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Skateboarders exploring urban public space: Ollies, obstacles and conflicts

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This paper reports on an explorative study about skateboarding practices in Amsterdam. One indoor spot and nine street locations for skateboarding were observed and over thirty skaters were interviewed. The research questions concern the identity of the people involved, the group interactions, and the use of urban space and routes. The majority of the observed skateboarders are male middle-class youngsters. In this respect, the skateboarding scene is not very different from other forms of urban public play where men predominate. At the same time, however, skateboarding can be seen as a way of experimenting with new forms of masculinity. Since hanging about by adolescents is mainly a lower-class phenomenon, the middle-class status of the skateboarding youth is surprising. Notwithstanding their individual skateboarding acts, youngsters involved in skateboarding negotiate their claim on specific spaces in groups. The colonizing of public spaces for skateboarding does not remain free of conflict. Groups of skaters are continuously putting public spaces into and out of use. In a sense, skateboarders can be considered the nomads of the city. Their `traveling in packs' results in a map of skate locations which is constantly changing. To understand the phenomenon of skateboarding, further research is needed, not only in Amsterdam but also in other cities and the suburbs.
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Journal of Housing and the Built Environment 15: 327–340, 2000.
© 2001 Kluwer Academic Publishers. Printed in the Netherlands.
Skateboarders exploring urban public space: Ollies,
obstacles and conflicts
LIA KARSTEN
and EVA PEL
Amsterdam Study Centre for the Metropolitan Environment (AME), University of Amsterdam,
Nieuwe Prinsengracht 130, 1018 VZ Amsterdam, The Netherlands
(
author for correspondence, E-mail: c.j.m.karsten@frw.uva.nl)
Received February 2000; Accepted June 2000
Abstract. This paper reports on an explorative study about skateboarding practices in
Amsterdam. One indoor spot and nine street locations for skateboarding were observed and
over thirty skaters were interviewed. The research questions concern the identity of the people
involved, the group interactions, and the use of urban space and routes. The majority of the
observed skateboarders are male middle-class youngsters. In this respect, the skateboarding
scene is not very different from other forms of urban public play where men predominate. At
the same time, however, skateboarding can be seen as a way of experimenting with new forms
of masculinity. Since hanging about by adolescents is mainly a lower-class phenomenon, the
middle-class status of the skateboarding youth is surprising. Notwithstanding their individual
skateboarding acts, youngsters involved in skateboarding negotiate their claim on specific
spaces in groups. The colonizing of public spaces for skateboarding does not remain free
of conflict. Groups of skaters are continuously putting public spaces into and out of use. In a
sense, skateboarders can be considered thenomads of the city. Their ‘traveling in packs’ results
in a map of skate locations which is constantly changing. To understand the phenomenon of
skateboarding, further research is needed, not only in Amsterdam but also in other cities and
the suburbs.
Key words: Amsterdam, gender relations, public space, skateboarding
1. Introduction
...you see a post and you think, wow, I can ollie over that and then if
I ride this way, I can boardslide or do a noseslide over that bench. You
can do it backside or frontside. There are a thousand ways to approach an
object ...
Skateboarders, roller bladers, or roller skaters exploring the city have become
a familiar sight in the contemporary urban landscape. They are the subject of
amusement but also the source of some annoyance. The way in which skaters
use the city is essentially different from that of the rest of its inhabitants and
visitors. Their ‘cool’ attitude and ingenious acrobatics catch the eye and form
328 LIA KARSTEN AND EVA PEL
a new kind of urban entertainment. However, the alternative use of space
also leads to conflict in a number of ways. In busy commercial areas of
the city, skaters clash with pedestrians and other, more established modes of
transportation. They are sometimes forced to retreat to other places or skate at
other times. Occasionally the local government orsomeone in the commercial
sector provides suitable facilities, but for skaters, the city itself remains the
ultimate paradise.
