Right to the City (at Night): Spectacle and Surveillance in Public Space

Abstract (book chapter – in progress)

In the twenty-first century globalized world, time is expanding through a technological epoch by which contemporary cities remain wakeful around-the-clock; thus, emboldening planning strategies aimed at boosting urban productivity and consumption after dark. Concurrently, space is contracting through the rapid pace of urban development and dense confluence of an ever-diverse urban society; thereby, elucidating one’s right to the city (or lack thereof). This right to the city is further compounded at night as various agents—from local authorities and corporate entities to ordinary citizens—seek to shape the nocturnal culture of public space. And, in doing so, raising crucial questions: How does the night change our affective experience of public space? What actions, both state-driven and collectively-enacted, define the use of public space after dark? Who is in/excluded in the city at night through such actions, and what are the planning implications of these in/exclusions? This chapter will explore public space and the right to the city at night by way of two linked strands. The first strand, surveillance, points to the contentious practices of monitoring people in public space as a means to curb instances of anti-social behaviour and transgressive activities, especially after dark. The second strand, spectacle, highlights the opportunistic gains of the nighttime economy for urban regeneration, placemaking, and street vitality. By examining these two disparate vignettes of public space at night, this chapter aims to illuminate the complex entanglement between exerting surveillance, on the one hand, and promoting spectacle, on the other, while advancing the city at night as a public good and a right for all.

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Imagineering, Illuminating, and Imprinting Night Spaces: The Case of Singapore

Abstract (working paper – in progress)

Since the advent of electric lighting, nightlife has become synonymous with urban living. Today, this relationship is vigorously cultivated within the postindustrial city. More specifically, the rise of a new urban economy—with its intonation towards cultural commodity, aesthetic materiality, and conspicuous spending—has revived policy interests in the promotion, development, and management of not only the nightlife industry but also the spaces of nightlife production and consumption. In this paper, I explore the notions of ‘imagineering’ and ‘illumination’ in the production of contemporary urban nightscapes, and the ‘imprinting’ of these nightscapes in visual form for local and global consumption. Taking Singapore as a departure point, I examine state policies and urban strategies in transforming the waterfront precinct of Marina Bay into one of the more prominent and neoteric nightlife destinations in the city. By drawing links between the processes of imagineering, illuminating, and imprinting, I seek to reveal the inexplicit power relations and hidden socio-spatial implications of the new urban nightscape in the postindustrial city.