Lost in Space: Young People, Bus Networks and Rights to the City
The many discourses on the use of public space by youth (eg cultural or justice studies) are underpinned by a range of theoretical approaches (Lefebvre’s “right to the city”, Habermas on the “public sphere”, Foucauldian notions of “resistance” or a Durkheimian perspective on “anomie”). Given social and technological change this paper explores the complexities and transformations of urban youth rights in the 21st century. One of its contributions is to demonstrate how the transport environment reflects a different kind of “public space” (mobile, closed, ungoverned, utilitarian, privatised) that has rarely received scholarly attention, unlike the shopping mall, the square or the street. Its second contribution is to critique the body of literature on the “geographies of hanging out”. While not eschewing that there remains a punitive law-and-order approach, much of the literature adopts a “problematised” frame and fails to address the agency that young people can muster to create new spaces and engage in meaning-making; or that the streets are sites of empowerment or celebration of diversity such as the Sydney Mardi Gras or the Occupy Movements; or how the web creates new forms of public space for youth with fast communication and democratising features that permit engagement with the public domain. A final thread is the contestation within public transport space from the myriad of other “excluded” user-groups whose experience of the “right to the city” is as conflicted as that of young people (e.g. homeless, elderly, mentally ill).