Actually, many of Chicago’s neighborhoods are being updated and labeled by one man: Christopher Devane, a local mapmaker and president of Big Stick, Inc., a Naperville-based publisher.Devane has been making neighborhood maps for the last decade and plans further updates as the city’s neighborhoods evolve.But this is where things get a bit tricky. Devane claims the city has been copying his neighborhood borders (without his permission), beginning around 2005.By surveying residents on the changing boundaries and the names used within them, Devane has essentially been doing what the Department of Planning did in 1978 when it conducted citywide interviews to create a map. But because the city hasn’t done such a survey in decades, Devane (a lifelong Chicagoan) has picked up the slack.
I would think the city would want to be more involved here in “officially” setting the boundaries, at least for attracting visitors and tourist dollars. Additionally, aren’t there any sociologists or other academics looking beyond the 77 official community areas (mostly set since the 1920s)?
All of this highlights the dynamic nature of neighborhoods. It can be easier to try to rely on fixed geographic boundaries but social life doesn’t necessarily always follow these. People can move, interact with people across boundaries, and change their collective perceptions of their own neighborhoods and those of others.