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Alternative Spaces/Transformative Places

Democratizing Unruliness in an Age of Austerity


Joshua D. Atkinson and Clayton Rosati

Alternative Spaces/Transformative Places addresses the rise of unruly spaces in society, as well as communicative strategies that citizens and activists may use to democratize them. With the widespread use of austerity measures by governments and cities, unruly spaces are an increasing fixture in our modern world. Cities such as Flint and Detroit in Michigan, Berlin in Germany, and even regions of rural America, have all been damaged by the neoliberal policies that have left cityscapes and physical environments altered and unrecognizable. We now understand that unruliness has become a constant in contemporary globalized society.

As such austerity has degraded infrastructure, depleted local economies, and poisoned neighborhoods, we feel citizens must be empowered to reclaim such unruly spaces themselves. The book explores different strategies for the democratization of such spaces in urban environments, and the potential and problems of each. Such strategies can create alternative perceptions and alter pathways through those spaces—even connect communities hidden from one another.

Students and scholars of urban communication and community activism, as well as human geography, will find the concepts and strategies explored in this book useful. The discussions related to austerity measures provide context for many contemporary neighborhoods and communities that have come to be neglected, while the chapters concerning unruly spaces provide explanations for the difficulty with such neglected or degraded environments. Finally, the illustration of different communicative strategies for the democratization of unruly spaces will demonstrate the possibilities for empowerment within communities that face such problems.

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1 Unruly Spaces, Cityscape & Communicative Cities



Unruly Spaces, Cityscape & Communicative Cities

Imagine entering a building in which the interior is constructed in such a way so as to appear “upside down.” There are actually several examples of such sites at fairs, carnivals, and amusement parks. The floor is the ceiling, and the ceiling is the floor. Chairs and tables are high above your head, while you avoid tripping over light fixtures and chandeliers standing at your feet. In these instances, the differences between that space and a “normal” room create a sense of fun or entertainment as you pass through and interact with the environment. You understand the first site as outside of the ordinary, and marvel at the change in perspective offered by the distinctive organization of the physical environment. As you leave the upside-down environment of the building, you re-enter a rather ordinary world in which objects and people are where they are supposed to be. Up is once more above your head, and down is under your feet. Nothing seems to be out of the ordinary here, and so you move through the environment taking little note of the things around you; the physical environment is once again taken for granted. Nevertheless, both spaces are very much active sites that shape knowledge and identity (e.g., Dickinson, 1997; Ott, Aoki, & Dickinson, 2011).

Now imagine walking through a commercial district of a large city. All around you are shops with colorful signs in their windows and...

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