Week 12 2017

After several disruptive weeks – pushing child friendly cities and play in media and at events I am back on the PhD research.

The feedback form the Assessor was to use Stevens work as a basis rather than Lefebvre. This led to an revised PhD proposal and contemplation about new research questions.

Project Proposal can be accessed here: PhD Proposal 23 March2017

Maciocco, G. & Tagliagambe, S. (2009). People and Space, New Forms of Interaction in the City Project. Urban and Landscape Perspectives 5; Springer. doi 10.1007/978-1-4020-9879-6_1

The City Project: intermediate Space and Symbol (p.164)

“The loss of the differential quality the city has suffered in its drift towards the “generic city”, a phenomenon of reduction of diversity, standardisation of life and the space produced by shopping, which has become “a primary way of urban life”, “the apotheosis of modernisation” (Chung 2001), the foolish outlet of the doctrine of form (of the city) that follows the (consumer) function in the same way throughout the world, the “unexpected revenge of functionalism” (Chung, 2001).

Chung C. J., Inaba J., Koolhaas R., Tsung Leong S. (2001) Harvard Design School Guide to Shopping, Taschen, Cologne.

Linked to the “generic city” is the process of “thematisation” of the city, the transformation of the city as a theme-park, an experience of places that is also the model of the place of pleasure (Jacobs 1998), a model that requires a glance turning everything into a show, that tends to blend in with its surroundings (Caillois, 1984) and that produces an absence of reference point, like the space of a labyrinth, spectacular and supervised, making the contemporary city uniform (Bataille 1970). But it is a desired labyrinth, that represents a complete mosaic of different types of landscape that make up, indeed, the “dark object of desire” of society (Vos and Meekes 1999).

Bataille G. (1970). Le labyrinthe. In: Bataille G. (ed) Oeuvres complètes, Gallimard, Paris. Caillois R. (1984). Mimicry and legendary. Psychastenia, October n 31.
Vos W., Meekes H. (1999) Trends in European cultural landscape development: perspectives for a sustainable future. Landscape and Urban Planning 46 (1-3).

The representations, images, our society creates for itself of landscapes as “desired products” express detachment from reality. In this detachment between reality and representation lies the contemporary incapacity to “represent” the city , to “see it”. What is projected in images aberrant to the point of losing their reference point is nothing more, probably, than the loss of the reference point as such, a loss affecting language, the same loss that affects the inhabitant when he tries to imagine the city (Soutif, 1994). If we do not go to meet the real, in the lived in space, unsettling pairs of opposites like real city/simulacrum city and citizen/non- citizen (de Azua 2003) will become established, where the figure of the “non-citizen” will correspond to the loss of the urban collective conscience and, with it, the loss of the city as a conceptual unit.

Soutif D. (1994) Topes et Tropes Le plan de Ville et la Référence. In: Dethier J., Guiheux A. (eds) La ville Art et architecture en Europe 1870- 1993, Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris.

de Azua F. (2003) La necessidad y el deseo. Sileno nn. 14-15, pp. 13-21

“The space of the mind that gradually develops as the subject understands, in his acting and often after he has acted, the sense of this actions and those of others and that, in this sense, opens up to the world of relations that feeds the collective conscience.” (p.165)

–> Is the post capitalist city a place where symbols are exchanged? “The expressive strength of the symbol is essential for collective gaining of awareness of the elements that preside over our spatial life. ” (p.165)

The symbol represents,  always, “something else”, it refers to something different and never uncodifiable. (p.166)

“A symbol can be understood as a “bridge cast” between the universe of visible phenomena and the invisible, between reality and possible worlds.” (p. 167) –> play is a possibility and create opportunities for reaching out to a different world!

“The active, collective glance at the city makes us feel we belong to a whole, it reveals to us the contemporary public space.” p.13

Brodsky J. (1995) On Grief and Reason: Essays, Farrar straus Giroux, New York.

“The more substantial an individual’s aesthetic experience is, the sounder his taste, the sharper his moral focus, the freer- though not necessarily the happier- he is (Brodsky 1995, pp. 49-50).

