The concept ‘civic engagement’ refers to research about the role of public space in people’s participation in local public matters. This can include activities such as public meetings, exchanging information and leaflets, or other forms of engagement.
Little empirical research exists on major changes in the strategies and tactics of social movements, but some researchers argue that organizational readiness and political opportunities produce such changes. This article examines the circumstances that led some state woman suffrage movements to use a bold new tactic, the suffrage parade, beginning in the early twentieth century. An event-history analysis reveals that organizational readiness and political opportunities had little to do with change in the suffragists' strategic approach. Rather, the change occurred when movements consisted of a diverse assortment of organizations, when movement organizations were less centrally structured, when conflict existed among movement members, when movements engaged in fundraising, and when the suffragists had recently experienced significant political defeat. The model of tactical change presented here better explains the impetuses for such a shift than do earlier explanations.
The 2011 Occupy Movement has taught us that in seizing space, we can seize the imagination. In the name of austerity, public services and public spaces are under assault, our current political and economic moment is characterized by the privatization of the public. If enclosure is a fundamental aspect of our contemporary moment, then occupation—a reclaiming of public space—is its countermovement. The Occupy encampments became a metonym for the larger struggle over privatization and austerity, public access and public demonstrations, and even for the embattled concept of “The Public” itself. Occupation as a tactic against privatization and austerity revealed the depths to which the supposed Public was already privatized, revealing the depth to which spaces, institutions, and the very conception of the public itself had already been enclosed, had become privately operated public spaces. It demonstrated the way in which the democratic possibilities of these supposedly common resources had already been foreclosed upon.
The goal of this article is two-fold: to introduce the concept of augmented deliberation and to demonstrate its implementation in a pilot project.We look specifically at a project called Hub2. This community engagement project employed the online virtual world Second Life to augment community deliberation in the planning of a neighborhood park in Boston, Massachusetts. The local community was invited to gather in a physical space and a virtual space simultaneously, and a physical moderator and virtual designer orchestrated deliberation.This project demonstrates the design values central to augmented deliberation: (1) it is a multimedia group communication process which balances the specific affordances of digital technologies with the established qualities of face-to-face group deliberation; (2) it emphasizes the power of experience; and (3) it promotes sustainability and reproducibility through digital tracking. Augmented deliberation, when properly designed, provides a powerful mechanism to enable productive and meaningful public deliberation. The article concludes with directions for further research.
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (2014)
Strategies of localism have constituted the community as a metaphor for democracy and empowerment as part of a wider reordering of state institutions and state power. In conflating the smallest scale with increased participation, however, community localism provides a framework through which the power of sociospatial positioning might be made vulnerable to resistance and change. This paper identifies four spatial practices through which marginalised communities apply the technology of localism to challenge the limitations of their positioning and imprint promises of empowerment and democracy on space. Drawing on the work of Judith Butler, the paper theorises these practices as the incursion into the public realm of regulatory norms related to domestic and private spaces, rendering political space familiar and malleable, and suggesting that power and decision making can be brought within reach. It is argued that these spatial practices of community rehearse a more fundamental transformation of the political ordering of space than that authorised by the state strategies of localism.
While research on business improvement districts (BIDs) has considered the constraints BIDs can place on the negotiation of public space and citizenship, little work has focused on the process of establishing neighborhood BIDs (NBIDs), and few scholars have examined perceptions of public space held by actual neighborhood constituents. This article analyzes a participatory mapping project and messages on a neighborhood e-mail list to compare the visions of place expressed by disempowered community members and by an NBID proposal. Our analysis illuminates how local power relations and inequalities can become inscribed in urban planning projects like NBIDs.
AIDS media lead unexpected lives once distributed through urban space: billboards fade, posters go missing, bumper stickers travel to other cities. The materiality of AIDS campaign objects and of the urban settings in which they are displayed structures how the public interprets their messages. Ethnographic observation of AIDS media in situ and interview data reveal how the materiality of objects and places shapes the availability of AIDS knowledge in Accra, Ghana. Significantly for AIDS organizations, these material conditions often systematically obstruct access to AIDS knowledge for particular groups. Attending to materiality rethinks how scholars assess the cultural power of media.
