Tag Archives: democracy

Tuters, M. (2004). The locative commons: situating location-based media in urban public space. Paper presented at the Futuresonico4.

“The Locative Media Network seeks to marry the interests of the psychogeographer (whom we may frame as a ‘city hacker,’ after Social Fiction) with those of the online community networking enthusiast” (3).

The influence of Situationist International’s dérive, the psychogeographic walk, is unmistakable in location-based media. It shows us “the connection between the so-called internal (‘psychic’) and external (‘geography’) worlds. In practice, psychogeography brings the art installation and its public (although the distinction often begins to blur here) from the contained space of the gallery into the body of the city” (1).

Tuters explains, we’re living in the middle of a transformation of the notion of the “city.” Mobile technologies are proliferating and connecting virtual communities with reified urban space. Mobile telephony does manage somewhat to bridge the digital divide, but remember these systems are still tied to corporate interests, so a divide will likely persist given that rich technologies will always be costlier. If we do it right and establish public access through telecommunications infrastructure, “the 21st Century will be recognized for making available the digital domains to the public at large in the tradition of furthering our concept and implementation of democracy” (5).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Arts, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Jenkins, H. (2006). _Convergence Culture: Where Old and New Media Collide_. New York and London: New York University Press.

Henry Jenkins, PhD, Communications Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, is Provost Professor of Communication, Journalism, and Cinematic Arts, a joint professorship at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and the USC School of Cinematic Arts. Before this position, he was the Peter de Florez Professor of Humanities and Co-Director of the MIT Comparative Media Studies program. He sees four forms of participatory culture: affiliations, expressions, collaborative problem-solving, and circulations.

This book is about three concepts and their interrelations: media convergence, participatory culture, and collective intelligence. Jenkins’ goal: to share with the public convergence’s impact on the media and to show policymakers and industry executives consumer viewpoints. Jenkins does not “put forward popular culture or fan communities as a panacea for what ails American democracy” (250), but he does argue that convergence bespeaks a cultural shift as now consumers seek out what they want, making discrete connections among the scattered media. The implications aren’t just technological — interpersonal, social relationships change, as do the processes by which media are produced and consumed. Convergence is a process of change.

The HOPEFUL: Convergence is top-down and bottom-up. People are no longer passive media spectators but participate at three levels: production, selection, and distribution. Their participatory culture is a wholly new communication framework that harnesses collective intelligence (Lévy, 1997) and underscores their roles as empowered consumers. The Internet’s cultural economy provides a meeting ground for a diverse set of grassroots communities and a media archive for “amateur creators” (275). They have agency:

“Extension, synergy, and franchising are pushing media industries to embrace convergence” (19).

The PROBLEMATIC: For one, the digital divide is real. Jenkins admits that not everyone has access to the digital technologies (or the related skills) he’s describing, and recognizes the early adopters weren’t marginalized, but “disproportionately white, male, middle class, and college educated” (23). His concern with the digital divide is less about access and more about the “participation gap” (23), and “as soon as we being to talk about participation, the emphasis shifts [from technologies] to cultural protocols and practices” (ibid). For another, not all content is socially progressive. Jenkins notes that many political parodies on YouTube uphold traditional gender, race, and class hierarchies, and assume late capitalism-backed American hegemony is the only and best possible world order. “For better and for worse, this is what digital democracy looks like in the era of convergence culture” (293).

The NECESSARY: Media literacy programs are essential.

“We need to rethinking the goals of media education so that young people can come to think of themselves as cultural producers and to achieve this goal, we also need media education for adults” (270).

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Deutsche, R. (1998). The Question of ‘Public Space. American Photography Institute National Graduate Seminar, New York, The Photography Institute.

In this lecture, Deutsche asserts that questions about public space are questions about democracy, itself an “embattled concept” (2). The rhetoric around public space has led to profoundly undemocratic policies, including private space, “state coercion and censorship, surveillance, economic privatization, the repression of differences, and attacks on the rights of the most expendable members of society, on the rights of strangers and on the very idea of rights” (2).

She notes two steps by which public space is made authoritarian: (1) Call it a park and give it meaning dictated by its function, then (2) claim the namer has governing authority (see Friends of Jackson Park). She also insists we are too narrow in our conception of “public” and so avoids using the term “public art” altogether. We should be blurring the boundary between the two, not darkening the line. For example, just because a museum has gallery spaces does not make it socially isolated.

Deutsche is interested in public art because it constitutes an art located in a universally accessible location and because of the topic of public art is, on its own, a political site. However, in the absence of critical analysis and discourse, public art can be produced with and for elite interests.

“I fully support the deployment, or re-deployment, of visual objects to, as Acconci writes, ‘break’ spaces that have been ordained as public or ‘make’ public spaces in which the foundations of social unity and of power can be questioned” (10).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Cultural Economy, Minor Field, Public Space, Research Fields

Deutsche, R. (1992). Art and Public Space: Questions of Democracy. _Social Text_, 33:34-53.