Skating and the accompanying ‘tricks’ have become a real rage. Ten years
ago, skaters were rarely seen in Dutch cities, but the situation has changed
rapidly. Nowadays, Amsterdam’s Vondelpark is literally ‘infested’ with inline
skaters. Skating is a new trend in sporting movement, but one that very
quickly changes its form. To an outsider, skateboarding, roller skating, and
inline skating all fall into one category. For the participants, they are strictly
separate sports. With the massive popularity of inline skating and the revival
of roller skating, skateboarders want their activities to be placed in an entirely
different category.
Who is the skateboarding citizen, what does a skateboarder’s world look
like, and how do skaters use the city? From a social scientist’s point of view,
skating in the Netherlands is a blank page. But also in other countries, studies
on the use of urban space by skaters are scarce (Kaspar, 1997; Van Woerkom,
1998). This gap in the literature was the incentive to undertake an explor-
atory study. Amsterdam was chosen for pragmatic reasons, as well as for the
fact that the skating trend in the Netherlands manifests itself very clearly in
the capital. The research is primarily aimed at skateboarding: skating and
performing tricks on a skateboard. Other forms of skating were examined
only as a way of establishing their importance relative to skateboarding.
Skateboarding is one of the oldest forms of skate sports still maintained today.
In this article, we discuss who the person behind the skateboard is and
what skateboarding means to him (and sometimes her) (Section 3). It is
clear that skateboarding is not only a leisure-time activity but also an activity
that defines one’s identity (Section 4). The urban character of skating seems
to express itself in the temporary colonizing of public spaces and routes
(Section 5). But before we go into the results of the study, we will first outline
the research methods and the locations that were visited.
2. Research methods and locations
In the rst five months of 1997, indoor and outdoor skate locations were
studied. In January and February, observations at the Amsterdam indoor skate
park started. By springtime, the research moved on to a number of street loca-
tions. Systematic observations with the help of maps, observation charts, and
SKATEBOARDERS EXPLORING URBAN PUBLIC SPACE 329
field notes were carried out (Lofland and Lofland, 1984). Indoor and street
locations were observed eight times each. Furthermore, 34 semi-structured
interviews with skaters were conducted. Finally, information about skate-
boarding was collected by interviewing informants, surfing the skateboard
web sites, and reading – mainly gray – literature.
The first part of the fieldwork took place at the ‘3rd Floor’, the only skate
park in the Amsterdam region. This skate park opened in 1995 and was built
in connection with that year’s Dutch Skateboarding Championship. For an
eight-guilder entrance fee, skateboarders and inliners (inline skaters are also
welcome) can use the facility all day and all evening. The skate park includes
diverse wooden obstacles that were mostly built by the skateboarders them-
selves. An obstacle consists of ramps, platforms, rails, and banks. They are
placed so that a circuit of all the obstacles can be made. The park is regularly
rearranged as new ramps or fun boxes are added. There is a small sitting room
where visitors can see the newest skate videos or magazines. Skate clothing
is also sold.
The second half of the fieldwork took place at nine street locations in
Amsterdam. The nine mini-skate parks form a chain through Amsterdam,
which functions as a popular skating tour among the experienced skaters.
Most of the street locations are not meant for skateboarding but are used as
such because their challenging designs attract skaters. New spots are continu-
ally discovered, tried, and evaluated. If considered to be a convenient place,
new spots have a good chance to receive a special name known only in
skateboarding circles.
All of the skate spots we observed are located in or around the center of
Amsterdam. These places were indeed the most popular ones in Amsterdam
in 1997 (see Figure 1). The Heinekenplein is a recently built, round asphalt
square bordered by a number of benches in a neighborhood to the south
of the center of Amsterdam The second location is the Nederlandse Bank
(central bank) on the Frederiksplein, nearby. It consists of a smooth cement
plateau running alongside a sidewalk on the north side of the building. The
third observed skate spot is the public space around an ofce complex at
the Sarphati Plaza. Skateboarders use the wheelchair ramp and hand rails.
