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Animating Public Space: Forms, Functions, and Meanings

Authors: Troy D. Glover*, University of Waterloo, Kelley A. McClinchey, University of Waterloo, Eva Dodsworth, University of Waterloo, Markus Wieland, University of Waterloo
Topics: Urban Geography, Planning Geography, Cultural Geography
Keywords: placemaking, DIY urbanism, pop-up urbanism, tactical urbanism
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This study examines the breadth and scope of initiatives used to animate public spaces with the intent to expand understanding of them, provide greater conceptual clarity, and refine existing definitions. Moreover, the study aims to understand in what ways the animation of public space—its process(es) and implementation—influence place meanings and encourage (new) spatial practices. Animating public space refers to “the deliberate, usually temporary, employment of festivals, events, programmed activities, or pop-up leisure to transform, enliven, and/or alter public spaces and stage urban life” (Glover, 2015, p. 96). Despite their proliferation globally, the various forms of animating public space remain surprisingly under-examined in the literature, thereby underscoring the need to examine their forms, functions, and meanings. Through the use of ArcGIS Online, a geographic information system used for creating maps, compiling data, and sharing geographic information, study participants in Waterloo Region (Ontario, Canada) posted location-based data of animation practices by annotating specific online reference points with photographs, textual descriptions, and insights about their place meanings associated with the site. The collection of volunteered geographic information (i.e., user-generated data) through web-mapping (i.e., crowdsourcing) enabled project leaders to survey the breadth of local animation initiatives and develop a typology for animating public space. This presentation will report on the typology that emerged and offer insights into the various initiatives that were mapped. In so doing, this study endeavors to expand awareness and understanding of these innovative uses of public spaces as strategies to improve the quality of urban life.

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