Week 7 2017

Milica kindly provided me with additional comments that made it into a revised version of the PhD proposal.

The latest version can be accessed here: phd-proposal-feb15

The corresponding draft assessors response can be accessed here: assessors-response-ghm-feb-2017-15


In preparation of the document I found myself going back to earlier versions and realised that some of the writing in the comprehensive versions of the assessor response will become the chapters.

If everything goes alright I can commence with the data collection in Canberra in mid March in Canberra, ideal temperatures too, and in Germany end of May, June or July.

The shut-up  and write question is useful to complete tasks.

Papers and conferences

Lisa and I are co-authoring on a paper on design process of healthy environments and meaningful engagement with children. This will be presented at the Spaces and Flow conference on 12-13 October 2017 http://spacesandflows.com/2017-conference

Also my paper presentation at the International Play Association has been accepted. I will present my early findings and the PhD concept http://canada2017.ipaworld.org/themes
The abstract can be accessed here: play-and-the-city-ipa


Debord, G. (1994) The Society of the Spectacle. Zone Books. New York.

‘THE WHOLE LIFE of those societies in which modern conditions pf production prevail presents itself as an immense accumulation of spectacles. All that once was directly lived has become mere representations.’ p. 12

‘In a partial way, reality unfolds in a new generality as a pseudo- world apart, solely as an object of contemplation….The spectacle in its generality is a concrete inversion of life, and, as such, the autonomous movement of non-life.’ p. 12

‘THE SPECTACLE APPEARS at once as society itself, as a part of society and as a means of unification. As a part of society, it is that sector where all attention, all consciousness, converges. Being isolated -and precisely for that reason -this sector is the locus of illusion and false consciousness; the unity it imposes is merely the official language of general separation.’ p. 12

‘ THE SPECTACLE IS NOT a collection of images; rather, it is a social relationship between people that is mediated by images.’ p. 12

‘It is by far better viewed as a weltanschauung that has been actualized, translated into the material realm- a world view transformed into an objective force.’ p. 13

The spectacle is ‘the very heart of society’s real unreality. In all its specific manifestations- news or propaganda, advertising or the actual consumption of entertainment -the spectacle epitomizes the prevailing model of social life….In form as in content the spectacle serves as total justification for the conditions and aims of the existing system. It further ensures the permanent presence of that justification, for it governs almost all time spent outside the productive process itself.’ p. 13

‘The language of the spectacle is composed of signs of the dominant organization of production- signs which are at the same time ultimate end- products of that organization.’ p. 13

‘lived reality suffers the material assaults of the spectacle’s mechanisms of contemplation, incorporating the spectacular order and lending that order positive support. Each side therefore has its share of objective reality. And every concept as it takes its place on one side or the other, has no foundation apart from its transformation into its opposite: reality erupts within the spectacle, and the spectacle is real. This reciprocal alienation is the essence and underpinning of society as it exists.’ p. 14 –-> play can be one of those eruptions!

‘IN A WORLD THAT really has been turned on its head, truth is a moment of falsehood.’ p. 14

‘Understood on its own terms, the spectacle proclaims the predominance of appearance and asserts that all human life, which is to say all social life, is mere appearance. But any critique capable of apprehending the spectacle’s essential character must expose it as a visible negation of life- and as a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself.’ p. 14

‘For the spectacle, as the perfect image of the ruling economic order, end are nothing and development is all- although the only thing into which the spectacle plans to develop itself.’ p. 15- 16

‘The spectacle is the chief product of present- day society.’ p. 16

‘For the spectacle is simply the economic realm developing for itself – at once a faithful mirror held up to the production of things and a distorting objectification of the producers.’ p. 16

‘The spectacle is by definition immune from human activity, inaccessible to any projected review or correction. It is the opposite of dialog. Wherever representation takes on an independent existence, the spectacle reestablishes its rules.’ p. 17

‘The spectacle is hence a technological version of the perfection of separation within human beings.’ p. 18

