Public Market

The Sterilization of Public Space

There is a growing concern that our online browsing habits are increasingly being walled off by a filter bubble. As we’ve previously written, algorithms use our past searches and browsing history to predict what content to feed us next. The result is a prison of our own design. The beliefs we hold are unchallenged by conflicting views and are instead reinforced. Failed Architecture observed this filter bubble phenomenon in real life while exploring public space. Traditionally, public spaces were places where people from all walks of life could gather or do business. This diversity of people and functions maximizes the potential for unexpected encounters and generates inspiration for new ideas.

As cities grow, the pressure on public spaces increases. Faced with limited budgets and increasing real estate values, cities around the world are increasingly turning to privately owned publicly-accessible spaces (POPS) to fill the need for public space. POPS appear to be public space, but private security guards often monitor people and activities within the space and owners are free to create any limitations on their private property. This control reinforces existing behaviours and norms creating a sterile environment reminiscent of a filter bubble. In order to build a truly living city, we need to embrace the messy edges and allow for unscripted actions and unplanned functions. The challenge is to preserve something in a constant state of change.

Mark Michniak

Mark Michniak is an urban planner at IBI Group. His work focuses on integrating new developments into the surrounding urban fabric and creating great livable cities. Mark currently resides in Edmonton where he is contributing to its rediscovered urban identity.

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