Defining the urban: boundaries and jurisdictions

Notes on a conference on boundaries and edges, due not least to my living within a stone’s throw of Wonderful Copenhagen.

Boundaries and jurisdictions: defining the urban (#UHG2017) was the 2017 conference of the University of Leicester’s Centre for Urban History (@CUHLeicester), taking place on 30-31 March.

Boundaries define towns and cities; jurisdictions legitimate those authorised to manage areas within them. While cities frequently annexed adjacent areas as a means of extending their authority, peripheral townships, regional jurisdictions and individual landowners have often resisted that process of absorption and the consequential loss of identity and autonomy. Do cities transmit ideas and ideologies to areas beyond their boundaries, urging compliance with administrative procedures and participating in infrastructural projects governing health, education, and transport? Were economies of scale in service provision a force for urban amalgamation? How have inhabitants navigated and perceived these boundaries, and what effects have they had on movement or identities? The conference will explore this theme of the urban ‘edge’.

Understanding where and what the edge is, though, is complex. Municipal authority is, of course, not bounded just by the city limits, but also by innumerable internal boundaries; boundaries that are not neutral in their management or their construction. We all live in multiple authorities – parishes, districts (school, medical, electoral), neighbourhoods, conservation areas, economic and regeneration zones. Myriad internal boundaries exist whose spatial extents rarely overlap and authority over them is vested in a mixture of legal bodies and informal authority. Informal authority reigns where the boundaries of mental maps are shaped by custom and practice – ‘safe’ areas, ‘red light’ districts, pedestrian precincts, ethnic and religious concentrations. The mosaic of overlapping boundaries and jurisdictions questions the use of the term city, since urban environments constitute so many different cities.

Sessions on the permeability of borders included Anna Feintuck (Embra) on Leith, amalgamated into Edinburgh in 1920 against the will of a plebiscite. The session on boundaries, space and traversing the city included the boundaries of social space and improvement, ie public parks.

Crossing and defining the urban and rural included Tracey Logan (IHR) on Chiswick, sounding a little like Hvidovre’s experience:

Chiswick’s mid-19th century experience of life near the urban edge, eight miles west of St Paul’s, reveals how new and shifting metropolitan boundaries dramatically shaped its development and identity. Those boundaries were topographical and sanitary, ideological and political and shunned by Chiswick for their cost, not ideology. Its response was ancient and modern, the defensive beating of parish bounds and litigation.

Chiswick, mainly agricultural in 1849 but by 1867 on the cusp of industrialization and urbanization, had much in common with other contemporary parishes near big cities. Their priorities and even basic amenities were subsumed by costly, metropolitan utilitarianism and its voracious land-and-rates-grabbing. Chiswick’s case illustrates what it meant to be first granted, then denied a metropolitan identity by Acts of Parliament in quick succession. One consequence was its disappearance from newspaper columns, whose focus became the big city, to the detriment of historiography.

Places like Chiswick became part of an ill-defined ‘suburban’ entity, assumed dominated by housebuilding, railways and Villa Toryism, seen in relation to the big city but banal by comparison with its cut and thrust of power politics and commerce. When Disraeli’s Reform Act sought to extend London’s boundary westwards again, Chiswick pushed back on financial, not ideological, grounds, but with ideological consequences for its working classes, thus denied the vote. Owen showed no uniformity in the parochial response to metropolitan inclusion. Now a new study, including new tools, shows no uniform response to metropolitan exclusion. In this presentation, about a case study of Chiswick, the forging of an extra-metropolitan urban identity will be discussed and illustrated in ways conventional sources cannot.

The Space Syntax Lab Session (@SpaceSyntaxNet) looked at the role of spatial infrastructure in definitions of urban community:

Urban community is a place-bound idea typically represented by physical boundaries such as walls, courtyards and gates but the spatial configuration of urban street networks also serves to bring people together and keep them apart. Research in urban history using space syntax methods can help reveal how socially significant boundaries have emerged where particular topographical conditions, infrastructural interventions and patterns of urban development have distinguished regions of the street network as threshold or transitional areas in configurational terms. The spatial-morphological description of these liminal spaces is important in accessing, as it were, the ‘deep structure’ of urban neighbourhoods and jurisdictions. It also suggests why the power to disregard, as much as to assert, the authority of customary boundaries is a reliable analogue for the exercise of social power.