The Knowledge Viennese have of their public parks and private gardens re-enforces their sense of belonging to the city. While place attachment may account for identification with a neighborhood or district, the sense of connection to the larger metropolis is another matter. Identification becomes possible through a "metropolitan project"— a mission or goal set by city leaders. The project's emphasis changes over time, yet commitment to it often transcends class, gender and ethnicity. Parks and gardens are shaped by the same forces that shape the metropolitan project in any given era. Green spaces become a medium through which their designers or gardeners express identification with the project, and through it, with the metropolis as a whole.
There is growing awareness among many city councils that their downtowns or central business districts have become bland or devoid of sufficient cultural activity to attract the highly skilled, creative workforce that is seen as a prerequisite for competitive success. This paper examines a recent set of policy initiatives to have emerged from the City of Sydney Council that has explicitly sought to mitigate the negative design outcomes of earlier phases of modernist office development through the promotion of a ‘finer grain’ urbanism, based around support for small shops and services, civic spaces oriented towards pedestrians and the reinvigoration of intra-block laneways enlivened by small bars and cafes. The noted Danish urban designer Jan Gehl was an important agent in the development of these strategies, along with the success of similar policies in Melbourne, illustrating the significance of globally operative design professionals and inter-city learning. However, these policies have not gone uncontested, and the paper examines the political context that surrounds their implementation in central Sydney.
Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy (2013)
Battles over public space involve conflicts of values that express themselves in planning policies as well as the built environment. However, the dominant conceptions of public space in planning practice and the academic literature support a limited range of those values. I argue that conceptions based on openness and accessibility play into a particular construction of public life that emphasises casual interactions and downplays purposive, political ones. Following a conceptual analysis of the public–private distinction, the paper offers a novel, threefold account of public space; argues that democracy requires a particular kind of publicness not recognised by the commonly accepted definition; and deploys a simple content analysis to highlight the conceptual emphases and absences in planning policy in the political heart of London. I argue that some advocates of public space are unwittingly supporting restrictive planning and design practices that limit important kinds of democratic expression.
Analyzing the spatial genealogy of the student riots in May 1960 in Ankara, the capital city of Turkey, this article investigates the relation between space and identity politics. Besides the social practices it contains, the “publicness” of space is also marked by the meanings and values attributed to the space by various social actors. The political participation of the social groups in public sphere becomes possible through spatial appropriation, which does not only mean the practical occupation of space but also the appropriation of the image of the (public) space. In the context of Ankara, the student riots transform Kizilay Square, which had been the prestigious center of a wealthy neighborhood, into a site of contesting spatial imageries and social identities.
Critics have long denounced the design of suburban communities for fostering political apathy. We disaggregate the concept of suburban design into four distinct attributes of neighborhoods. We then use tract-level Census data, the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey, and multilevel models to measure the relationship between these design features and political participation. Certain design aspects common in suburban neighborhoods are powerful predictors of reduced political activity, illustrating a potential link between neighborhood design and politics. Yet low-density environments appear to facilitate some types of participation. Suburban designs vary, and so do their likely impacts on political participation.
For Friedmann and Wolff, the citadel's physical form—physically defended enclaves in the global city—shapes relations between citadels and outsiders. Subsequent work claims that the designs of citadels produce simulated community life, exclude the city and sanitise public spaces. However, such claims have been based on relatively brief observations. This ethnography assesses the impact of design by examining the quintessential citadel of Battery Park City, in New York City, while the community mobilised against plans for a highway tunnel bordering their community during redevelopment of the neighbouring World Trade Center site. Community life is robust. However, the influence of the physical design is borne out in previously unrecognised ways: residents are identified as a crucial new constituency promoting exclusivity in the global city.
This paper examines how the decentralization of state power and, advent of mayoral elections in Bogota ́, Colombia, enabled municipal government, with the help of a cadre of professional planners and designers, to transform the city socially and physically by reinventing civil society and public space. Three contiguous mayoral administrations used public space as a setting and tool to reinvent a culture of citizenship as well as to demonstrate competency on behalf of the mayors. The mayors’ strategy was largely successful as Bogota ́ has experienced a move from individualism to collective spirit, and citizens report improvements in civility, friendliness and quality of life. Much of the city’s success derives from the vision of the mayors and the important role urban planners and designers provide in implementing that vision. By examining Bogota ́’s transformation, it is possible to better understand how local politicians and planning and design administrators are key to that change.
