The notion of urban public space tends to connote a sense of localness and relative smallness in the popular imagination. Yet, the literature on public space has long explored how streets, plazas, parks, and the interior spaces of transit systems, public institutions etc. are shaped by globally-extensive flows of capital, how people use public spaces to practice rights they hold as members of much wider polities, or how they use public spaces as stages from which to make rights-claims. Thus, the literature has always considered public space to be ‘more than micro.’ Nonetheless, there are opportunities for still more work on what might be thought of as the globalness of public space. Public spaces are the focus of contemporary architects, developers, and planners’ efforts to find innovative ways to design, ‘activate’, ‘program’, and govern cities, for example, and these efforts are frequently conditioned by globally-extensive circuits of expertise through which models, ‘best practices,’ and consultants travel from city to city. This presentation will use the concept of policy mobilities (the idea that urban plans, policies, and designs are often produced as much through global relations as through local practice), the notion of referencescapes (visions of specific public spaces that refer to their pasts, potential futures, and to models from cities elsewhere), and the critical literature on expertise to explore the actors, practices, frames, networks, institutions, and struggles through which public space is being designed, planned, and governed in a global-relational context. The discussion will be illustrated largely by examples from Vancouver, Canada.
About the Speaker:
Prof. Eugene McCann is University Professor of Geography at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, Canada. An urban political geographer, he researches policy mobilities, urban policy-making, development, public space, and planning. He is co-editor, with Kevin Ward, of Mobile Urbanism (Minnesota, 2011) and of Cities & Social Change, with Ronan Paddison (Sage, 2014). He is co-author, with Andy Jonas and Mary Thomas, of Urban Geography: A Critical Introduction (Wiley, 2015). He is managing editor of EPC: Politics & Space, a journal of critical research on the relations between the political and the spatial.
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