‘SO LONG AS THE REALM of necessity remains a social dream, dreaming will remain a social necessity. The spectacle is the bad dream of modern society in chains, expressing nothing more than its wish for sleep. The spectacle is the guardian of that sleep.’ p. 18

‘BY MEANS OF THE SPECTACLE the ruling order discourses endlessly upon itself in an uninterrupted monologue of self-praise. The spectacle is the self-portrait of power in the age of power’s totalitarian rule over the conditions of existence. The fetishistic appearance of pure objectivity in spectacular relationships conceals their true character as relationships between human beings and between classes; a second Nature thus seems to impose inescapable laws upon our environment. But the spectacle is by no means the inevitable outcome of a technical development perceived as natural;on the contrary, the society of the spectacle is a form that chooses its own technical content.’  p. 19

In the course of this development all community and critical awareness have ceased to be; nor have those forces, which were able – by separating – to grow enormously in strength, yet found a way to reunite.‘ p. 21

‘THE GENERALIZED SEPARATION of worker and product has spelled the end of any comprehensive view of the job done, as well as the end of direct personal communication between producers. As the accumulation of alienated products proceeds, and as the productive process gets more concentrated, consistency and communication become the exclusive assets of the system’s managers. The triumph of an economic system founded on separation leads to the proletarianization of the world.’ p. 21

‘OWING TO THE VERY SUCESS of this separated system of production, whose product is separation itself, that fundamental area of experience which was associated in earlier societies with an individual’s principal work is being transformed -at least at the leading edge of the system’s evolution- into a realm of non-work, of inactivity. Such inactivity: it remains in thrall to that activity, in an uneasy and workshipful subjection to production’s needs and results; indeed it is itself a product of the rationality of production. There can be no freedom apart from activity, and within the spectacle all activity is banned- a corollary of the fact that all real activity has been forcibly channeled into the global construction of the spectacle. So what is referred to as “liberation from work,” that is, increased leisure time, is a liberation neighter within labour itself nor from the world labor has brought into being.’ p. 21-22

THE SPECTATOR’S ALIENATION from and submission to the contemplated object (which  is the outcome of his unthinking activity) works like this: the more he contemplates, the less he lives; the more readily he recognizes his own needs in the images of need proposed by the dominant system, the less he understands his own existence and his own desires. The spectacle’s  externality with respect to the acting subject is demonstrated by the fact that the individual’s own gesture are no longer his own, but rather those of someone else who represents them to him. The spectator feel at home nowhere, for the spectacle is everywhere.‘ p. 23


Impact session seminar 16/02/2017

get onto research gate, google scholar citation and research edu

be sure about the operational definitions: proximity, counter factual, precision

–> make a case and tell a story (drop methodology and literature review)



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.

Week 35: 10th – 14th October

This weeks highlights were:

  1. completion of the PhD proposal and submission. This included a priority change in research question. Health is now a how question supporting the concept and not diving it.
  2. preparation of two conference abstracts on play / one for the IPA world congress 2017
  3. meeting with supervisors on thesis:

Need to start working on methods and think about visualisation, classification of matrix  as well as commence research in Canberra on the ground.

Confirmation seminar is now on the 17th November in the morning.

Week 16: 30th May -3rd June 2016

Two days of drafting the research proposal passed.

On Monday uploaded the document onto Moodle and undertook a urkund check. Awaiting the results, if there are any…

Revisited the creative research literature in order to verify option for creative output. Currently I tend toward a book for the following reasons:

  • more permanent (output) –> what do I want to get out of the PhD.
  • easier to distribute through different countries where I will undertake research.
  • a book can better inform policy over a longer period in time.
  • equally labour intense than a exhibition
  • challenge to find an appropriate publisher and someone who covers the print cost for the first edition.

–> Addtional option to link book to an online exhibition (videos, photos etc.) hosted by USG.

Ideas for the design of the creative output

Zardini, M. (2005). Sense of the City: an alternate approach to urbanism. Montréal Lars Müller Publishers.

PhD proposal

The PhD proposal can be accessed here: PhD Proposal