This post gave an excellent view into the increasing privatisation of public space. I agree with your argument that this land ownership by private companies is often deceptive in its implementation, and your example of Occupy London gives an insightful view into what can happen when these companies exert their control.
However, your writing also reminded me of a piece I read for our seminar discussions, which brings into question what it is to be public or private.
Margaret Crawford, in her work Blurring the Boundaries: Public Space and Private Life, argues that the public realm has always been in some way defined by exclusionary spaces. Whether it be the “ideal Athenian democracy” in which the majority of the population were excluded as “they were not citizens” (Crawford, 2013), or in more recent times whereby masculine modes of public discourse were considered “privileged and defined as universal”. She goes on to argue that it is these exclusions which have formed ‘new public spheres’ which come with their own definitions. For example, middle class female volunteer groups in 19th and 20th century America, where these women found their own voice based upon “private ideals of domesticity and motherhood” within their own distinct locality.
In my view her standpoint rejects the mourning of the loss of public space, suggesting instead that due to the multiplicity of publics and counter publics “no single physical environment can represent a completely inclusive space of democracy”, and in fact the idea of public could lay more in contestation than unity.
Her arguments suggest that due to this perhaps the privatisation of public space need not be viewed so negatively, as the true public interaction occurs not in these areas, but in what she describes as everyday space, the ‘thirdspace’, “neither the material space that we experience nor a representation of space” (Crawford, 2013). Laying on the junctions of private, commercial and domestic, these transitionary spaces fulfil the requirements of those that use them, whether that be rioting, informal trade or simple conversation.
Although privatisation is having a clear influence on the way in which people use the city, what routes they take and what they do. As long as these ambiguous spaces between meaning remain, urban residents will impart their own meaning, and through that sense of the public within them.
Crawford, M. (2013) “Blurring the Boundaries: Public Space and Private Life”, in Larice, M. and Macdonald, E. (2013). The Urban Design Reader. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge. p. 344 -357.