Project Details


By 2030, according to the World Health Organization, 6 out of 10 human beings will live in cities. A century ago, only 2 out of 10 did. To understand the wide-ranging implications and challenges of this rapid transformation of the typical human habitat, the NSF Cultural Anthropology Program funds scientific research on contemporary urban environments. The focus of this project is the changing nature of urban public space. In parks, squares, and sidewalks, city dwellers encounter each other and engage in public activities that help forge the bonds of community and citizenship. Historically, access to such spaces has been uneven across urban populations. This research project seeks to understand the changing functions of urban public space today.

Dr. Julian B. Brash of Montclair State University will carry out the research in New York City. Many American cities have seen restrictions on the use of public spaces and the conversion of public spaces into private ones. However, recently a number of new, high profile urban public spaces with more open access have been constructed. A particularly prominent example is a mile-long linear park built on an abandoned, elevated spur of the New York Central Railway. Using this new space as a case example, the researcher will investigate who uses such spaces, for what purposes, and how they relate to broader political, economic, social, and cultural changes in the urban environment. The researcher employs a mixed-methods scientific strategy. He and his team will conduct a formal survey of park users; carry out systematic behavioral observation scans; sample and analyze de-identified social media communications generated at the park; and carry out archival and other secondary source research. This project will generate knowledge about the changing functions and meanings of urban public space that will help build a new social scientific science of contemporary human environments.
Effective start/end date1/07/1430/06/16


  • National Science Foundation (NSF): $50,000.00


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