The fourth location is a small playground with low walls and benches behind
the Weesperstraat corridor. The fifth spot is a covered marble sidewalk with
steps, located at the entrance of Albert Heijn grocery store. The sixth location
is the C & A Passageway close to the Dam Square. The smooth-surfaced
passageway has steps and a wheelchair ramp. During the research period,
an ‘illegal’ competition (at night) took place here. The next location in the
chain of skate spots is the Max Euweplein. The sloping bike paths and low
walls make this an attractive spot for skaters. The adjacent Vondelpark and
330 LIA KARSTEN AND EVA PEL
(a)
Figure 1. Nine skatespots in Amsterdam. Note: plein is square; straat is street.
Museumplein also factor into the popularity of this location. The eighth loca-
tion is the ‘Museum’, at least that is what the skaters call the half pipe and the
surrounding area on the Museumplein. At the time of our research, there were
always parts of street furniture lying about that the skaters used as obstacles.
Thus, the half pipe was not the only object used here by the skateboarders.
The last skate spot is somewhat out of the way.It is the Europaplein next to the
RAI congress center. This square has a bare cement surface and a three-tiered
cement tribune wrapped around a large advertising pillar.
SKATEBOARDERS EXPLORING URBAN PUBLIC SPACE 331
3. The skateboarder’s scene: White male middle-class youngsters
In the Netherlands, there are no figures about the number of skateboarders nor
about their personal characteristics. During the eight observations in the 3rd
Floor, we encountered altogether 143 skateboarders in a group of nearly two
hundred roller sporters. Thus, skateboarders make up around two-thirds of
all visitors. At each observation session, we met between fifteen and twenty
skaters. The skate locations in the open air showed a far more diverse pattern
of use. Several times, a spot was found without users. The weather conditions
in spring were not always favorable. During the observations, we met 84
skateboarders and the same number of inline skaters.
The age of the skateboarders observed varied, but they can all be character-
ized as youngsters. Most were in their twenties, followed by high-school-aged
youth. We saw few skateboarders over 30 or under 12 years old. We were
told that young children mainly practice in their own neighborhood or on the
sidewalk in front of their house. When they grow older and more skilled, they
venture out onto the ‘official’ spots. The ‘older’ skateboarders (over 20) form
a devoted group. They are long-time skaters and have reached a high level of
achievement. From interviews, it seems that the majority began alone or with
a friend on a ‘toy store’ skateboard. After a few years when most children
stop skating they kept it up. They search each other out and form bonds
based on their mutual interest in the sport. Some have become ‘professionals’
who participate in national and international competitions and presentations.
They are sponsored by a skate store or a skate clothing manufacturer.
The skateboard scene in Amsterdam is comprised mainly of boys (96
percent of those observed). The few girls we did encounter had just begun
skateboarding. We asked our interviewees why so few girls skated. Some
skaters point to the rough nature of the sport and the high risk of injury.
They fall down a lot and I think that girls just don’t like falling. Once
in a while I go skating with a couple of girls and if they fall, sometimes
they start crying. It hurts and that’s part of it. I don’t think that that attracts
them. I don’t really know. It’s kind of like cars, just a boy’s thing ...(male
skateboarder)
Other skaters argue that it is a matter of strength and courage, which they
supposed to be hardly feminine traits. A few skaters, however, claim that
skateboarding demands balance and flexibility, talents that girls and boys
share equally. For many skateboarders, the unequal participation of girls
seemed not to be a topic they were engaged with. They only talked about it
when asked. Some hadn’t even mentioned the virtual absence of girls before
the interview.
332 LIA KARSTEN AND EVA PEL
(a)
(b)
Figure 2. Pictures of four skatespots in Amsterdam.
(a) Skatepark 3rd floor
(b) Nederlandse Bank (central bank)
(c) Half-pipe Museumplein
(d) Europaplein
SKATEBOARDERS EXPLORING URBAN PUBLIC SPACE 333
(c)
(d)
Figure 2. Continued.
Becky Beal (1996a,b) did research into the gender of skateboarding. In
her American-based research, it seems that male skateboarders see skate-
boarding as a typical – albeit alternative boy’s sport where girls ‘just don’t
belong’. It is seen as a masculine sport in which daring achievements are
prized. The masculine image of skateboarding was definitely not dominant
from the beginning (Cuthbertson, 1976). In one of the first publications about
skateboarding, Skateboarding, the complete guide to the sport’ (Grant, 1976),
Katherine Hepburn was portrayed in an active skateboarding position.
