Conceptualising space and place: Lessons from geography for the debate on privacy in public

Bert-Jaap Koops, Maša Galič

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterScientificpeer-review


This contribution aims to open up the rich literature on the conceptualisation of space and place, primarily from the field of geography, for scholars in other disciplines, in particular legal and governance scholars engaged in the debate on (the right to) privacy in public spaces. Although there is no common understanding of what the concepts of space and place mean, they have been extensively conceptualised in human geography. Most legal scholars still tend to think of physical place and space – expressions often used interchangeably – as empty and neutral containers relating to territory: straightforwardly empirical, objective and mappable. Human geography shows that space and place are relational, socially co-produced, and dynamic. The construction of ‘places’, including places in public space, is intricately related to issues of access control, power relations, and identity-building. Particularly since the 1990s, the ongoing transformation of urban public space, including shifts in design, management, financing, and the proliferation of (digital) surveillance – termed the ‘privatisation’ and ‘securitisation’ of public space – has emerged as a key focus of geographical concern. While geography’s insights are invaluable for legal scholars researching the regulation of shifting and emerging urban spaces and places, particularly in relation to the theme of privacy in public, geographic research has often not yet reached the debate in other disciplines. This chapter remedies this gap by discussing, through a lawyer’s lens, key literature on (public) space and place, mapping out and highlighting different ways of thinking about public place and space in relation to major themes of context, power, and identity, and thereby opening up this rich area to scholars grappling with the regulation of public space.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPrivacy in public space
Subtitle of host publicationConceptual and regulatory challenges
EditorsTjerk Timan, Bryce Newell, Bert-Jaap Koops
PublisherEdward Elgar Publishing
ISBN (Print)978-1-78643-539-2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2017


  • Space
  • place
  • geography
  • privacy
  • public
  • context
  • power
  • security
  • identity
  • surveillance
  • law


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