[URBANTH-L]Reader's Response to Project for Public Spaces

Angela Jancius acjancius at ysu.edu
Sat Nov 20 15:17:40 EST 2004

[Editor's note: The Project for Public Spaces publication was forwarded to
URBANTH-L, and appeared from an initial glance to contain material of
interest to SUNTA.  Upon a closer reading, I concede that the issue was
rather "depthless," as Audrey writes below.  I will refrain from posting
future issues to the list.  In concession, I suppose one might note that
there is always some value in being reminded of what the other half
reads! -AJ]

----- Original Message -----
From: asteiner at mail.utexas.edu
To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2004 5:55 PM
Subject: Project for Public Spaces

The neoliberal trend to draw in revenue to cities or other spaces by making
them visitable has more down sides than benefits.  To "revitalize" a place
usually means to kick out people with limited financial resources then pay
big bucks to establish a center for consumers, particularly suburbanites, to
spend.  The problem is, the people who get the money are not the ones who
need it most, and our world slowly turns into an artificial construction.
Bella Dicks notes in her wonderful book, Culture on Display: The Production
of Contemporary Visitability. Berkshire, United Kingdom: Open University
Press. 2003 that places - particularly downtowns of cities and other
"public" places - are making themselves into tourist destinations to
participate in, as she states it, "the idea of the world as a mosaic of
distinctively colorful, performable identities, the pleasurable experience
of which is available for purchase" (xi).  She notes that the key to attract
visitors is a place's easily accessible cultural and historical identity.
An identity must be found or invented, but it must be a certain kind of
identity: enticing to spenders.  Artsy, laden with boutiques, clean and
safe, the re-born, re-configured city becomes a pseudo-place.  "The problem
with these instrumental uses of culture is that they often lead to a
depthless, place-less form of cultural representation" (79).  That is, where
they are physically located does not matter.

It makes me feel sick.

Audrey Steiner

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