Towards a Holistic Understanding of the Spatial and a-Spatial Social Life of Toronto’s Newly Developed Urban Public Spaces

Monday, 16 July 2018: 11:00
Oral Presentation
Olimpia BIDIAN, University of Toronto, Canada
The historical functions of urban public spaces are to create a physical link between buildings and land use, and to sustain the economic, administrative, and transportation functions of a city. They also link people, facilitating social interactions and communication, binding the social order of local communities, by creating a realm in which the greatest amount of human contact takes place (Gencel and Velibeyoglu 2006; Tibbalds 1992). They are an important component of the social communication system that brings people together to discuss important aspects of their lives and form relationships (Hampton, Goulet, and Albanesius 2015).

However, with the emergence of internet technologies, the lines between the physical and digital worlds are constantly being crossed, the traditional qualities of public spaces are being redefined, and the very ways in which we make sense of the surrounding world, and attach value to our environment, is modified (Jackson 2012). As such, understanding of the social life of urban public spaces needs to take into account not only the spatial, but also the a-spatial processes brought about by internet technologies.

The purpose of this project is to examine this synergetic relation between urban public spaces, social interactions, and internet technologies, to ascertain the ways in which internet technologies help redefine the traditional qualities of urban public spaces and transform the ways in which people experience them. Ethnographic methods are being used along video-recordings and content analysis of images posted on Google and other social media sites.