The Written Park: Reading Multiple Urban Park Subjectivities Through Signage, Writing, and Graffiti
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Space and Culture
Urban parkland is a quintessential form of public space. Various actors—from government managers, to civic groups, to individual visitors—actively negotiate and co-create the governance, use, and meaning of parks. One form of negotiation occurs through signage and writing. Here, we focus on 42 parks in New York City and the multiple narratives within them. Through coding the messages, material qualities, and meanings in 784 signs, qualitative analysis of graffiti in parks, triangulated with ethnographic field notes, we identify and discuss what sort of urban park subjectivities are being constructed. These include not only an "ideal park subject," but also alternative subjectivities such as the neighbor or steward, the graffiti writer, and "free agents" who use wilderness as refuge. We seek to inform new ways of thinking about parks as social–ecological resources that are co-created by users and managers as places that allow multiple subjectivities to be expressed.
Keywordsurban parks; public space; signage; environmental subjectivity; governmentality
Campbell, Lindsay K.; McMillen, Heather; Svendsen, Erika S. 2019. The Written Park: Reading Multiple Urban Park Subjectivities Through Signage, Writing, and Graffiti. Space and Culture. 24(2): 276-294. https://doi.org/10.1177/1206331218820789.