334 LIA KARSTEN AND EVA PEL
The world of skateboarding forms simultaneously an alternative subcul-
ture and a reproduction of the existing gender relations. On the one hand,
boys who skateboard are opposing society by looking for alternative ways
of using their environment. This resistance is also paired with experimenting
with non-traditional forms of masculinity, the non-competitive character of
skateboarding, for example. Very baggy clothing and (sometimes) longer hair
are also signs of a ‘softer’ masculine image. On the other hand, this new sport
seems to have quickly become a domain occupied almost exclusively by boys.
The reproduction of sports and of the public domain into a men’s affair
is still in full swing. However, things seem to be changing. Magazines pay
more attention to skateboarding girls. The contrast with inline skating, which
more girls are engaged with, may play a role. Or is it possible that the ‘girl
power’ of the 1990s is starting to bear fruit? The few girls we spoke with
were optimistic about the future of female skateboarding. They stressed the
fact that girls had only begun and that they would certainly develop their
performance. But they also indicated that as a girl you have to behave as one
of the boys. Otherwise you do not get a chance at the tramps.
The one-sided composition found for gender also applies, to a somewhat
lesser degree, to the ethnicity of skateboarders. In the park, almost 90 percent
of the skaters we observed were ethnically Dutch; in the street, more than 60
percent were Dutch. In Amsterdam as a whole, around 50 percent of the youth
have other ethnic origins, mainly Turkish, Moroccan, or Surinamese. The fact
that the ethnic composition in the street is more diverse than at the park may
have something to do with the entrance fee, a lack of information about the
existence of the park, and its remote location. Ethnic youth in Amsterdam are
less well integrated in institutionalized children’s domains than are children
of Dutch origin (Karsten, 1998). Besides the large group of Dutch skaters, we
observed proportionately more Surinamese skaters than Turkish or Moroccan
skaters.
Most of the skateboarders we interviewed were enrolled in high school or
were taking advanced education courses of some sort. In this respect, skate-
boarders are certainly not part of a marginalized youth culture. Many of the
skaters we encountered were students at the Amsterdam Montessori Lyceum
(high school). One group of boys at the 3rd Floor came from Heemstede,
an older wealthy suburb of Amsterdam. These boys were dropped off and
picked up by their parents and were really dressed like professional skaters.
They obviously came from upper-middle-class families. One of the inform-
ants began spontaneously to describe how much his outfit costs. He knew the
price of every attribute. After a quick calculation, it came out to more than
700 guilders in skateboard equipment and clothing.
SKATEBOARDERS EXPLORING URBAN PUBLIC SPACE 335
To summarize: the majority of the observed group of skateboarders
are white middle-class boys. At the time of the research, girls and ethnic
minorities did not play a large role in the skateboard scene. In this sense,
skateboarding is not a very emancipated sport. At the same time, however,
skateboarding is characterized by an alternative and creative use of urban
space wherein new forms of masculinity are being experimented with.
4. Activity and identity
Skateboarding is an individual sport as well as a social event. Skateboarders
encourage one another. Whenever a trick is successfully executed, skate-
boards are drummed on the ground as a kind of alternative applause. The
skate park has an almost ‘peaceful’, genial, non-competitive atmosphere,
even when the stereo is blasting out hip hop. For the visitors, it is all about
skateboarding, the tricks, and the physical exertion. Perhaps the absence of
girls plays a role. With men among men, ‘cock-fighting’ behavior is not
necessary.
Confirmation by peers is important, but so is the recognition by other
groups. Wearing specific kinds of clothes, as skaters do, makes a clear state-
ment to the rest of the world. For the hard core of skaters, skateboarding is not
only their favorite activity but also part of their identity. At school, at work,
or in the neighborhood, one is well known and easily recognized as a skater.
For the hard core, that is something to be proud of.
