Theses Master's

Protest & Public Space: Challenging Notions of Sociospatial Distance in New York City

Cook, Rebecca

Cities have experienced a resurgence in social movements and public space protests in recent years. Contemporary literature in the fields of sociology and communication provides extensive exploration of the use of online public spaces, often in the form of social media engagement, in support of civic action and social movements. While it has been acknowledged that the fields of architecture and urban design play a fundamental role in the “cultural shaping of spatial forms” that support the offline efforts of these movements, a gap in understanding between the relationship of online and offline public spaces exists (Castells, 2012). Aimed towards that disconnect, this research explores the nature of social movement in public space today - focusing on the use of Manhattan’s Foley Square by three distinct social movements in January 2020. This thesis, then, proposes an experimental methodology for exploring this gap in literature. Findings suggest there are palpable relationships between a movement’s online social network and its choreography of tangible civic action in the form of public space protest. Discrete patterns exist across movements in the way themes of space, narrative, participating actors and place are constructed. As such, this study provides planners and designers insight on the power and potential of the built environment to act as an integral communicative device towards civic action and social progress in contemporary urban environments.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Vanky, Anthony
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 11, 2020