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Human traces in urban places.

Titley, Will; MacDonald, Juliette; Strickfaden, Megan


Will Titley

Juliette MacDonald

Megan Strickfaden


Over the last two centuries many major cities have undergone large-scale modernisation that has led to the growing sense of homogenisation associated with such locales across the globe. The fractal logic that is at the heart of so many urban settings, where the whole system is made up of parts that are identical to the whole, seems to serve in making anonymous everyday experiences. Public transport and its corresponding street furniture, if thoughtfully designed and planned, has the potential to form an integral element in the promotion of a sense of identity, interconnectedness and flow within a city. Furthermore, bus stops, benches, litter bins, curb-sides, posts and pavements, to mention a few, offer interesting cases to consider how people truly engage with contemporary urban spaces. These objects—part of routine and made familiar—are elements of daily lives that are ingredients towards visual and multi-modal experiences. In addition, these are places where individuals encounter sociality and materiality in ordinary and sometimes extraordinary ways. This paper uses a visual ethnographic approach towards exploring the human traces of routine activities that have an impact on the cityscape. An Investigation of these details found within the urban landscape lead us towards understanding how we engage with and navigate cities. This is essentially an urban archaeological study that looks to reveal how non-designed phenomenon in urban places can contribute to our image of a city, providing a reflection on homogeneity within the built environment. Our visual ethnography focuses on six major cities: two each in Britain, Europe and North America. The findings of this work illustrate through visual analyses three key characteristics: first, how urban spaces are transformed intentionally and unintentionally; second, how transformations are practical, functional, beautiful and sometimes ridiculous; third, how transformations reveal values around visual and multi-modal experiences inherent to people.


Titley, W., MacDonald, J., & Strickfaden, M. (2013). Human traces in urban places. International Journal of Architectonic, Spatial, and Environmental Design, 6, 19-31

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Sep 9, 1999
Publication Date 2013
Deposit Date Jun 8, 2016
Print ISSN 2325-1662
Electronic ISSN 2325-1670
Publisher Common Ground Research Networks
Peer Reviewed Not Peer Reviewed
Volume 6
Pages 19-31
Keywords Identity; Phenomenology; Performance; Transformation; Visual Ethnography;
Public URL