Some kinds of environments are more open to skating and skateboarders
than others. According to the interviewees, schools are easy to classify
as favorable or unfavorable to skaters. The above-mentioned Montessori
Lyceum is one example of a teaching environment in which alternative
cultures such as skateboarding can flourish. It is not a complete coincidence
that there are two skate spots very near to the school buildings (Museum on
the Museumplein and Biobank on the Hygieaplein).
Most skateboarders alternate skating alone and skating in a group. After
work, one hard core skater likes skating with a few friends on a summer
night or at other moments when traffic is less heavy. But he also regularly
skateboards alone on a specific route through the city:
Often I start my skating tour between 7 and 10 in the evening. It is not that
busy anymore and during the day I simply have no time, because of my
work. I start from home in the Baarsjes up to the Kinkerstraat and from
there to the Jan Pieter Heijestraat where the asphalt is nice and smooth.
The Staringplein is my first skate spot: the so-called Bluebanks.
336 LIA KARSTEN AND EVA PEL
Younger skaters operate more often in groups and often stay at one spot for
a whole afternoon. They use their bicycle rather than their skateboard as a
mode of transport.
Besides skateboarding, skaters often come together to make frequent and
necessary repairs on their skateboards. Maintenance work takes place in skate
shops or in the skate park, where tools are available. Tips are exchanged on
the whereabouts of new locations and tricks are demonstrated. They also film
and photograph one another at the 3rd Floor. Sometimes these amateur lms
are edited into official skate videos. Hanging around or ‘chilling’ at the skate
spots affirms the social character of an otherwise individual sport.
5. The use of urban space
For this project, we examined the use of space, especially the appropriation of
(semi-) public space by skateboarders. In the park we distinguished between
residents, consumers, and first timers (Lofland, 1973).
Residents are easy to distinguish from those visiting the place for the first
time or who only come incidentally. The residents we met in the skate park
form the hard core of the Amsterdam skateboard scene. Some of them are
engaged in the struggle to create more spaces for skaters in Amsterdam. These
Amsterdam people usually skate atthe 3rdFloor a few times a week andknow
the manager and many of the other guests well. In many ways, they act as if
they own the skate park. They build and change objects if necessary. They
repair their boards and exchange information. The residents obviously feel at
ease and somehow they let others feel that they are just outsiders (Elias and
Scotson, 1965).
There is a second group of visitors. They come on a less regular basis
than the residents, though quite frequently almost once a week. Most of
them come from outside the city, and their interactions are usually within the
group. These boys do not change or build the objects and consider the whole
existence of the 3rd Floor as a nice matter of course. The 3rd Floor forms an
attractive facility that their own village or town lacks.
First timers fall into two categories: beginners and tourists. Beginners
come to the park to exercise. Some of them come just for fun, while others
have aspirations to become a professional. The tourists skate adequately to
very well and are often coincidentally visiting the 3rd Floor while on vacation
in Amsterdam. Tourists sometimes have conversations with the core group.
The situation at the observed street locations is dynamic with regard to
both the spots and the way of using them. Skate spots arise spontaneously.
Their popularity is dependent on how frequently a group uses them. After
a time, these spots can become important centers of activity and meeting
SKATEBOARDERS EXPLORING URBAN PUBLIC SPACE 337
places for skateboard circles, but they can also fall into oblivion. The spots
are temporarily appropriated by skaters and transformed, for that moment,
into a skateboard domain. New locations are regularly added to the list of
possible skate spots. Postmodern buildings in particular have highly suitable
‘obstacles’ and smooth surfaces on which to skate:
...as long as there are no skate parks, you just use what there is. Why
does all that marble have to stay clean and shiny? Those things also have
to be used. They’re not there for nothing. And after all, we don’t damage
anything, we’re involved in a form of art.
