Negotiating Public Space

Public Space is constantly being “negotiated”, and there are many social norms that we do not even realize exist. These social norms occur every day all around us and we never really take the time to notice them. A great place where public space is being negotiated would be right on St. John’s campus itself. These social norms vary through different parets of the campus and it fascinated me how much I never realized or took the time to acknowledge.

The first place I observed was Taffner Field House. Everyone goes to Taffner to play basket ball normally however there are designated times when one side of Taffner is used for volleyball. When this happened I noticed that there was a lot of tension between the regulars who came in hope to get a quick game of basketball in before or after class and the people who were playing volleyball. I thought this would not be a problem and that we were all old enough to understand the concept of sharing the gym, however this was not the case. Rather than allowing them to play volleyball in peace, the players usually just go onto the court and start shooting around completely disregarding the volleyball game that was going on. This lack of sharing of public space in Taffner really shocked me and I thought that students at our University would be mature enough to share the space for the 3 or so hours that the volleyball players had. Another norm that I discovered in Taffner was how the gym was segregated based on skill level of each individual player. The right side of the gym was mainly taken up by people who were really skilled and played a full court 5 on 5 game meanwhile the other side was taken up by people who were not as good and just wanted a quick little pick up game. The Public Space in Taffner was negotiated fairly poorly and unfairly to people who were not interested in playing basketball which fascinated me.

The next place I observed was the D’angelo Center, better known as DAC. I usually go to DAC to hangout and get some food and play some games in the basement. I noticed that people were much more friendly in DAC than in Taffner, probably because DAC is a place to hangout and eat while Taffner has a more competitive atmosphere. I saw that many people were friendly in the eating area and didn’t really see anything outstanding. Something I did see was if someone was sitting alone a table, and someone else couldn’t find as eat, there was no problem with them sitting at the same table with a complete stranger and from what I saw actually made a connection and became friendly with one another. I also went into the orientation leaders headquarters to see my Orientation leader, and in the offices I saw that everyone was very friendly and willing to help out each other with homework or even personal problems. Everyone was usually sitting around each other in the huge office and it was normal for them because they are all so close with each other. I saw some very positive social norms in DAC, and observed a lot of new friends being made.

Public space is shared in many different ways on St. John’s campus. It ranges from a seemingly hostile and competitive atmosphere in Taffner Field House, to a Friendly and social atmosphere in the D’angelo Center. It is extremely interesting how differently public space is shared in different parts of our campus and it shows how a sport or hobby can affect the overall sharing of space in certain areas.


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