Investigating these themes involves undertaking historical research of sufficient temporal scope for the interplay of socio-spatial, socio-economic and cultural processes to become evident in the configuration of urban space. This extended time-scale begs the question of the urban streetscape as a source of communal memory that can serve both to perpetuate and undermine the legitimacy of historical boundaries. This panel presents three papers that address these themes over a time-scale from c.1800 to the present day. They draw on the theories and methods of space syntax to explore the configurational dimension of urban boundaries as these have represented, contested, fragmented, consolidated and enlarged the definition of urban and suburban communities over time.

Papers:

  • Chipping Barnet: urban edge or suburban centre? (Laura Vaughan; @urban_formation & Ashley Dhanani, UCL) – The traditional narrative of London’s suburban history claims that the coming of the railways transformed previously “knowable communities” (Williams, 1969) into something like ‘edge cities’ dominated by anonymous commuters, ultimately ‘engulfing’ these with less affluent populations, disconnected from their locale. The problem with such narratives is that they present urbanization as proceeding in linear stages: from local village, to connected suburb, to urban sprawl. Yet the peripheries of growing cities are messy and dynamic environments, comprising diverse spatial morphologies, topographies and socio-economic structures; hybrid socio-spatial forms that are not easily classified typologically. This paper will take the example of Chipping Barnet, the site of a twelfth-century market situated on the old North Road out of London as an example of an edge-city settlement characterized by a hybrid spatial morphology and the persistence of multiple social affiliations maintained across space…Barnet’s history as a place, therefore, has been forged historically both spatially, in relation to its immediate community, and across space, in relation to the surrounding counties and London.
  • London railway terminals: segregation and the inner ‘edge’ city (Tom Bolton, UCL)
  • Place-situated historic photographs in European cities: negotiating the temporal boundaries of urban community (Sam Griffiths & Garyfalia Palaiologou, UCL) – this paper interrogates the recent phenomenon of European municipal authorities situating physical and digital historic photographs of public spaces in their equivalent contemporary locations. It develops the concept of the ‘virtual community’ from space syntax theory to discuss the important questions place-situated photographs raise for the historical understanding of urban communities in relation to changes and continuities in the built environment of cities.

See also:

#artsaud15: New urban challenges

Update: still confused! #artsuad16 is taking place in Gothenburg, and doesn’t offer owt to excite

I’m planning on restarting my event reports series in 2016. #artsaud15 feels like a good place to start, ticking as it does the dansk, museums and urban boxes.

Arts and Audiences is a Nordic meeting point for cultural leaders, artists, artistic directors, curators, producers, learning managers, communication managers, cultural architects and strategists who want to find new ways to extend audience engagement. Arts and Audiences 2014-16 are produced by CKI (the Danish Centre for Arts and Interculture; Facebook) in collaboration with…other partners.

Thank goodness that’s sorted. I never quite worked it out in 2014 (p5), where an attempt at creating a digital audience experience fell rather flat. This year it’s in Copenhagen, from 2-3 December, with the theme of New urban challenges (programme | speakersFacebook | @artsaa) and a cover pic of people climbing ropes (it’s taking place at AFUK). Anything of interest?

Some interesting factoids to start:

  • the creative and experience industries are the second largest economic sector in Denmark with a turnover of more than DK 200 billion
  • more than 60 % of cultural turnover is generated in the CPH metropolitan area, home to a third of the population
  • every year the population of the metropolitan area increases with the equivalent of a medium sized Danish town
  • in the City of Copenhagen alone the population is growing by approx 1200 new citizens (sic) a month
  • nearly 2 million people live in the metropolitan area, of whom about 430,000 – between one in four and one in five – have their childhood and/or cultural background outside Denmark.
  • in urban Copenhagen the average age is now down to about 38 years against 54 in the rest of the country

Since 2007 Kulturstyrelsen has run a national user survey of museums in Denmark. Need to run this down.

Most of the speakers are in my demographic – there’s not much sign of the young or the ethnic, just sayin’. In the evening of Day 1 they decamped to Folehaven for Tina Enghoff’s 7 x DIALOGUES.

