About: People | Mission & Goals

On a broad scale we hope to create a conversation between scholars, artists and activists interested in a variety of issues related to communication in public spaces.

Research, Teaching & Civic Engagement

As scholars, we hope to explore the numerous approaches and methods that have been applied to the study of public space. We aspire to contribute Communication, Information Science, and other interdisciplinary perspectives to the conversation about space that is taking place in disciplines such as Geography, History, Architecture, Anthropology, Urban Planning, and Law among others.

Our goal is to develop rigorous and systematic methodologies for the study of space as a medium of communication by drawing on cross-disciplinary approaches:

As a result, we intend to produce original, cross-disciplinary, scholarly analyses of these various texts. We give students opportunities to participate in collaborative, experiential learning and to engage in public scholarship within their community. Finally, we wish to share our work with the public and to collaborate with civic leaders on projects that can benefit the greater community.

Methods

We begin our study by collecting artifacts --images, physical objects, texts, sounds, video-- in the city and creating an Urban Archives. In collaboration with the University of Washington Libraries, we are developing a catalogued and fully searchable database of media and artifacts. These will become part of the permanent library collection, available to all scholars and citizens for further use, research and analysis.

Our mission is to grow this body of knowledge of public space through an archaeology of the city. Our data collection will continue as the project grows, branching out in modular fashion depending on the specific aspects that we are studying. We will collect primary, material artifacts in urban spaces as well as record historical information such as oral and written histories.

Why Study Public Spaces?

Scholars from a number of disciplines have recognized that public spaces are an important medium for social formation and interaction. In a modern and increasingly global society, knowledge formation in public spaces presents constantly shifting meanings and functions. Jakle states that the human-made "landscape is a mirror"; it reflects our values, our identity, and our future.

We believe that studying the organization and use of space is an important component to understanding the way a society is constructed. Space is not just a physical arrangement of things, but as Lefebvre suggests, changes in space (lived, perceived and conceived) can provide clues to our experience of our bodies, our world and human relations.

These global topics, applied on a local scale will help us create a toolkit for further studies of public spaces. Some issues of interest: