The Chapters in this section of the book fall into three broad categories. Firstly, are those concerned with the generation of novel empirical data on the emerging socio-spatial practices resulting from the increased uptake of ICTs within urban public spaces. Secondly, are papers that focus on the need for methodological development to be able to capture the new socio-spatial practices in the digital era. Finally, there are two papers that focus on the contributions of ICTs and new technologies to urban professionals.
The first chapter 2.2 by Marluci Menezes, Paschalis Arvanitidis, Therese Kenna and Petja Ivanova-Radovanova is entitled ‘People-space-technology: an ethnographic approach’. This chapter is concerned with ethnographic research methodologies in the digital era. In particular, this chapter questions the utility of current ethnographic approaches and develops a new framework to guide researchers undertaking research relating to peoples use of technology in urban space. The authors argue that in the digital era, ethnographic research is required to capture, explore and understand the cyber-social phenomena and dynamics in a multifaceted, hybrid, triangulated and cross-referenced way, which makes the research more complex and perhaps more stimulating. By providing an integrated framework for the analysis of the relationships between people, space and technology, the authors of this Chapter argue that the ethnographic approach is enriched, as is our knowledge of socio-spatial practices in urban public spaces.
Following this, in chapter 2.3 Paschalis Arvanitidis, Therese Kenna, and Gabriela Maksymiuk explore university students use of ICTs in university public spaces, entitled “Public space engagement and ICT usage by university students: an exploratory study in three countries”. The research in these locations examined how university students perceive and use the public spaces on their university campuses, and how they now use personal technologies, such as smart phones, within these spaces. Importantly, the research in this Chapter is based on data that was collected from an online questionnaire, and thus new digital methods were used in this study. The research is conducted in three geographic locations: University College Cork in Cork (Ireland), the University of Thessaly in Volos (Greece), and the Warsaw University of Life Sciences in Warsaw (Poland), which has allowed for novel insights into the differences and similarities that arise in these differing contexts.
The work presented by Marluci Menezes, Paschalis Arvanitidis, Carlos Smaniotto Costa and Zvi Weinstein entitled ‘Teenagers’ perception of public spaces and their ICTs practices’ (chapter 2.4) focusses on a cohort of the population who are deemed to be tech-savvy and thus heavily intertwined in the debates about the new socio-spatial practices in urban public spaces in the digital era. In this chapter, the authors shed light on the perceptions and practices of adolescents, as obtained via structured interviews with teenagers living in Hannover (Germany), Lisbon (Portugal), Tel Aviv (Israel) and Volos (Greece). The study is small-scale and offers some preliminary results that are argued to be indicative of possible wider trends and attitudes. In particular, the authors articulate how young people from distinct sociocultural contexts perceive and use both public spaces and digital technologies, and thus they identify teenagers emerging socio-spatial practices.
The chapter 2.5 by Montserrat Pallares-Barbera, Elena Masala, Jugoslav Jokovic, Aleksandra Djukic and Xavier Albacete is entitled “Challenging methods and results obtained from user-generated content in Barcelona’s urban open spaces”. This chapter examines user-generated content from Twitter users in Barcelona, Spain. The research examined the spatial signatures that result from the twitter uses in different public open spaces in Barcelona. It is argued that the analysis of the data offers insights into new social behaviours that are emerging in public spaces and of a range of multifunctional uses within the public spaces. The authors argue that user-generated content (UGC) provides useful resources for academics, technicians and policymakers to obtain and analyse results in order to improve lives of individuals in urban settings. They argue, similar to the emerging debates in the literature noted in the introduction, that there are new methodologies and new data sources, such as Twitter, that can offer new insights into socio-spatial practices in urban public spaces and thus these new insights can better inform urban planning practice.
The final chapter 2.6 in Part II by Antoine Zammit, Therese Kenna and Gabriela Maksymiuk, entitled “Social implications of new mediated spaces: the need for a rethought design approach”, examines the ways in which ICTs can be utilised as tools for enhancing urban planning and design process for more inclusionary urban public spaces. In this Chapter, case studies are presented from three European urban contexts – the UK, Poland and Malta – where research has been conducted into the use of participatory digital mapping for citizen participation in urban planning and design. Here, ICT tools such as PGIS, or SoftGIS, are discussed for their abilities to engage a wider range of social groups in planning and design processes than might be obtained through more traditional methods of participation, such as written submissions or face-to-face meetings. Ultimately, new technologies have allowed for an expansion of the tools and methods available for participation in urban planning and design processes, thus allowing urban professionals to have access to a greater range of socio-spatial practices and behaviours. This will essentially allow for the design of more inclusive urban public spaces, designed with a diverse range of social groups and users in mind.
Each of the chapters in Part II offer new contributions to knowledge relating to the use of digital technologies in urban public spaces, the methodologies for understanding the new relationships and practices, and the applications of new technologies in the design of urban public spaces. Chapters 2.2 and 2.5 present strong arguments for the need for new research methods to analyse the people-space-technology triad. Chapters 2.3, 2.5 and 2.6 offer examples of the ways in which digital methods can be used to analyse new socio-spatial practices and attitudes in urban public spaces. Beyond the methodological contributions, the work in Chapters 2.3, 2.4 and 2.5 all offer new insights into the lived experiences of new technologies in urban public spaces, albeit through small-scale pilot studies and preliminary analyses. Importantly, the work in Chapters 2.3 and 2.4 has strongly argued for the need to develop research that spans different social and cultural contexts, as this enables us to reveal the differences and similarities that can occur in the uses, perceptions and relationships between technology, people and urban space. Further, the work in chapters 2.5 and 2.6 highlight the ways that new technologies can be harnessed for urban design and planning, by using tools such as Twitter and PGIS to understanding a wider range of socio-spatial practices than traditional methods might allow, and ultimately allow for a more inclusive planning and design process and outcome. In all, the chapters in Part II contribute to emerging debates in the literature.