In 1500-2000 words, write an essay about both the social production and social construction of a single public space.
First, choose a specific public space – park, plaza, community centre, shopping mall, etc. – that interests you and that you will be able to visit in person at least three times during the semester. It should be a place that has been deliberately planned by human beings, has been publicly documented and discussed, and therefore will have a recorded history that you can access.
Second, research and write about four aspects of the space: 1) The historical production of the place, 2) Media representations of the place, 3) Current use of the place, and 4) Subjective experiences of the place. For all four, pay special attention to the way that power and conflict operate through the social production and social construction of the place, what social conflicts, social inequalities, and social processes contributed to the way the place has been planned, represented by media, used, and experienced?
You will use a variety of evidence to complete this assignment.
For the first aspect of your research consult archived planning documents and newspaper articles about the original plans and intentions for the place.
For the second aspect, consult local media archives (newspapers, TV stations, online news outlets) to find news articles about the place from its initial creation to the present day.
For the third aspect, visit the actual location at least three times, once during a weekday, once on the weekend, and once in the evening to gain an in-depth sense of how the place is currently used. Take extensive notes. Try to visit at a time when the place will be busiest, in order to get the best sense of the full variety of people who use the place and the full variety of purposes it serves.
Fourth, record both your own subjective thoughts, feelings, and opinions about the place and those of one other person you can interview – either a stranger who is using the space during your visit, or someone you know personally who uses the place. Record the interview on your phone or take extensive notes.
Lastly, begin your essay by briefly stating the name, location, and basic layout of the place you will be writing about. Drawing on all four modes of research, conclude your essay by reflecting on how the place functions as a site of cultural and economic contestation and conflict. Be creative in your analysis and strive to synthesize your research into a compelling argument about the significance of the place.
Alternatively, you may approach this assignment through a creative and arts-based method. This means that you analysis does not have to be in an essay format; it can be expressed and represented in any format and through any medium (e.g., your own self-authored analytic poem, free verse, visual art, collage, recorded dance, spoken word, play, etc; it is up to you how to express your new knowledge/understanding and how to represent your research).
The student begins the essay by briefly stating the name, location, and basic layout of the place (5% of final grade)
The student clearly and convincingly discusses the historical production of the place by citing planning and media documents (15% of final grade)
The student clearly and convincingly discusses the media representation of the place by citing media documents (15% of final grade)
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