Urban Semantics through Law and Photography

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Katya Assaf-Zakharov
Tim Schnetgöke


The visual design of urban public spaces (hereinafter “cityscape”) has an important impact on city life – it can channel interpersonal communication into certain directions while excluding others; it can powerfully communicate notions of what is socially acceptable or important. Yet, while everyone may access urban public spaces, cityscapes are designed by a very limited social group. This paper focuses on the narratives embedded in the cityscapes. Analyzing legal conflicts arising around expressions that seek their way into the shared visual environment, as well as expressions whose presence in the cityscapes is disputed, we trace the dynamics of battles over urban narratives. The discussion of legal rules is complemented by photographs. Rather than illustrating the text, the photographs will relate to the discussed topics in their own way, enriching the discussion and broadening its perspective.

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Articles (refereed)
Author Biography

Tim Schnetgöke

Tim Schnetgöke is a professional photographer and a connoisseur of vandalism, specializing in portraits and extensively documenting graffiti on trains. A selection of his photographs is available at: https://www.schnetgoeke.com/. He is based in Berlin, Germany, and may be contacted at info@schnetgoeke.com.