Community cityscape: Modes of engagement and co-construction of the streetscape

This contribution explores the bottom-up processes via which a community – or indeed special interest groups within a community – can influence the semiotic choices in the street-scape around them. I start by discussing the question to which extent the decision-making processes about street naming in different locales are transparent and open to public involvement. I also explore the instruments used by city councils and other administrative agencies to invite or indeed stifle public debate about street names, such as citizens surveys, op-eds in local newspapers and discussion fora as opposed to closed-off systems and exclusionary strategies. The paper moves on to consider grassroots movements opposing top-down decisions, including the mobilization of guerilla activity resulting in semi-spontaneous re-naming of street names and polls/lists of names and letters sent to the city council by concerned citizens. Finally, I consider politically motivated acts of vandalism resulting in semiotic erasure as well as resistance to official naming via inertia. The article closes with a brief discussion of the increasing commercialization of the linguistic streetscape, exploring the impact of market forces which claim authorship of the city text.


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