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Németh discusses what makes a public space good for democracy

1/9/2014
Jeremy Németh

Jeremy Németh, chair and associate professor of Planning and Design and co-director, Master of Urban Design Program, presented a paper last month at the Scholars Program in Culture and Communication Symposium at the University of Pennsylvania's Annenberg School of Communication.

Each year, Penn's Annenberg School invites ten scholars from around the world to speak on a particular topic related to culture and communication. This year’s theme was "Context Collapse: Reassembling the Spatial."

Németh presented a paper written with Evan Carver (MURP 2013, now a first-year student in the University of Washington PhD program in Urban Design and Planning) called "Place Matters: Protest in Public Space." The central question is: what makes a public space good for democracy? The authors analyze the ten largest sites of political demonstrations in the U.S. since 2000 and find that several features are common across these spaces: nearly all are publicly owned, have very few access restrictions, are located in dense, walkable, transit-friendly districts,and are within view of a major house of government. Unexpectedly, surrounding neighborhoods were no more racially, ethnically or economically diverse than the rest of the city. The findings suggest several important patterns worth further exploration.

The paper will be published as a chapter of an edited volume in the Shaping Inquiry in Culture, Communication and Media Studies series by Routledge (2014).

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