Banerjee, T. & Loukaitou-Sideris, A. (2011). Suspicion, Surveillance, and Safety: A New Imperative for Public Space? In Planning for/with People: Looking Bank for the Future Conference.

Tridib Banerjee, PhD Urban Studies and Planning, MIT, is the James Irvine Chair in Urban and Regional Planning at the Sol Price School of Public Policy, USC. His research, teaching, and writing focus on the design and planning of the built environment and the related human and social consequences. He is particularly interested in the political economy of urban development, and the effects of globalization in the transformation of the urban form and urbanism from a comparative international perspective.

Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, PhD Urban and Regional Planning from USC, is Professor of Urban Planning, Associate Dean of the School of Public Affairs at UCLA. She focuses on the public environment of the city, its physical representation, aesthetics, social meaning and impact of the urban resident. Foundational to work is the “user focus” theme.

This piece, a chapter in the book following the Planning for/with People: Looking Back for the Future Conference proceedings, does three things: (1) establishes the roots of state surveillance in the birth of the bureaucratic nation state; (2) looks at communications technologies and their contribution to our panoptic lives; and (3) investigates modern urban planning’s spatial segregations.

They define public space not in terms of its dialectical relationship to private space, but in terms of liberal political philosophy, the presumed agora of Habermas’ (1962) public sphere, Arendt’s (1959) distinction between the private and public realms, and the cybercivitas of the blogosphere.

They use Weintraub’s (1995) four intellectual traditions of tension between the public and private as context for their investigations: (1) political theory, where political space is a constitutional categorical imperative; (2) liberal economic theory, the likening of the two spaces with the market and the state, and consequent intersectoral policies; (3) social theory, the belief that our need for civility, social life, and community (though Sennett [1974] argues modernity rejects social life); and (4) feminist theory, the assertion that all space is gendered and public space, definitively patriarchal.

Within public space, we can achieve democracy’s values, but at the risk of disorder and insecurity. Post 9/11, we live in Scott’s (1998) “prostrate civil society” (as cited on p. 8). The two biggest impacts on public space: (1) the emergence of the surveillance state (i.e., the early modern bureaucratic state, then the communications revolution of the latter half of 20th century, and then post-9/11 panic), and (2) the “enclosure and encroachment of the commons” (p. 9), which the emerging upper-middle class started two centuries ago and picked up speed post-WWII with suburbanization, privately controlled public spaces (e.g. malls), post-60s “defensible spaces” (Newman, 1972), gated communities, 90s CCTV, and all manner of post-9/11 clumsy apparatuses.

And so the implications for the future? They aren’t great. Likely will be a “graduate decline in the sense of community” (p. 19), a collective ceding of civil rights, and an attenuated public realm. So what shall we do? They submit Blitz’s (2004) suggestion that we should carry our 4th Amendment rights wherever we go, assert we should demand distributive justice, especially in enclosed commons, and following Jacobs (1961), design urban places such that they “emphasize and reinforce the bonds of public space to the rest of the urban structure” (p. 20).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Major Field, Public Space, Research Fields

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