Business improvement districts (BIDs), which are formed when spaces that are legally public are put under private or semi-private forms of administration, have become increasingly prominent features of many cities internationally. This paper provides an in-depth, empirically grounded analysis of the practices of political activism and issue advocacy in one widely admired BID (Church Street Marketplace, Burlington, Vermont) in light of recent theoretical concerns about the decline of ‘public’ space within the current neo-liberal context of privatisation. The paper examines the ways in which various kinds of political activity are constructed by Marketplace management as either assets or liabilities, and how different forms of activism are differentially regulated and policed in pursuit of maintaining the carefully themed environment of the BID. The research raises important questions about the extent to which downtown (and other) spaces that have been (re)organised as BIDs can fulfil the role of public space in democratic societies.
This paper plots the recent changes in the uses of public space in Hanoi, Vietnam. It is argued that the economic and social changes in contemporary Vietnam have paved the way for a dramatic transformation in the ways in which streets, pavements and markets are experienced and imagined by the populace. The efflorescence of individual mobility, street-trading and public crowding around certain popular events has led to the emergence of a distinct public sphere, one which is not immune from state control and censure but which is a flagrant rebuttal of the state's appeal. The immediate struggles over space herald a new discursive arena for the contest over Vietnamese national imagery as represented in cultural heritage and public space, memorials and state-controlled events which the public are rapidly deserting. The paper concludes by suggesting that the everyday cultural practices that have created a bustling streetlife in urban Vietnam will inevitably provide the vitality and spectacle for the destabilisation of state control in a struggle for meanings in public space.
How might the urban structure and public space of Christchurch change as a result of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes? This paper will look at council and community led post-earthquake urban space projects in Christchurch, New Zealand, to investigate the potential reconfiguration of urban public space and structure and the balance of top-down and bottom-up design processes for the delivery of these projects. This will be achieved by comparing the performance of the urban public space and structure of the city during the post-earthquake emergency and recovery phases, with a view to understanding the contribution that these elements can make to the resilience of Christchurch. The paper will argue that Christchurch’s nineteenth century urban structure served the population well during the emergency phases of the disaster and that post-earthquake community-led initiatives model innovative capabilities which may enhance urban design practice in the future.
This article explores the links between social media and public space within the #Occupy Everywhere movements. Whereas listservs and websites helped give rise to a widespread logic of networking within the movements for global justice of the 1990s–2000s, I argue that social media have contributed to an emerging logic of aggregation in the more recent #Occupy movements—one that involves the assembling of masses of individuals from diverse backgrounds within physical spaces.
However, the recent shift toward more decentralized forms of organizing and networking may help to ensure the sustainability of the #Occupy movements in a post eviction phase.
Since the 1970s, in the Philippines, increasing rural to urban migration and a lack of income-generating employment have led to new forms of livelihood characterized by complex intersections of formal/informal and legal/illegal work and public space use. This paper uses Baguio City’s new Harrison Road Night Market to argue that both street vendors and city officials are complicit in reconfiguring informality and legality as urban organizing logics—unmapping and remapping urban public space and livelihoods to their mutual advantages—increased rental income for the city and viable jobs for vendors. To this end, street vendors use everyday and insurgent public space activism to secure their right to street-based work. Simultaneously, the municipal government,
variably tolerates, regularizes, or penalizes street trade as it gauges its potential to enrich city coffers. Such political-economic manoeuvering by both parties, moreover, also reveals insights about the intersection of different forms of power—that between vendors and the city, between vendor associations, and among vendors themselves. By successfully securing government permission to establish a “legal” used clothing night street market on Harrison Road, a main city artery, Baguio City’s previously marginalized street vendors visibly assert their legitimacy and rights to livelihood in arenas of power from which they have been largely excluded.
The World Gay Pride week convened in Rome in July 2000 at the same time the Catholic Church planned on celebrating its Holy Year Jubilee. Thousands of gays came together, and by the end of the week more than 200,000 marched through the streets of Rome's historical centre. This unique event provides an opportunity to examine the causal relationship of the gay movement acquiring a political identity of its own while the city of Rome was trying to assert a `proper' identity for its public spaces. Acting in solidarity for the first time since its formation, the gay movement drew attention to the difficulties in securing unrestricted access to Rome's public spaces. Conservative sectors of society challenged the right to demonstrate, as guaranteed in Italy's Constitution, which resulted in the delay of obtaining the necessary permit. On the one hand, this revealed the existence of sectors of society not yet willing to acknowledge gay rights or even discuss gay issues in public; on the other, it helped make clear that the process for building Rome's identity is governed by a specific political design. In particular, policies for the privatisation of urban space in conjunction with discriminatory planning processes in the city's historical centre, point to tourism as a powerful tool to control urban space. Resisting this spatial marginalization the gay movement has significantly widened the scope of its social and political action in order to contest prevailing practices and trends which are shaping the city.
