Week 41: 21st- 25th November 2016

After the comments of the assessor’s at the confirmation seminar last week, I took the opportunity to reflect and go through my own comments. Unpacking the session with my supervisors was helpful in order to contexcualise aspects. Valuable were the following:

  • keep narrowing down;
  • revisit research question and my aim as tools to narrow the scope further;
  • stick to my methodology and methods.
  • as it is not about existentialism or discourse analysis rather an observation of a phenomena providing insights into the dynamics and tension of the triad of spaces in light of the the affordance theory form Gibson and Flow. The tension can be made visible through the heuristic device of play explaining transformational change in time space of public urban spaces (streets environments)
  • This research is not traditional phenomenology (Merleau- Ponty) – environmental psychology based on Gibson and Kaplan
  • unpack further the meaning of play in the context of my research
  • justify further why the street (go back to Appleyard)
  • read again Lefebvre in order to explain the context of time when he wrote this and compare to the contemporary environments
  • the concept of “Right to the city” was seen from Andrew as an opportunity to dive further into as a basis to root this tension of space through play.

send email off the HDR waiting for feedback on the confirmation seminar that I can proceed.

Notes from literature work (23 Nov):

Henri Lefebvre “critique of Everyday Life” 1947 (translated 1991)

Since Marx and through the notion of making alienation a key concept in analysing the human situation Lefebvre was the first philosopher who connected philosophy to action. P. x

“Man must be everyday, or he will not be at all” p. xix

Own observation/ reflection

The tension in urban public spaces between the production of space and the regulation accompanied by the consumption of spaces is evident and even more prominent in the contemporary context of humans and the urban condition.

City governments around the world aim for the creation of equitable and just places, as it is supported by the New Urban Agenda. However, the current condition shows inconsistencies and tensions. Urban designers and architects aim to deliver under the promise of vibrancy and vitality quality urban spaces for all. Contemporary urban renewal processes focus strongly on objects in combination with land value capture propositions and increase liveability. Urban vibrancy is increasingly delivered under the paradigm of consumption and productivity. This not just reflects the neoliberal zeitgeist, but also raises questions around alienation and correlation to mental health issues in urban systems. These tensions can be made visual through play as a heuristic device.

Alienation leads to impoverishment, to the ‘despoliation’ of everyday life. However, Lefebvres everyday life is not reduced to inauthenticity of Alltäglichkeit, as in Heidegger or Lukács. P. xxiv

Modernity which has despoiled the everyday life of former times, which never appeared save in its metamorphoses, as in festival, which embodied a genuine ‘auto-critique’ of the everyday; it is modernity which has caused everyday life to degenerate into ‘the everyday’ p. xxvi

Modernity is the movement towards the new, the deployment of technology and rationality (which Lefebvre calls ‘modernism’), but it is also the absence of any real transformation of social relations, and leads from the human towards the inhuman, towards barbarity. P. xxvii

–> play behaviour mobile phone in public space –> transformation of the mind?? Less ‘real’ social interaction –> interactions of the minds –> disconnected from the ‘real’ –> but there is Pokemon Go??

Habermas distinction between System and Lebenswelt informed the work and impacted the debate in the second half of the 20th century in Europe.

Naïve, physically adept but spiritually innocent – Charlie Chaplin

Visually comic moments when Chaplin when he cannot adept create laughter and assure that humor never becomes awkward or embarrassing. Like pleasure, like harmony in music, laughter is stimulated by a series of resolved tensions, in which moments of relaxation are followed by even higher tension. P.10

Strangeness –> alienation

Through deviation through disorientation and strangeness, Chaplin reconciles us on a higher level, with ourselves, with things and with the humanized world of things. P.11

Restricting access to these pressures urban spaces.

“there are plenty of reasons for thinking that descriptions and cross-sections of this kind, through they may well supply  inventories of what exist in space, or even generate a discourse on space, cannot ever give rise to  a knowledge of space. And, without such a knowledge, we are bound to transfer onto the level of mental space – a large portion of the attributes and ‘properties’ of what is actually social space.” p.7

the physical experience in cities occupied by sensory phenomena, including products of the imagination such as projects and projections, symbols and utopias. p.11

space of social practice

focus on dialectic rather codes –> highlighting contents inherent to the forms under consideration. p. 18

25 Nov.

After reading several papers on Lefebvre and the context of his work it became clearer why his work is relevant in the contemporary urban academic debates.

The social space development within the triad of spaces can reflect the state of development of societies. Therefore it serves not just as an instrument for space observation (play) but may explain certain transformation of social conditions in cities. –> concepts that are non instrumental, spatial separated and public.

Conflicts can be made visual through the heuristic device of play. Stevens rightly pointed our that there is to date very little empirical evidence and understanding in the “non-functional” use and design of public space. He references Lennard and Lennard (1984), Dargan and Zeitlin (1990) as well as Borden (2001). Also he indicated that Gehl and Whytes work are mostly space- centred investigating general categories of everyday behaviour.

Stevens draw on observations of a range of cities over a long period. Critique point from him is that urban design foundation is amenity, but this can draw some people away. another issue is that we thrive to figure out how  spatial characteristics  shape people’s experiences and behaviours. Amentity again is being seen as the solution to a desired outcome that share the physical environment. However people understanding, their actions is well understood and fixed.

–> play and the city –> discover of the potential of urban streets.

–> development of an tool or a play ‘lense’ that can be used to make this tension visible and help to find solutions for urban design interventions.

Revised research question:

  • What are the aspects of play that reveal and facilitate change in the urban social spaces?
  • What are the  health co-benefits of play?
  • How can this device be used to inform optimal urban experiences?

Finding a way how to look beyond some of the limits of urban design thinking and practice.

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