Day 2 didn’t yield much, and with a total of 70 tweets for the two days it’s clear amplification wasn’t part of the event strategy. Plus ça change. Coming along on 15 Dec in Kunsten.nu though, here’s a report.

Mapping a community: a SNA case study

(Post copied from Danegeld blog, 4 Feb 2015.)

Update, July 2015: see Hazel Hall on DREaM Again (again), investigating the long term impact of the project. Splendid! May 2016: not much on #sna lately, apart from a snippet on R4’s Digital Human: Are you more likely to find what you’ve lost using online social networks? Are we as connected as we think we are? Or does it make more sense to step out of the digital world and search with the help of physical social networks? A larger network of weaker/looser ties is more effective in finding something lost – these ties have information you don’t have. Other factors also come into play, eg how navigable is the network? The same processes go on IRL, with the Lost and Found Office now also online.

Over the last couple of years I followed the work of the DREaM project, aimed at building a community of LIS researchers in the UK. Effective event amplification provided me with an introduction to social network analysis (SNA; nearly two years ago now!) and a host of other research methods.

The DReAM project SNA’d themselves, specifically a cadre of 33 individuals who attended all the f2f events and created the network ‘core’. In the first workshop the participants provided data on (1) individuals’ awareness of the research expertise and knowledge of other participants, and (2) social/ interactional links across the network, data which was collected again at the final workshop. The hypothesis was that analysis of the two sets of data would reveal changes in levels of integration among the DREaM cadre and network density among the group as a whole over the series of workshops – ie that integration and network density would increase.

Initial findings were presented at the final DREaM event and a paper finally published in the Journal of Documentation in October – see  Hazel Hall’s post for full details and to download the manuscript. The paper offers a potential model for nurturing and assessing network and community (of practice) development, specifically a developing, or emergent, network based on spontaneously formed ties, which could also be applied to NSMNSS , the legal education community, Danish literary translators, walking types, etc. As well as a useful overview of the development of SNA from the 1930s it provides a model for moving forward from the presentation of network diagrams, discussing features of network articulation and measurement, relational ties and network roles.

Methodology and findings:

  • data were input manually into Ucinet v.6 and visualised network diagrams (sociograms) were produced using Netdraw; measures of density and degree centrality were calculated using Ucinet
  • the sociograms highlighted the centrality of position of certain participants, prompting speculation as to their identity and the reasons behind this centralisation as well as discussion on the meaning behind some of the more isolated positions occupied by some of the outliers
  • the findings from the first round of data collection demonstrated that the participant networks were not very highly connected, and heavily centralised around a small number of actors from one role
  • analysis of data collected in the course of the final workshop reveals a demonstrable increase in network density, indicating a much more closely linked and robust network; more evenly linked, with less dependence on two or three very densely networked actors, when analysed by role several categories had moved to a more central position, one category had formed a clique and one category seemed particularly adept at network building, with most members moving towards the centre of the network
  • not all the key players were those one might have expected to play such roles; a small number of relatively novice researchers proved to be particularly strong networkers and were central to the network structure (this was not explored further due to ethical concerns)
  • greater change in the density of the network with regard to expertise awareness than for interaction, suggesting that even if participants had not had one-to-one interaction with another participant they were still more likely to know of their area of research expertise – ie who knows what, typical of a work related rather than ‘social’ network
  • note of caution: in an information sharing network, for example, an actor with a high degree of betweenness centrality may be playing the role of either broker or a bottleneck – for most network patterns multiple interpretations are possible, and it is therefore appropriate to follow up such analysis with qualitative research that seeks to explore likely explanations (data from other sources included a ‘before and after’ audit of skills and feedback on face to face events)

Discussion:

  • the results suggest that network density and integration can be increased by structured and informal social and work based interaction; a model of combining workshops with social events and the use of social media reduces the isolation often experienced by the researcher, in particular the solitary, novice or practitioner researcher
  • increased network density and integration reduces the dependence of the network on a couple of actors, making the sustainability of the network more likely and increasing network capital – more likely that participants will be able to leverage potential benefits
  • potential drawbacks – a higher density of network structure and the formation of cliques may pose a barrier to incomers and increased homogenisation – homophily; it is critical to ensure that barriers to entry to the network remain low with a network of loose ties; individuals should be encouraged to play an active role in boundary spanning, ensuring innovation, opportunity and diversity of viewpoint
  • the challenge is to maintain the existing links and further develop the network so that it evolves into a self sustaining and continuously developing supportive community

Specific interventions used to increase and strengthen network ties over the course of the project included pre-event social meetups, a Twitter list, curation over the full event lifecycle, a Spruz community, participant led sessions, event reporters.

