The production of digital public spaces

Salinas, Lara and Coulton, Paul and Dunn, Nick (2016) The production of digital public spaces. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Digital media are noticeably changing the qualities of urban public spaces, which can no longer be considered a purely physical construct. Yet, the extent to which contemporary digital media can be used to promote other forms of spatial agency remains a critical issue. Whereas the impact of technology from a macro perspective offers a globalizing and homogenizing image, its role in the production of space at a local scale is less clear (Kirsch 1995). The aim of this study is to argue for digital public spaces as a concrete programme to support the articulation of a third notion of public space that emerges at the interface of physical–digital hybrid spaces (Stikker 2013). The project for digital public spaces is posed as one that pursues enabling citizens’ rights to participation and appropriation (Purcell 2002) of physical–digital hybrid spaces. It is argued that while physical and digital spaces do not stand in opposition, their operational models do not fit seamlessly either. Therefore, the research is particularly concerned with how to design for the conditions that allow a dialogical relation between physical and digital features of space, and enable citizens to actively participate in the production of physical–digital hybrid spaces, and for which a dialectical mode of analysis is required. Following a cumulative narrative, the study explores different characterizations of digital public spaces, which have been articulated through design-led action research projects conducted in collaboration with academia, creative industries, citizens and public authorities. The study accomplishes a novel application of the unitary theory of space proposed by the Marxist French philosopher and sociologist, Henri Lefebvre (1992), which is revisited to develop a novel framework to reveal the social production of physical–digital hybrid spaces. The framework is developed through practice, and extensively applied throughout the thesis illustrating three distinctive dominating perspectives of physical–digital hybrid spaces: substitution, co-evolution and recombination (Graham 1998). The framework has proved to be a flexible and insightful method of analysis that: enables approaching the social production of physical and digital spaces individually and in relation to one another; to understand how different spatial configurations allow for participation and appropriation; and in turn, to re-contextualize the right to the city (Lefebvre 1996) in digital public spaces.

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Thesis (PhD)
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09 Mar 2017 10:24
Last Modified:
22 Jul 2024 23:49