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Exploring the Cultural Meaning of Public Spaces: A Study of a Specific Location

The History and Production of the Space

One of the purposes of examining culturefrom a geographic perspective is to understand that the places we inhabit everyday are embedded with particular cultural meanings. These cultural meanings help shape the use of that space, but they also help shape who has authority over those spaces. Inthis assignment, you need to choose a specific location(one that you can visit while writing your essay)and illustrate the cultural meanings that influence the power relationships that occur in that space.This space should be a public space that has been, in some ways, planned –like a shopping mall, a community centre, a public park, etc. In your answer you will be required to consider (a) the history and production of the space, (b) the public image and perception of that space, and (c) relationship to academic writing on cultural geographyand/or inequality. (a)Cultural geographyassertsthat physical space is produced both as an object that we can touch and interact with andas a place that holds meaning for our social lives. Thus, it is possible, with a bit of careful thought,to writea history of a place as it has been physicallyconstructedand conceptuallyconstructed. In this section of your paper, you will provide a detailed history of the placethat you have chosenasyour focus. In that history you will consider both how it was physically produced and how it was given meaning. When was it constructed? What alterations or renovations have happened since then? What purpose was it supposed to serve? Have these purposes changed over time? How has the space been officially presented to the public? The goal of thissection is to provide asocial history to your place. (b)How we understand places depends upon theirhistorical use, but also upon how thosespacesarerepresented in the public sphere. In this section, you will provide an analysis of how your space has been represented in different media (newspapers, advertisements, and webpages). This will provide an understanding of what meanings are being given to that space, and what official activities are being sanctioned for that space within the public sphere. You will also provide a sense of what competing representations of space are in existence and illustrate what is at stake in their different views of the space. (c)In the final section, you will illustrate the connection this space has to academic work in cultural geography and/orthe study of inequality.How can this space help us understand cultural geographyor particular forms of inequality? In what ways does the academic literature help us understand this particular space? Using these three areas of research and analysis, your paper will conclude by providing an understanding of how this place exists as a site of cultural and economic contestation and conflict.You are free to use your own experiences of the space in your analysis, and you are free to use the first person in your write-up. This is, however, a major research paper, so you will need to consult with both historical and analytic sources to complete your paper

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