knew we were heading to north Minneapolis. For us, those parks and neighborhoods resided in the other three corners of Minneapolis. For us, Powderhorn, Phillips, Lake Hiawatha and Longfellow, for example, were South Minneapolis parks.

This geographic and historical narrative illustrates that South Minneapolis is real and salient in language and context. It is indeed an unofficial title according to the City of Minneapolis, but it is nonetheless official to those who reside on the south side. So is it incorrect for residents of South Minnepolis to view themselves as a distinct locality of Minneapolis?

Today, I am no longer a baseball player. I played my last game five years ago for a Townball team in Southern California. Thus my playing days are long over. But now I am a systems scientist. That is, I am interested in systems, their dynamic qualities, and how they emerge and function. My field of interest is urban dynamics. That is academic mumbo jumbo for, “The urban environment is my scientific playground. I got this.”

Maybe it is telling that after careful reflection, my education, and my experience of growing up on the south side, which all allow me to view this systems problem with some very special tools at my disposal, I view south Minneapolis in a very interesting way. Thus, I will make the systems science argument that south Minneapolis is a distinct sub-system, urban environment, with its own distinct economic, political, and social make up. This will be what Ludwig Von Bertalanfy calls a social system construct. This system boundary also includes, but is certainly not limited to, economic, political, and social beliefs, perspectives, and applications. Other social considerations will be explored in future articles. All of these components in the South Minneapolis system help to differentiate south Minneapolis socially as its own distinct sub-system (section) of Minneapolis compared to the other sub-systems (sections) of Minneapolis. What about geographical considerations?

Photo Courtesy of Urbn Dynamics - Your's Truly!

Photo Courtesy of Urbn Dynamics – Your’s Truly!

For this I will use the Minneapolis city map provided by the City of Minneapolis. I will set the artificial boundaries to reflect my personal experiences (including biases), history, and knowledge of the city. First, south Minneapolis encompasses all of the neighborhoods from Lyndale Avenue to the Mississippi river. This will be our west to east geographical boundaries. Second, south Minneapolis will include all the neighborhoods from Franklin avenue south to crosstown (that’s Highway 62 for you newbies). For the southern boundary, we will follow cross town to Fort Snelling and the river. For right now, this will give us an approximation of the southern border. Boundary intersections will be considered and revised later.

As a systems scientist, I need to first make the general argument for South Minneapolis; that is, it is a sub-system of the Minneapolis system. The most important thing in this article was to introduce myself. The second most important thing was to address the boundary problem. This is an important problem in systems science. But as I develop the argument and the system over time, the boundaries, along with the philosophical arguments and scientific evidence, will make more sense and the area known as South Minneapolis will become more and more salient. Bottom line, I got this, South Minneapolis!





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