I grew up overlooking Tooting Bec Common, which I regarded as my own free space to play. Common land is something that I vaguely remember to do with ‘commoners’ and being able to graze sheep. By extension, the term “commons” has come to be applied to other resources which a community has rights or access to. In later life, this memory evolved into a political sensibility to demonstrate in a public space, like causing bicycle congestion for ‘critical mass’. Berry et al. (2013), refer to the difference between ‘public’ and ‘the public’ as being distinct, separated by “a very particular political formation associated with liberal and bourgeois democracy” (Berry et al, 2013:5), discussing issues within the public sphere. Originally ‘the press’ and now other forms of media, represent this discussion removing the need for face to face contact. This space “is never finally fixed but only stabilised at certain historical moments.” (Berry et al, 2013:6)
Street Art is an example of negotiation with private property and civic engagement; vandalism or art. A fine example is Paolo Cirio’s ‘Street Ghost’, where life sized “pictures of people found on Google’s Street View are printed and …affixed to the walls of public buildings at the precise spot on the wall where they appear in Google’s Street View image” (http://mediacities.net/). A more sinister negotiation of public/private space is the use of sonic media to act as deterrent. The Mosquito is a high-pitched frequency, painful to those under-25, seen as anti-social users of public/private space. Mitchell Akiyama (2010), argues that this stratifies space, creating inhospitable zones and weaponising sound. It is based on a physiological phenomenon that separates young people from adults but ultimately criminalises youth indiscriminately. “we must not let mainstream culture define youth through exclusion; to do so is to deny young people agency.” (p.466)
Both examples illustrate the intersection of space, people and technology mutually constituted by socio-cultural practice and codified into an urban place of significance and meaning.
Akiyama, M., 2010. Silent Alarm : The Mosquito Youth Deterrent and the Politics of Fre- quency. Canadian Journal of Communication, 35, pp.455-471.
Berry, C., Harbord, J. & Moore, R.O., (2013). Public space, media space. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.
Cirio, Paolo (2013) Street Ghost. International Conference, Workshops and Exhibition May 3-5, 2013 – University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. <Available at: http://mediacities.net/site/exhibition-street-ghosts/> [Last Accessed: 04mar2014].