International journal of urban and regional research (2013)
DomÍnguez Rubio, F. & Fogué, U.
The aim of this article is to explore new ways of integrating technology, nature and infrastructures into urban public spaces. This is done through a case study, the design of General Vara del Rey, which is offered here as a model to explore a novel urban political ecology that calls into question dominant definitions of public spaces as self‐contained sites operating independently of natural and infrastructural spaces. Through the double movement of ‘the technification of public space’ and ‘the publicization of infrastructures’, the square aims to rethink the political ecology of urban public spaces by enabling the effective incorporation and participation of infrastructural and natural elements as active actors into the public and political life of the community. It is argued that the transformation of infrastructures into fully visible, public and political agents provides a useful model to address the growing proliferation of infrastructural and technological elements onto contemporary urban surfaces and to open up the possibility of new forms of civic participation and engagement.
Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability (2015)
Temporary uses of vacant urban spaces are usually not foreseen in conventional urban planning and have often been linked to economic or political disturbances. In New Zealand, Christchurch’s vacant spaces came into existence after the city was hit by several devastating earthquakes in 2010 and 2011. Parallel to the ‘official’ rebuild dis- course, temporary uses have emerged on vacant post-earthquake sites including community gardens, urban agriculture, art installations, event venues, eateries and cafés, and pocket parks. Based on the review and analysis of exemplary transitional community-initiated open spaces and correlated literature, the paper looks at how the post-disaster urban context in Christchurch has influenced particular aspects of temporary urbanism in comparison with case studies in non-disaster environments. By focusing on the anticipated benefits of community-initiated open spaces, the paper dis- cusses the relevance of temporary uses of vacant urban spaces for urban sustainability in relationship to concepts of community resilience and raises questions about possible long-term values.
Journal of Urbanism: International Research on Placemaking and Urban Sustainability (2011)
Kevin M. Leyden, Robert D. Duval & Abraham Goldberg
Using surveys collected from 10 major metropolitan cities across the world, this article examines the factors that affect the extent to which people feel connected to others who live in their neighborhood and feel proud and satisfied with life in their cities. The cities included in the analysis are: New York, London, Paris, Stockholm, Toronto, Milan, Berlin, Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo. We find that certain aspects of the built environment, the conditions of the public sphere, and the extent of positive social networks in the city are critically important for understanding residents’ connections to each other and to their cities. Our findings provide insights for policy makers and planners concerned with making cities viable and livable.
International journal of urban and regional research (2013)
Discussions on social movements in Asian cities are inseparable from the abundance of public rallies in the region. In this article, I look at the case of Thamrin-Sudirman, the main thoroughfare in Jakarta, Indonesia, to uncover how physical urban spaces constituting part of the city as living systems broaden the reach of social movements’ agendas. The study involved continuous observation at rallies, interviews with social movement leaders and participants, and a look at simultaneous public rallies in various cities. This article analyzes the sites of public rallies as ‘megaphones’, based on the patterns of issues featured in the rallies, the groups participating, and the nodes and paths that they constructed. Two key dimensions of the megaphone are: (1) the symbolic and historical significance of the sites of rallies; (2) the relationship between the space and the media. Particular sites in cities become places where information is gathered,
distributed and transferred through the media, facilitating a network among cities. This article concludes that cities are agents of political actions that amplify ideas and spread them across the globe. The urban centers’ megaphonic function results from the synergy between the public space in the built environment and the public sphere, and is reflective of the recentering of the city.
Journal of the American Planning Association (2001)
We worry these days that public space, indeed the public realm, is shrinking. This essay examines the underlying causes of such discontent, in the context of historic and recent transformations in social values and public ethos. Seemingly, three major trends - privatization, globalization, and the communications revolution - will continue to shape the future demand and supply of public space. Planners must anticipate the effects of such trends, but also focus on the concept of public life, which encompasses both private and public realms. The article concludes by reviewing the role that planners may play in advancing the cause of public space and the opportunities and initiatives for the future.
