Social Interaction And Use Of Public Spaces Cultural Studies Essay

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The number of people visiting any public space usually depends on the environment of that space. Depending on this environment the space acquires a certain reputation (fair or unfair). Here environment means people generally like visiting spaces that are lively, interesting, motivating, and comfortable and have some kinds of activities going on. Interaction is also considered a kind of activity. All these aspects contribute to the reputation a space acquires and also help to rise above the physical barriers which some users experience.

They carried out a research in a town called Aylesbury which has a population of 69,000. They choose Aylesbury, because it a growing town and faces challenges in develoing the public areas. This research answered all the following questions: How do people of different ages, gender, culture and status really interact within public spaces? Do different types of space encourage a variety of interactions? How do the seasons, day of the week and time of day affect their use?

Generally different people of different age, gender, cultures, backgrounds , ethnicities and class used the market squares and plazas at various times and were often seem at some time. There were all kinds of visitors, mostly residents but you could make out the difference distinctly. Like, old people and young children mostly under 18's were not seen at the public squares after 6 or you can say after dark. This was mainly due to security issues and also due to the dominance of night clubs and bars around them.

People use town centres almost all times of the year as they provide protection from weather. Town centres are used for shopping, leisure and also meeting people. They are also used in day times to pass through from one area to another. School children linger around after school, elders mostly during day times to shop for groceries etc. Mainly you see a lot of youngsters at these town centres, but they are usually asked to leave as they come in large groups.

Green open spaces/ municipal parks

The people visiting these spaces depend upon the weather conditions, season and time of the day. These open green spaces and municipal park are mostly used by people who don't want to spend money and who just want to talk. Some people also use it for some intimidating activities. Town centres are always secured places and watched by, on the other hand green spaces are not very often regulated. People who are usually bared from town centres usually, young people in large groups are found using green spaces or municipal parks. Also you see a lot of jobless people, drinkers, and homeless people at these spaces.

Use of public spaces by different age groups

You usually saw people in 20s and 30s during nights at the town centres, especially were there was a larger ratio of pubs and night clubs. On the other hand you would find older people at the town centre usually during the day times. One reason being they found it safe during the day times, at night crime scenes are high. Second reason is due to the inadequate transport and commuting facilities during the night time. Due to their age they don't find the night activities interesting. Middle aged people or you can say offices going ones were usually seen at these places during lunch hours, early mornings for commuting and also at late evening hours. They were usually seen munching some snacks or sipping coffee with teir colleagues.

Young children were usually accompanied by their parents or elders. Teenaged children and young people were usually seen hanging out in these public spaces after school hours and generally during holidays. They were mostly seen in large groups , and were the source of bad behaviour. These children indulged in activities like skate boarding, roller skating at paved areas. They considered these activities socially encouraging, interesting and a way to express themselves freely and also a way to develop their skills socially. Generally the owners or guards objected such kinds of activities, like skate boarding, but then this objection was thought as unfair and discriminatory by the younger people. There is a little interaction between young and old, but still there a lot more potential to improve this interaction.

Managing and regulating public spaces.

Reputation of a public space and its environment and identity were a matter of concern for those who managed and regulated these spaces. The reputation of these public spaces is based on the events which the media represent and also the physical characteristics of these public spaces. Some older- neighbourhoods which were considered unsafe and were of the reputation as bad and crime filled sites. These spaces were under frequent watch by local authorities. They were managed and regulated frequently, also local community officers were appointed to keep a watch at these spaces, especially at nights and at areas where there were night clubs and bars. They were watched in order to keep drinking under control and help control other crimes caused by drinking and late night boozing. Parks were regulated during the day times; also signs were put in order to prohibit the users from certain activities, specially smoking and drinking. In order to create more reputed spaces, the town aimed at creating piazza - style squares. These spaces would make the area safer, reputed and improve its identity.

But, some steps undertaken to regulate the space were not very effective. For example, the sign boards put up at the parks like, prohibitions on drinking, smoking, cycling and even skate boarding are usually neglected by the people who visit these spaces regularly. The study also gave importance to self - regulation in order to get some order at these spaces. Apart from this there was also seen competition for space, some conflict between individuals and large group members.

An observation was made that people generally sit in isolation at the parks or away from those they didn't know and sat at places which were less crowded. As long these spaces are complete and allow people to sit in isolation or with other people, it still helps in community development. This study also focuses on the need to regulate and mange the spaces and also on the general principal of 'live and let live'. To manage these spaces properly there needs to be proper negotiation between people. For this to happen it is necessary for people to be educated, informative and be involved. It is also observed that there should a gradation in regulation and people should participate actively in this regulation and management process.

Developing, designing and regenerating public spaces.

Reputation of any public space depends a lot on its physical appearance and environment. It specially depends on the services and provisions it has, for example, seating, toilets, good lighting, efficient car parking and clear signage. The lack of these in any of the public spaces affects small children, old people and also the disable people.

Hence the studies suggested the following elements were to considered while designing.

Design should include people of all age groups and class. For example it should include young children, infants, older people, disables and also youngsters.

Design that includes people in its management and consultation.

Design which has a wide range of security systems and make people feel safer.

Public spaces as democratic places.

After the study an observation was made that many people from different age groups and ethnicity were present at the public spaces but they did not interfere with each other or rather did not paid attention to each other. Yet, they all were involved in common activities like chatting, eating, sitting, watching people pass by, waiting and some reading. These spaces gave a chance to people to see each other and get introduced to other individuals. It gave an opportunity to different individuals to share a same space at the same time. In order to solve a particular issue, moving people from that space or an activity was not a solution. It affected people who made an effort to involve in such places. Such movement is observed and noticed by all young children in particular and affects them.

Some people like their spaces to be secured and disciplined while some liked them to be unsecured; they liked the risk element in it. They enjoyed surprises as it left them with a lot of excitement. It is observed that the contestation of spaces, excitement, risk factor and unsecured are important elements in making public spaces. By involving people in the making of their public spaces makes them think as that public space as theirs and they get more involved in it. They also make sure these places secure, clean, disciplined and green. This sense of ownership is important to understand the interactions within the public domain and crucial to maintaining a democratic urban area.

Conclusion

many people were discouraged by the removal of people and activities from some spaces. These cleaned - up spaces encouraged other kinds of activities. Every resident from the town, local communities and architects have a vision about how they want to see their public spaces. It's important to have some unexpected elements and unplanned activities at public spaces where they visitors expect least from it. It only develops more interest and excitement in people. It's always people which make any public space, than the authorities and architects. It's also seen than regulated and over - secure atmospheres at any public space make people feel good but are not always suitable for social integration and urban vibrancy. Any town or city needs spaces where people from all age groups, genders, ethnicity, culture and appearance are secure but are also free to express themselves and enjoy their time.

During the study it was observed that these spaces provided places for the ordinary, the expected and the banal. This important function should not be overlooked in the rush to create innovative and dynamic - looking spaces. Small improvements can make any public space better, and can bring in a lot of visitors. This can be done just by breaking monotony and adding some surprise element. For example, seating, lighting were usual elements, but i these seating were made interesting, if the lighting was different it would add to the space. If these everyday spaces were gifted with some musicians and artists it would bring an all together new life to these spaces.

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