Transforming Urban Space part II
Democracy

Organizers

  • Gro Sandkjær Hanssen (NIBR, OsloMet)
  • Erling Dokk Holm (AHO)

Call for abstracts

This subpanel is part of the four-part session “Transforming Urban Space: Design, Democracy, Dwelling and Pandemic urbanism”. The four-part session argues that attending to the multiple social and ecologically crises the earth is currently facing requires different kinds of relationships between citizens and the spaces we design, construct and inhabit.

This concern is addressed in four subpanels: design, democracy, dwelling and last, but not least, the impact of covid-19 on how we plan and inhabit public space.

This subpanel focuses on the question of democracy.

Public space is the “where” of democracy and civic engagement; it gives citizens a place to participate in democracy by exchanging and expressing opinions, and by taking action through demonstrations and political gatherings.

Yet, the privatization of public space results in an increase in laws and regulations that prevents urban space to host protests and public gatherings. Furthermore, we live increasingly private lives – a tendency that is accentuated during the pandemic. As a result, we have moved our political engagement to social media.

While hashtags such as #blacklivesmatter help make injustices visible to publics who may not be aware or exposed to them, it is also argued that digital media has made citizens act less as members of a public and more as individual users participating in activism. In other words: social media has extended political engagement into the private sphere of individuals, with a focus on “I” rather than “we”.

Despite being a useful tool to organize collective action, social media platforms therefore also work at the expense of important group dynamics such as solidarity, commitment and responsibility towards fellow citizens. The question, then, is how can we reappropriate public space as a platform for democracy, as a place where we learn to take actions when things are unjust and to negotiate differences and disagreements?

We invite papers that span multiple perspectives on the transformation of public space in relation to questions of democracy and “publicness”, from papers advancing theory within the field, to papers focusing on practical perspectives and case-studies, as well as papers critically discussing and reflecting on theories and practices concerning the transformation of public space.

This is one of four sessions under the headline: Transforming Urban Space: Design, Democracy, Dwelling and Pandemic urbanism.

This four-part session argues that attending to the multiple social and ecologically crises the earth is currently facing requires different kinds of relationships between citizens and the spaces we design, construct and inhabit. Sustainability tends to be about things and products, focusing more on what goes into a building (e.g. materials used) than in monitoring the ongoing and processional relationships with the building’s environment, people, flora and fauna.

Urban design tends to be more about controlling than creating urban life. Perceived “disturbances” are “designed out” through regulations, objects and structures that risk deterring democratic expressions of dissent alongside other activities identified as anti-social behaviour. During the pandemic public spaces have been redesigned to accommodate physical distancing – the antithesis of collective public life.

Accompanying these tendencies is a risk that urban space conditions modes of dwelling that repress acknowledgement of and resist response to certain signs of social and ecological neglect or injustice, and with it our ability to care for each other and the environment.

This presents a key challenge in an age of social and ecological crisis: how can we adapt our ways of designing, regulating and inhabiting urban space so as to question and ultimately transform the power relations, neglects and injustices that are at the root of our socio-ecological predicament?

The session addresses this question from four perspectives/panels: design, democracy, dwelling and last, but not least, the impact of covid-19 on how we plan and inhabit public space.

Submit an abstract

We ask that abstracts limited to 200-300 words be sent directly to the organizers of the different sessions. Please see the session pages for details.

Please share this call with your colleagues or other interested parties. We hope to see you in Oslo come October!

On language

The conference primary language is Norwegian and Nordic languages, but many of our sessions will be conducted in English. All sessions welcome contributions in English, unless explicitly stated otherwise.