Week 26: 8th-12th August 2016

Kingwell, Mark (2008) The prison of “Public Space”

public space can attach or defend architecture

public space can decry or celebrate civic squares

public space can promote or denounce graffiti artists, skateboarders, jaywalkers, parkour aficionados, pie-in-the face guerrillas, underground enthusiasts, flash mobs surveillance buster  and other grid resistant everyday anachists.

Unit of choice when it comes to predicting political futures, contemplating about citizenship, creativity and worrying about food security, water or environmental issues.

Text from an open letter to the mayor from the Public Space Committee in relation to surveillance cameras (p. 212)

“The proposed police cameras will be surveying public spaces throughout the city. We feel that it is reasonable to assume that law-abiding citizens should be free to walk the streets and enjoy the public spaces without being monitored by the police. The very act of continuous monitoring reduces the freedoms we all value within our public spaces. It puts into jeopardy our rights to privacy, and anonymity, on the streets of our city.”

Two questions were raised in the essay: Is public space actually a public good? And if so, what kind?

A public good is something when it comes to access which should  not be gated, so that the benefits are open to the anybody without compromising the opportunity to make use of them.

Kingwell highlights several forms of public goods:

“tangible” things (grazing land, fish in the sea, air we breath)
“intangible” things (education, cultural identity, political participation)

He describes them as unlimited by definition and consequently they become scarce as a result of use.

“Since happiness is not itself subject to political regulation, at least in liberal states, and because the public good of status lies beyond their ambit, governments tend to manipulate the competition instead, using regulation, taxation or reparation to express a common interest in the distribution of public goods.

Kingswell has difficulties finding a precise answer, but sees a way forward as public space can be something larger and looser. The right to  gather and discuss, to interact with and debate one’s fellow citizens. “Indeed the larger notion of public space brings it closer to the very idea of the public sphere, that the place where, in the minds of philosophers at least, citizens hammer out the common interest that underlie- and may be underwrite- their private differences and desires. (…) Public space enables a political conversation that favours the unforced force of the better argument, the basis of just social order.”p.214

Problem with vitural Public spaces such as facebook: “they are invariably defended by users as in the breach, private. Narcissistic, competitive and isolating, these systems leach interest and energy away from the real world even as, user by user, they work social interaction free of actual spaces.” p. 214

He called them un-public public space. The virutal space is owned by dominant rules of the game –> terms and conditions that are hinged to the norm of private interest- and destroy privacy at the same time.

His conclusion: “We imagine that we enter public space with our identities intact, jealous of interest and suspicious of challenge, looking for stimulus and response. But infact the reverse it true. We cannot enter the public because we have never left the public; it pervades everything, and our identities are never fixed or prefigured because they are themselves achievements of the public dimension in human life.” p.215

Urban experiences

de Certeau, Michel (1984) Spatial Practices, Walking in the city

With reference to  NYC “The ordinary practitioners of the city live “down below,” below the thresholds at which visibility begins. They walk- an elementary form of this experience of the city; they are walkers, Wandersmänner, whose bodies follow the thicks and thins of an urban “text” they write without being able to read it. These practitioners make use of spaces that cannot be seen; their knowledge of them is as blind as that of lovers in each other’s arms. The paths that correspond in this intertwining, unrecognized poems in which each body is an element signed by many others, elude legibility. It is as through the practice organizing a bustling city were characterized by their blindness. The networks of these moving, intersecting writings compose a manifold story that has neither author nor spectator, shaped out of fragments of trajectories and alterations of spaces: in relation to representations, it remains daily and indefinitely others.” p. 233

De Certeau understand the operational concept in relation to urban space as follows:

“The production of its own space (un escape propre): rational organization mus thus repress all the physical, mental and political pollution that would compromise it” p. 234

Interesting take on the definition of city: The city “provides a way of conceiving and constructing spaces on the basis of a finite number of stable, isolatable, and interconnected properties.” p.234

Walking is considered by him in relation to urban systems as “the speech act is to language or the statement uttered.” further he notes “Walking affirms, suspects, tries out, transgresses, respects, etc., the trajectories it “speaks.”

There is an element of unlimited diversity and therefore it cannot be reduced to their graphic trail. He suggests further that walking crates shadows and ambiguities within.

Also he makes a reference in the child context and links it to loci. “Every walk constantly leaps, or skips like a child, hopping on one foot. It practices the ellipsis of conjunctive loci.” p. 235

 Back to: The Urban condition by Gleeson

cities are places of co-evolution

in the modern and neo-liberal urbanism context one can conceive cities as restless social-ecological systems. p. 141

issues with modern urban growth: entropic scaling,  unrestricted spatiality (aspatiality) of global accumulation, high in energy consumption, high- speed economic metropolitain economies (mobility over access), hypercentrality, high density. p.141

his solution is: “if we approach cities as complex social-ecological systems we must embrace change and evolution. There is no single optimal state towards which we may strive.” p.141

its about co-existance as one of many species in a holistic eco-system.