Public and private urban space


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This exercise with corresponding PowerPoint combines the application of concepts adopted from the now classic Jane Jacobs’ Death and Life of the Great American Cities with introductory urban sociological lessons. The key concepts for this session include: neighborhood, urban residential patterns, urban ecology, urbanization, private, semi-private, and public space. Examining realms of the urban landscape is an investigation of urban ecology, or “the study of the link between the physical and social dimensions of cities” (Macionis 2008, p. 588). By diagramming the private, semi-private, and public spaces in residential blocks depicted in street-view photographs, students become familiar with how the built environment conveys meaning. The success of architectural arrangements – whether there is a clear understanding of the connection between social interaction/ meaning and physical design - can be assessed by understanding Jane Jacobs’ concepts of “eyes on the street.” Students also identify cities by category and history, thereby framing the residential block in contexts. The “Private and Public Space” activity explores the connection between the physical and the social in cities. Students are asked to photograph a residential block and diagram the public, private, and semi-private demarcation of space. More specifically, the aim of this activity is to directly engage students with (1) the built environment; (2) how we define neighborhood and places; and (3) digital technologies – google earth, digital camera images, and PowerPoint – for presentations and analysis. This presentation and exercise is part of an interdisciplinary course on the theory, form, principles, and social context of urban issues and...


Resource Type(s):
Paul Walker Clarke, Morgan State University
Carla Rose Corroto, Ph.D., Radford University 
Date Published:
Subject Area:
Urban Sociology 
Class Level:
College 300 
Class Size:

Usage Notes:

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On the assignment, I suggest the instructor ask students to document their own residential patterns – either from their youth (permanent address,) or present living situation. However, this should be assigned with alternatives – allow students to document other residential patterns that you identify. By implication, issues of social class...

Learning Goals and Assessments:

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Goal 1:
Goal 1: Students can identify “cultural relativity and private/public/semi-private space”
Assessment 1:
Assessment 1: Students provide definitions orally in class and through graphic analysis in presentation form. They document a neighborhood and present it to the class.
Goal 2:
Goal 2: Students can define and identify – community, city, urban area, urban clusters, urbanized area, micropolitan statistical area (MicroSA), metropolitcan statistical area (MetroSA or MSA)
Assessment 2:
Assessment 2: Students can apply the above concepts to an aerial views from ‘Google maps,’ and photographs. Students apply the terms to their presentations.

Files for Download:

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1. TRAILS Public Private Urban Space II.ppt
2. TRAILS Explanation of Public and Private Urban Space-1.docx
3. TRAILS student assignment instructions and example.docx
4. Public and Private Space SAMPLE Student Project.pptx