Models of urban planning after authoritarian modernism raise the question of democratic control over the city and the possibility of imagining as a collective act. The paper examines systemic hindrances to free-thinking, and thus free-acting, embedded in urban communities. Through the case study of recent work by the art collective Department of Play, it illustrates the rationale for engaging public imagination specifically via play as world-building; and it posits the potential implications and limits of such activity as an intervention into city planning processes. Interested in liminal spaces between territory, language and social affiliation, the collective advances an agenda of productive dissent in public space through play and performance. Department of Play begins from the position that we can only plan that which we imagine, and thus exists as an effort to free the public imagination from modes of thinking dictated by the capitalist context.
Drawing on recent developments in field theory, this article analyzes the struggle for survival of São Paulo’s street vendors in the face of a massive eviction campaign. I conceive of street vending as a social field divided into two unequal categories—licensed street vendors and unlicensed street vendors—and show that responses to the campaign varied along group lines. Unlicensed peddlers either abandoned the field or drew on local networks to continue peddling under harsher conditions, whereas licensed street vendors relied on well-established ties to actors in the political field. After these ties proved ineffective, licensed street vendors survived thanks to the intervention of a non-governmental organization (NGO) that activated the judicial field and mobilized the legal capital vested in the licenses. The linkage role performed by this actor with cross-field networks and expertise shows the strategic import of interfield relations, which replicate and reinforce the unequal distribution of assets inside the field.
Environment and Planning D: Society and Space (2014)
This paper develops an analytical framework to place the rise of open source urbanism in context, and develops the concept of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as expressive of new ecologies of urban relations that have come into being. It describes, first, a genealogy for open source technology, focusing in particular on how open source urban hardware projects may challenge urban theory. It moves then to describe in detail various dimensions and implications of an open source infrastructural project in Madrid. In all, the paper analyses three challenges that the development of open source urban infrastructures is posing to the institutions of urban governance and property: the evolving shape and composition of urban ecologies; the technical and design challenges brought about by open source urban projects; and the social organisation of the ‘right to infrastructure’ as a political, active voice in urban governance. In the last instance, the right to infrastructure, I shall argue, signals the rise of the ‘prototype’ as an emerging figure for contemporary sociotechnical designs in and for social theory.
The modern world is facing rapid urbanisation, increasing urban population, constant growth of cities and the construction of new neighbourhoods. Moreover, new neighbourhoods often lack the elements of identity in the context of the place and the people who live there. Therefore, it is necessary to construct these identities together with the physical and natural structure of place and the cultural identity of the people. The construction of spatial identities has been studied in two case studies of “new” neighbourhoods, Mađir (Banjaluka, Bosnia- Herzegovina) and Ilsvika (Trondheim, Norway), using a qualitative analysis method. The comparison makes use of a triangle model that includes three elements of identity construction as three points of analysis: a) spatial context, b) participation in processes of planning and construction and c) action in place. The two cultural contexts and two ways of constructing spatial identity in the new neighbourhoods studied show certain similarities and differences. The study points to the universal significance of this phenomenon and indicates that the process could be improved in each case by applying positive experiences from the other, with adaptation to the specific context. Considering the importance and interrelation of the three elements involved in construction of spatial identities, they should be harmonised in all stages of development.
In a research project carried out in various neighborhoods in Stockholm, Sweden, we have developed a method for facilitating children’s influence on spatial planning. Our goal was to construct a vehicle for communication that could work in practice for both children and teachers as well as for planners. The method uses computerized GIS maps—a common tool in spatial planning. With little assistance, 10- to 12-year-old children map their routes and special places, mark activities and write comments. Teachers can also map routes and places used for education. The results have proved reliable and accessible by planners. Use of the mapping method within the school curriculum and in the planning process is broadly discussed in the paper.
The public sphere has been centre stage in celebrations of India's political triumphs. Leading commentators tell us that the astonishing post-independence surge of democracy has been contingent on the rise of a new kind of sociopolitical formation: the public sphere. This paper takes a closer look at the popular deliberative terrain in North India to question this claim. Drawing on research conducted in a provincial town in the North Indian state of Rajasthan, we see that where metropolitan political theorists see 'transparency' as promoting discursive and political possibilities, Rajasthani villagers see an exposure which prevents expression, communication and the making of political choices. In their view, it is secrecy and social seclusion that enable political interactions and elicit political judgments. 'The public sphere' is an unfit heuristic for locating popular politics within (and beyond) Rajasthan, where it obscures much more than it reveals.