Presenters: Mervyn Horgan, PhD & Saara Liinamaa, PhD. – Sociable Cities Project and Dept. of Sociology & Anthropology, University of Guelph
Description: While digital technologies enable new ways of connecting and socializing, they have also driven political polarization and increased social fragmentation. Virtual spaces command lots of attention, but physical spaces remain essential to our everyday lives. The ongoing potential of public spaces in countering polarization and isolation is easily overlooked. Over the last year researchers on the Sociable Cities Project (University of Guelph) undertook a series of consultations with international experts and a comprehensive review of existing international research on public spaces to prepare a report and evidence brief for Employment and Social Development Canada and the Social Science and Humanities Research Council. In this webinar we share some of our findings. We treat public spaces as potential ‘spaces of sociability’: public spaces improve quality of life by increasing opportunities for social contact, learning, leisure, play, and simply sharing space with strangers. Sociable public spaces facilitate interactions across social difference and create belonging. We’ll discuss some ways that public spaces can enable everyday sociable interactions between strangers with a view to helping planners and municipalities to develop low-cost, high-impact ways of enhancing the social life of public spaces.