The role of event amplification in particular is interesting, an issue which keeps popping up and perhaps has potential in proving its ROI. Effective event coverage can in fact change the nature of an event, ensuring that participants can make the most of f2f interaction and are better able to reflect after the event. Alan Cann touches on this issue too in his recent post on the way forward for #solo13 – the conference as aggregator, building an online community of mutual support. The same goes for MOOCs, but the role of aggregation and curation is often overlooked.

Some #sna bits n bobs picked up from the paper:

Commonly measured network features:

  • size – at the actor level: the number of linkages an actor has; at network level: the total number of linkages in the network
  • reachability – the accessibility of points of the network based on a notion of path, ie the connected sequence of linkages by which it is possible to move from one point to another in the network; a point is reachable when there is a path between points
  • density – the degree to which actors are linked to one another; parts of a path are dense if each of its points is reachable from every other
  • centrality – the degree to an individual actor is near others in the network and the extent to which the person lies on the shortest path between others and thus has potential for control over their communication

Examples of relational ties:

  • evaluation of one person by another – friendship, liking, respect
  • transfer of material resources – business transaction, lending, borrowing
  • association/affiliation – jointly attending the same social event, belonging to the same club
  • behavioural interaction – talking together, sending messages
  • movement between places or statuses – migration, social or physical mobility
  • physical connection – co-location at work
  • formal relations – authority
  • biological relations – kinship, descent
  • communication relations – sharing of publications, discussion of ideas

Example of network diagrams from Martin Hawksey:

network diagrams from Martin Hawksey:

#nsmnss: the story of a network

Updates: Dec 2013: tweetchat on defining #some: Storify | Huma Bird analysis…August 2013: see paper (26 pages, PDF) on developing the network; the section on the community of practice looks particularly interesting

On 23 April the NSMNSS network held a digital debate, the last I think of a series of events before funding runs out in May. I’ve written four posts about #nsmnss, and following the blog and Twitter stream has played a key role in my learning about research methods in relation to social media over the last year – thanks to the team!

The ‘one year on’ presentation gives some insights into the success of the network and its activities. In terms of statistics, there are now 451 fully signed up members (35% non-UK) with 77 in the Methodspace group, and @nsmnss has 1000+ followers (with 900+ tweets).

I particularly liked the way the network played around with the full spectrum of f2f and virtual events (two conferences, four knowledge exchange seminars with around 25 participants each, three online seminars, seven Twitter chats), for example holding tweetchats prior to f2f events. Plus the videos shown at the digital debate were from the previous week’s conference. This hybrid/flipped events model could work well in other fora.

It is hoped to sustain the network after funding runs out – this presumably has the biggest impact on f2f events, but in the era of social media it should be feasible to carry on some activities. A poll is calling for volunteers to get involved in projects, take responsibility for organising Twitter chats, develop resources or deliver training. A test of the strength of the network!

A range of platforms was used – perhaps too many (home page vs blog vs Methodspace anyone?). One way of streamlining activities would be to slim these down and perhaps change the ratio of curation to content – another task which could be done by v0lunteers, assuming the Twitter account is to carry on.

Finally, the dog food question: is any social network analysis or other research planned as part of the network evaluation?

#lutwit: Lancaster Uni Twitter and microblogging conference

Loads of stuff from the superbly named #lutwit on researching Twitter from a (mainly) linguistics perspective, held on 10-12 April. Liveblogged by Nicola Osborne (style: verbatim) and Peter Evans. Programme and abstracts on Lanyrd, some nice posters (inc one digitally; see unscheduled sessions), Tweet Category analysis (10 April only; ipad app, $3.99).

