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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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9 Creative Narrative Appropriation



Creative Narrative Appropriation

The previous two chapters have demonstrated diffused intertextual production as a political form of participatory engagement that was used to tame and democratize unruly hidden geographies in the city of Detroit. The first of those chapters illustrated how the strategy emerged from the simultaneous presence of intertextuality (e.g., Ott & Walter, 2000) and interactivity (e.g., McMillan, 2002) within web communities like DetroitYES! Afterwards, the subsequent chapter demonstrated how this communicative strategy influenced some of the everyday life performances of community members within the unruly spaces of the physical environments of cities like Detroit. In the case of the DetroitYES! web community, some of the members rejected the meanings associated with the virtual tour and performed outside of, or against, the intertext. However, we determined that a significant portion of the community did in fact accept those meanings, and engaged in performances that corresponded with the intertext. The performance of standpoint within the intertext was a result of the members taking part in the diffused intertextual production employed by the web community for the purposes of exploration and dialogue about hidden geographies near and around them. This is important as discovery and construction of knowledge about a hidden geography shapes identity and performance therein (see Burgin, 1996; Dickinson, 1997).

While we were in the process of examining the construction and performance of standpoint, we were struck by the absence of discussion about race in members’ discussions about the web community and...

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