Rosalyn Deutsche, PhD, Art History from CUNY, is an art historian and critic who teaches modern and contemporary art at Barnard College and Columbia University. She has written on interdisciplinary topics such as art and urbanism, art and the public sphere, and feminist theories of subjectivity in representation. She teaches courses in modern and contemporary art, feminist theory, and urban theory.

Starting with the story of Friends of Jackson Park, who sought to close out “their” (scare quotes intentional) neighborhood park at the night to the homeless, and thus dispossessing them of their “right to have rights” (Arendt), Deutsche avers that public space shows the cracks in a totalitarian system. It’s where “people declare rights and which, paradoxically, is constituted through the declaration” (51). As such, one cannot discuss art in the public realm without talking also about democracy. The need to do so is all the more pressing since public art often articulates the conservative, status quo objectives of the elite, imbuing major redevelopment projects with legitimacy by virtue of their art-ness.

However, if we infuse the notion of the public sphere into public art, we are no longer limited to thinking just about physical public spaces. We can instead think of public art as “a practice that constitutes a public by engaging people in a political debate” (39). Artists can recoup the public purpose of art by resituating “public” in their practice. They do this by: (1) returning to creating actual art, not the developer’s precious, pseudo public art for privately owned public spaces, and (2) exploring “public, rather than the private nature of meaning and subjectivity” (41) of the 70s and 80s.

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Kohn, M. (2004). Brave New Neighborhoods: The Privatization of Public Space. New York: Routledge.

Margaret Kohn, PhD in Political Science from Cornell University, is Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of Political Science. Her interests are the history of political thought, critical theory, colonialism, and urbanism. She is the author of Radical Space: Building the House of the People and Brave New Neighborhoods. Her new book Political Theories of Decolonization (with Keally McBride) was recently published by Oxford University Press.

Kohn discusses the impact of the proliferation of restrictions and privatization of public space in the United States. She says that while some say we need more civility (read, no homeless) in our public spaces, she advocates for diverse, heterogeneous actions, even civil unrest. Simply, the loss of public space is bad for democratic politics.

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

Crawford, M. (1995). Contesting the Public Realm: Struggles Over Public Space in Los Angeles. _Journal of Architectural Education_, 49(1): 4-9.

Margaret Crawford, PhD Urban Planning from UCLA, is Professor of Architecture at UC Berkeley’s College of Environmental Design. Her research focuses on the evolution, uses, and meanings of urban space. She is known for her work on Everyday Urbanism, a concept that promotes the quotidian as the basis for urban theory and design.

Following Fraser’s (1992) “Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy,” Crawford argues we’re not seeing an end to public space. Rather, our conceptions of public space and the agents who constitute them need to change. Here, the two populations most designed against are street vendors and the homeless. The splintering of democracy and attendant contests/tensions provides us with opportunities. Counterpublics comprise women, immigrants, workers, and they demand their rights outside the Habermasian public sphere. They blur the lines between private and public in their modes because they adopt unconventional practices, including acts of civil disobedience, in concert with the accepted legislative processes.

And following Holston’s (1996) “Spaces of Insurgent Citizenship,” these democratic uprisings take place in public arenas, whether Sorkin, Davis,  et al. choose to recognize it. Counterpublics affirm their is not one place that can adequately convey an inclusive, democratic space. This is because “public spaces are constantly changing, as users reorganize and reinterpret public space. Unlike normative spaces, which simply reproduce the existing ideology, these spaces, often sites of struggle, help to overturn it” (5). In the civil unrest of 1992 and in the time hence, marginalized groups have reclaimed the streets, sidewalks, and vacant spaces for their purposes, democratic, economic, and participatory. While no one calls them public space in full, their actions “reveal an alternate logic of public life” (6).

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DeFilippis, J. and Saegert, S. 2008. Communities Develop: The question is how? In: J. DeFilippis and S. Saegert, eds. _The Community Development Reader_. New York and London: Routledge, Ch. 1.

James DeFilippis is Associate Professor in the Edward J. Bloustein School of Planning and Public Policy, Rutgers. His PhD is from Rutgers is in Geography. Susan Saegert is Professor of Human and Organizational Development at Vanderbilt Peabody College. She was recently Professor of Environmental Psychology at the CUNY Graduate Center and received her PhD in Social Psychology from the University of Michigan. Their professed reason for compiling this reader is to provide a simultaneously critical and practice-oriented selection of readings for both scholars and practitioners alike; they see no point in discussing one and not the other. They frame their importance of communities around the discovery that community did not fade away in the transition from rural to urban capitalist environments (as the European social theorists predicted) but developed into being a vital component in the perpetuation of the overarching political economy and where new social reproduction occurs. “Community development occurs when the conditions of surviving and thriving in a place are not being supplied by capital” (5). The history and practice of community development represents the tension between the struggling communities and hopeful, democratic ones. Its goals: providing for children and adults in communities, creating equitable institutions that distribute goods/services justly, and promoting sound human interrelations that uphold and encourage social development and democratic practices.

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