Amy Lavender Harris

Amy Lavender Harris teaches in the Department of Geography at York University, where her work focuses on urban identity and the cultural significance of place. She is the author of Imagining Toronto (Mansfield Press, 2010), which was shortlisted for the Gabrielle Roy Prize in Canadian literary criticism and won the Award of Merit, the highest honour given to a book at the 2011 Heritage Toronto Award.

GEOG 4900 Class 6: Corporate Shift: The Privatization of Public Space

What do the omnipresence of billboards, advertising and commodification mean for the experience, meaning and accessibility of public space? How is advertising implicated in the increasing privatization of formerly public spaces?

Are you are person who thinks you can simply ignore the onslaught of advertising in public space? What does it mean to discover that it certainly isn’t ignoring you?

Today in the Public Space course we’ll embark on a field trip to three very different public spaces in Toronto’s downtown. 

Yonge-Dundas Square (a public space owned by the city but managed via a public-private partnership)

The Cloud Garden (a public park created as part of the planning approval process for the Bay-Adelaide Centre)

Nathan Phillips Square (a formal public square surrounding ‘new’ City Hall)

We’ll discuss these and other subjects through the lens of sociologist Anne Cronin’s views on advertising, commodity rhythms and the metabolism of the city. We’ll also pay attention to geographer Andrew Kirby’s compelling rethinking of the distinction between ‘public’ and ‘private’ space.


Toronto Public Space Initiative

 Goodbye Graffiti: A Short Story About Toronto’s Street Art Movement (Char Loro, via Vimeo)

Billboard image source: Lost Toronto via City of Toronto Archives. 

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