Some stonking sessions:

Some more presos:

Big bunch on digigov: Turkish MPs use of “we” | Twitter uses in the EP, Commission and Council (liveblog) | Labour Party Peers (slides) | Italian politicians | Use of Twitter during 2010 British and Dutch elections (Nicola) | Reciprocity and preaching to the converted: a cross-national comparative analysis of politicians’ social and communication networks | 2012 elections in Belgium (Peter) | see also German politicians’  Twitter networks

Tools and recipes:

People, projects, blogs:

Other papers:

Fun stories: Reading levels of celebrities’ tweets | Happiness levels soar as people travel further from home

Forthcoming: Language online: investigating digital texts and practices (Barton & Lee)…also The discourse of blogs and wikis (Myers), Stories and social media (Page).

I did a module on computational linguistics as part of my degree, looking at a corpus of German drama, back in the mists of time. Just imagine if I’d continued down that route.

Text mining workshop at #or2012

A workshop on text mining was held on 9 July at Open Repositories 2012. Below are some key points from the +/- 12o subhashtagged tweets. The session was avidly live tweeted by @criticalsteph, and proceedings will be published in. due. course.

Presentations:

Further sessions covered legal and ethical issues, for example (largely verbatim from tweets):

  • for mailing lists, is harvesting addresses legal, who owns the content?
  • copyright, contracts for resources, TOS, paywall, privacy and data protection law can all be barriers
  • shifting sands – law is dynamic, and changing; many see money in text/data mining, which can be a catalyst to rapid change
  • UK govt says non-commercial research can be an exception, although this must be done on larger scale with EU agreements
  • databases allow private order to be applied – lets publishers opt out of the text mining exception. Publishers want to keep control!
  • data/text mining could be maybe treated as an index? Author needs protection – maybe? There *is* an issue of author rights.
  • Is student author copyright being ignored in plagerism s/ware e.g. Turnitin? Legal challenge = no in USA. Unclear.
  • Privacy and Data Protection UK – sensible steps to follow, quite clear & can be used in text mining without problems BUT need to do a personalisation data minimisation risk assessment on this to show intent.

Key text mining resources:

Issues:

  • discipline specific research – bound to be lots of law stuff about
  • techniques – sentiment analysis/subjectivity analysis, opinion mining, affect analysis, metaphor analysis
  • approaches – metadata extraction, categorisation, summarisation
  • text mining over the social web – community detection, timelines
  • legal aspects

Researching the uses of Twitter: Axel Bruns at #dmmm1

I just listened to/viewed Axel Bruns’ (@snurb_dot_info) session at the Digital Methods as Mainstream Methodology event last week (see my report).

Axel put up his slidecast (embedded below) almost straightaway. It’s the first time I’ve watched a Slideshare slidecast, and no doubt there’s more to creating one than it seems, but I wish more presenters/event organisers would use them. It’s a no-nonsense way of getting what you need without the rigours of streaming, video etc – my sort of webinar. Note also that it’s been viewed nearly 1400 times in a week.

The presentation looked at mapping online publics, in particular via the use of hashtags:

  • How do different hashtag events compare?
  • How do they form and dissolve, how do they interact, what structures do they form? How big are they?
  • Do they simply consist of the usual suspects? How insular or disconnected are they? (People participating in hashtag events may be unlinked but have a level of co-awareness varying in intensity and temporality.)
  • How big is the central core of users (long tail, 90/9/1 distribution)?
  • Where do they draw information from, what do they share?
  • What ‘community’ structures emerge? What traces do they leave (eg follower generation and reciprocation).
  • What do they do – inform (links), share (retweeting un/edited, chat (@replies)? What can occurrences of @ replies, RTs, original tweets and URLs tell us?

Typology of hashtag uses:

  • gatewatching – breaking news, ad hoc publics (lots of RTs)
  • audiencing – sharing experience of major events (few URLs, limited RTing)
  • discussions – cf chats
  • memes and emotive tags

Networks and how to map them:

  • micro (@reply and RTs), meso (hashtag ‘communities’), macro (follower/followee) – multiple and overlapping
  • start from selected hashtag communities
  • identify participating users – typology?
  • retrieve follower/followee information for each account
  • identify thematic clusters
  • slow and laborious, never complete…

Uses these tools: YourTwapperKeeper, Gawk (open source, data processing), Leximancer and WordStat (commercial, textual analysis), Gephi (open source, network visualisation).

All very useful for looking at the effectiveness of amplified events and my Law Teacher 2.0 project.