Sunday, September 14, 2008

3.0 - public space and why we need it

Some causes will certainly be more serious than others, and some more long-term. I have two this week. One is fun and playful with potential urban repercussions, the other is a cause that partially defines us as a society. Both are about capitalizing on 'publicness', which is defined by urban scholars as not just the right but the necessity for diversity and the forum within which that diversity can come together in all its glorious messiness; the idea of that forum is our public sphere and the physical manifestation is our public space. Our expression of equity and democracy is ideally grounded there. In the last thirty years, the over-sanitization, privatization, and militarization of those physical spaces has made them more and more exclusionary rather than more and more diverse. Who can do what, what they can do, and where they can do it has become more and more restricted. Typically these are 'public' places like malls and corporate squares, but more and more this also includes sidewalks and parks that exclude marginalized populations through restrictive laws or the use of so-called 'protest zones' which actually deny the constitutional right to assemble and speak when and where it is most effective. The first cause encourages us to look at all of our public spaces - particularly the sidewalk and road - and consider how it is we each use our own 69.25 feet. The second is to remind us how important the public sphere is through making our voice heard in the democratic process.

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