On the Ownership of Public Spaces

Last week, I wrote about participation in public spaces, about how it affects trust and the relationship between the people and the state. Within that post, I shared a lot of content that we had created in the past, and mined our blog archive for relevant articles on ‘the public’, the idea of social capital, and how the ways in which we interact with and within public spaces can be telling of our society’s mode of being. Outside of our own archive, there are some excellent articles on the question of ownership of space, especially in the context of protest, which are extremely relevant given the upcoming Pecha Kucha Night this week.

Image credit: www.theatlantic.com

Violent Protests in India over Rape Case
This is a collection of some of the most powerful images of the Delhi Protests in December, with a powerful portrayal of both the citizens occupying public spaces, and the state’s reaction to that occupation. As the Atlantic writes, “Protesters have taken to the streets to demonstrate against the growing incidence of rape, and its slow and ineffective prosecution. Riot police have responded, dispersing crowds with forceful tactics including water cannons, batons, and tear gas. India’s government has now ordered a special inquiry into the incident to identify any negligence or errors on the part of police.”

“Delhi is the city of warning signs. Do not park here or your tyres will be deflated. This space for residents only. Some signs are unspoken but understood: do not attempt to come out into (male) streets, or you will be raped. One sign is always understood, in this city of power and gated communities: all “public spaces” exist at the pleasure of the state, and the state may withdraw your rights to “your” space at any time it chooses.”

Metrocity Journal: Public Vs. Private Space
“The metro being the “system” it is – a concrete edifice with bounded, shuttered exits and entrances – can be more fully closed and sealed off than a city street. The day the stations were closed, the flow of people stopped as if a faucet had been turned off. To what extent, then, may we think of the metro as a public space? What kind of space is it? Is it akin to a street or a bazaar? Or, with its boundedness, CCTV camera coverage, and baggage screening machines, is it a wholly different kind of space?”

The Occupy London result raises the thorny issue of property v protest
“The Occupy movement, the Arab spring and the economic protests from Spain to Israel are a powerful reminder of the symbolic importance of public space for political protest. While each of these movements was catalysed by social media, their force derived from the mass gatherings in Zuccotti Park, Tahrir Square and other public spaces.”

The Social Value of Public Spaces
“Public spaces offer many benefits: the ‘feel-good’ buzz from being part of a busy street scene; the therapeutic benefits of quiet time spent on a park bench; places where people can display their culture and identities and learn awareness of diversity and difference; opportunities for children and young people to meet, play or simply ‘hang out’. All have important benefits and help to create local attachments, which are at the heart of a sense of community.”

About Ayesha Vemuri

Ayesha Vemuri is responsible for thought leadership and outreach efforts at CKS. She has undergraduate degree in Visual Art from Reed College in Portland, Oregon, where she also studied such varied subjects as biology, literature and the humanities. At CKS, she is responsible for curating the Design Public blog, managing our various social media platforms, organizing Pecha Kucha Nights and contributing to the intellectual content of the Design Public Conclave and other CKS initiatives. Find her on twitter at @ayeshavemuri.
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