Social Visibility

Mitchell, Howell, and Hutchinson talk about ways public space comes to be “owned” or occupied and the sociopolitical relations which play out in the ownership of public spaces- It seems in the writing of Howell and Mitchell, the ownership comes from a passive use according to demand, and in the case of the volleyball players or skateboarders, their need for a public space is being well fulfilled. Hutchinson, it would seem, talks about ownership coming to be in a different way- public spaces need not be static, but can perform in layers and are embedded in social order (i.e., who rides the public transit system and why). This points to the usefulness of public space in revealing the needs of certain groups- however, it would seem the critical difference is when this is seen as a disturbance, which is only in the case where “upscale” social orders wish to use the same space. In the case of the MBTA system, despite a preference to the business class (Hayden will argue men in particular), this strict preference is not seen as a problem because the system preferences the business people of the city, its most upscale user. The case of Love Park, its highest volume of users came from a lower social order, skateboarders and homeless, which was viewed as a social problem for addressing because a smaller volume of “upscale users wished to use the space. The question becomes whether the “problems” of public space are ever truly special problems, or if they are rather social? I would argue public space played the role of a canvas- these issues were only addressed on the political order because they became VISIBLE issues.