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When Digital Public Spaces Matter

Role of Neighbourhood Platforms in Times of COVID-19

Abstract

Research on community resilience has highlighted the critical role of analogue public spaces for social interaction and community support. However, neighbourhoods are increasingly “hybrid spaces” where face-to-face and virtual interaction blend. Based on the case of Germany, this paper argues that hyperlocal social networks such as digital neighbourhood platforms have taken on a prominent role during the COVID-19 pandemic, as they fulfil functions traditionally associated with analogue public space and provide a useful crisis management tool. They allow communities to share information, establish social contacts, and organize flexible help, which increases their capacity to cope with and adapt to the effects of the pandemic. Yet, not everybody has equal access to these digital public spaces and they bear the risk of reinforcing existing social inequalities. In the future, they need to be planned, designed, and managed just as carefully as their physical counterparts to be socially inclusive and serve the common good.

Published:
Pages:121 to 130
Section: Society
How to Cite
Schreiber, F. (2020) “When Digital Public Spaces Matter”, The Journal of Public Space, 5(3), pp. 121-130. doi: https://doi.org/10.32891/jps.v5i3.1368.

Author Biography

University of Stuttgart
Germany Germany

Franziska Schreiber is a researcher and lecturer at the Institute of Urban Planning and Design at the University of Stuttgart, a Senior Associate at adelphi and a freelance consultant on urban policy and planning. Her research focuses on designing people-centred cities, urban experimentation and innovation in planning practice, and the co-production of visions for the cities of tomorrow. From 2015-2020, she was Head of the Urban Transformation area at adelphi where she managed research and consultancy projects for clients such as Cities Alliance, UNESCO, GIZ, C40, federal ministries, cities and foundations. Before, Franziska Schreiber worked at the international city network ICLEI-Local Governments for Sustainability and at various urban research institutes in Germany and abroad, including the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu), the Department of Urban and Regional Sociology at the Humboldt-Universität Berlin and the Urban Design Research Institute in Mumbai, India. She holds a Masters in Urban Studies from the University College London (UCL), UK and obtained her Bachelor degree in Social Science and Geography at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.

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