|Ph.D Student||Kay Zivia|
|Subject||The "Signature of Appearance" at the Contemporary Urban|
|Department||Department of Architecture and Town Planning||Supervisor||Professor Iris Aravot|
Planning practices and visual culture, which mediate social spaces, have transformed the city from a neutral territory into a mechanism that prevents most citizens from taking part in designing the public agenda. Our research aims at promoting ethical, humanistic thinking about the public agenda through the development of a personal action mechanisms motivated by a sense of responsibility to charge urban public space (UPS) with civic atmosphere.
The theoretical framework originated in urban design, visual ethics, social activism, and political philosophy. The literature review showed that the contribution of passersby’s appearance to meaning construction in public space has been at the margins of researchers' attention. In an attempt to find a personal action-space that determine public agenda, the term Signature of Appearance (SoA) was coined to describe that an individual’s appearance in the UPS is comprised of appearance, visual interpretations of that appearance, socio-ethical notions and perceptions stemming from it, and action’s opportunities it implies. The SoA, an aesthetic infrastructure, realizes the resistance potential in UPS, manifesting the political purpose of what Hannah Arendt calls the space of appearance (SPA), and responds to Jacques Rancière’s demand for a political synthesis between aesthetics and protest.
The research hypothesis maintains that the SoA, although a random and diffuse phenomenon, contributes to the structuring of meaning in UPS, maps out social order and can be deliberately shaped to transform the SPA into an action- space.
The research by design we conducted intended to raise passersby’s awareness of how their appearance contributes to the construction of meaning in UPS, and to assess their willingness to use their presence as a means of direct action involves them in the design of this space. In a design laboratory established to support an ethno-methodological research, SoAs were designed to violated the norms of routine actions in UPS. In controlled events in two cities, experimenters appeared in performance art acts with those designed SoAs, and passersby’s reactions expressed in open conversation and in questionnaires were assessed.
Passersby displayed interest in the events, perceived them as personal initiatives, and considered them a call for action that would generate alternative routines. More than half of them expressed readiness to participate in similar events, reinforcing the research hypothesis that passersby are not detached observers in a UPS, but are interested in establishing relationships with the space because they consider publicness an entirely natural phenomenon. The findings further indicated that it is possible to arouse passersby’s awareness of routine action in UPS, and corroborated our methodology that SoAs can be designed specifically to be interpreted as direct action and to publicize new concepts of UPS use.
Identifying the SoA is a theoretic response to a deficit in the research corpus and moreover it formulates a practical method to utilize passersby’s appearance in UPS. As the entire world seeks ways to reinforce civic awareness, the SoA is a non-violent protest, direct/hacktive action that can serve as a spatial meme for meaning construction in UPS, permeating it with a freer sense of action.