The Uses and Meanings of Public Space: Belonging, Identity and Safety



Public space looms large in the lives of many young people. Teenagers, perhaps more than any other social group, make routine use of a whole host of local public locations; and they are certainly one of the few groups whose use of public space is not merely fleeting, instrumental and organised around consumption. Yet young people’s routine use of such space is not altogether a product of meaningful choice. Rather, it is one consequence of an age-based exclusion from both autonomous private spaces and cultural resources of various kinds; an exclusion often articulated by young people themselves in terms of a lack of any choice — of having nowhere to go, nothing to do, no money to spend:

IL: Why do young people spend so much time hanging around on the streets?

A: There’s nothing else to do in Niddrie, except go round somebody else’s house. (21-year-old female, Niddrie)

IL: Why did you spend so much time on the streets?

A: Nowhere else to go. No money to go anywhere. (18-year-old female, Craigmillar)


Young People Public Space Public Place Practical Knowledge Youth Grouping 
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Copyright information

© Ian Loader 1996

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of CriminologyKeele UniversityStaffordshireUK

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