A Worthy Project: A Narrative Social History of Crowding

By Aaron Gilbreath Be it sitting on a plane near a screaming baby, or brainstorming ways to organize your office cubicle, crowding touches most everyone’s life, because density is one of modernity’s defining issues. Even if you’ve never tried to articulate it, spatial requirements – of room, of silence, privacy and calm – form part of our definition of “the good life.” How far apart do you need to be from other people to find peace? How far apart do your living room walls need to be to feel comfortable? Even when we’re unaware of its influence, roominess is a condition, and the degree to which we have it determines livability. My book will argue that we need to treat overcrowding with the same gravity as other social and ecological issues, and take steps to manage it in a humane way that minimizes crowds’ dangers while capitalizing on their benefits. In the process, Crowded will test the counterintuitive principle that the smaller our home, the happier our life. With the story driven by characters, scenes, action and dialogue, and rooted in solid reporting, Crowded qualifies as narrative nonfiction. The book is one urbanite’s vision of human history through the story of the crowd. The problem is: to write the proposal, I needed to do some preliminary reporting, and that required travel, and funding.