How Virtual Public Squares Are Changing the Nature of Political Protest

  • 20 Jun 2013
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  • Architecture News
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“Most social movements become social moments when they appear in a public square,” says Seyla Benhabib, a professor of Political Science at Yale University, in the video above. “These are informal spaces of deliberation and communication.”

Occupy Wall Street, which took over New York‘s Zuccotti Park, is just one example of this phenomenon. As we’ve reported, the social movements that spread through Turkey like wildfire took physical form in Istanbul’s historic Taksim Square and Gezi Park. Only a few days ago, protests took similar shape in the streets of Sao Paulo, Brazil, as citizens protested a raise in bus fares as well as many other social issues. There are countless other examples throughout history of people utilizing public space as a vehicle for self expression and social change, but what’s different about today’s social movements is that they also occupy cyberspace – heavily.   

A few days ago, + released the short video above about these digital spaces, what they call the “virtual public square”. Of course, the physical places that people use to express themselves are certainly no less important; however, it is interesting to consider the vital role social media and virtual communication now play in the unraveling of political events. 

More after the break.

Benjamin Barber, a political theorist, believes that physical spaces or publics have always been limited by race, gender and class, leaving out those at the very bottom of the social ladder. With Google+ and other modes of digital communication, none of these stand in the way of an honest conversation. Average people recording the events taking place around them (with whatever digital means they have on hand) can then communicate it to the rest of the world – just take a look at what’s coming out of Brazil as an example. 

The Internet – with all of its Tweets, Instagrams, YouTube videos, Facebook events, and Skype conversations – has created an entirely new understanding of space, a digital space even more populated by the voices of the masses than the traditional physical square. When an interface like Google+ opens up a virtual, public discussion such as those featured in this video, digital social movements develop alongside physical ones, making them not only more global but also much more talked about.

What do you think about digital vs. physical spaces as spheres of social development? Let us know in the comments below!

Reference: Google+, Archdaily (1, 2, 3, 4), Washington Post

Cite: Porada, Barbara. "How Virtual Public Squares Are Changing the Nature of Political Protest" 20 Jun 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 01 Oct 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=391277>
  • Tyler

    That wasn’t journalism, that was advertising.

  • matt

    Some fair points raised, however the internet is only really an equaliser if everybody has the same level of access to it. They do not.