Groups of skaters are continuously putting public places into and out of
use. In terms of Lofland (1973) skaters are ‘traveling in packs’. By skating
through public space, they create their own ‘private’ domains. This creation
is sometimes quite literal. Every new setting must meet specific conditions
in order for skateboarding to be possible. For example, adaptation occurs
with free-standing street furniture. Cement blocks, iron barriers, and steel
and cardboard plates are all used. This sort of adaptation by groups of
skaters was a common sight during our observations. It also became clear
that the skateboarders have their own rules concerning the use of space
(how to use and eventually clean it up) and their own specialized language
(much of the terminology is in English). Because of this backstage language,
non-skateboarders quickly feel themselves outsiders.
Conflict remains concerning the colonizing of public space. During the
research, this was the case at the Albert Heijn grocery store location on the
Jodenbreestraat. Skaters and shop owners could not reach an agreement about
the use of the smooth walkway to the entrances of the shops. According to
the skaters, their acts made the place livelier, while the shop owners argued
that skating acts prevented clients from coming into the shops. Bitter conflicts
were the result. Such struggles over the use of public space are quite frequent,
sometimes with unforeseen results:
Skaters are incredibly stubborn. The only way they’ll stop is by heavy
police action or if barriers are put up. Sometimes the barriers are so ignor-
antly set up that they actually improve the spot. That’s what happened
in Rotterdam when they placed railings to stop skateboarding. The spot
became more popular because the railings were perfect for skating.
Nevertheless, it seems that many ‘skate travelers’ concede to the demands of
residents, shopkeepers or police and look for a place or a time that others have
little interest in. In this respect, the skateboarders are a rather separate group,
the nomads of the city for whom there is little room (Kaspar, 1997; Borden,
1998). They find refuges such as the half pipe under the Schellingwouder
bridge, which is located at the edge of the city where no one else would
338 LIA KARSTEN AND EVA PEL
want to go. Skaters are left alone there and have the freedom to do as they
please. The same applies to parking garages. The Free University parking
garage is a good example: after working hours, it is a deserted place and
easily transformable into a skating course.
It was apparent, however, that skaters consider inner-city places as the
most attractive ones. Especially the Museum and after closing time the
C&A Passageway on the Rokin in the very center of the city are popular
spots.
The phenomenon of traveling in packs means that the skateboarding map
(the various places used at any one time) is constantly changing. New spots
appear, while others are lost or left aside:
New buildings are always visited by an exploratory group of skaters who
want to see if there is something new to skate on.
From interviews, it appears that also the art of skateboarding itself is subject
to change. Nowadays, big wheels are no longer popular, which also makes
specific spots less popular, too:
The Bluebanks were very popular at the time we used to skateboard with
big wheels. With the small ones it is difficult to get enough speed for the
take-off run. The pavement there is too uneven to make speed with small
wheels.
In short, the places where people skateboard and the sporting activity itself
are continuously subject to change.
6. Conclusions and discussion
This research represents an initial exploration of the world of skateboarding,
and the outcomes can only tentatively be summarized. The intensive way of
studying the skateboard scene in Amsterdam, however, gave us more insight
and new inspiration for further research.
The Amsterdam study revealed that the skateboard scene is made up of
mainly white middle-class youth. For the hard core, the skateboarding sport
is far more than just an activity in leisure time. It is an identity-building
performance that can be developed in a limited number of places. Skate-
boarders are constantly exploring the convenience of urban spaces for their
sports. In so doing, conflicts with other citizens and the police frequently
arise. In a sense, skateboarders form the new nomads of the city. However,
the acceptance of skateboarders and skateboarding is also recognizable in the
more or less permanent colonizing of spaces. In this process, three sorts of
‘contradictions’ form interesting fields of further research.
SKATEBOARDERS EXPLORING URBAN PUBLIC SPACE 339
Evidently, the new skateboarding way of using public domains is char-
acterized by the same kinds of gender relations that have been seen in other
forms of urban play (Karsten, 1995; Helgesen, 1997; Valentine, 1997; Scraton
and Watson, 1998). So far, skateboarding is a boy’s world to which girls have
only limited access, be it in a different mold than traditional masculine sports.
The image that skaters create for themselves, with their baggy clothing and
general concern for fashion, and the unimportance of scoring, however, is not
indicative of an inflexible macho image. Why women hardly participate in
the skate scene deserves further research (Culp, 1998).
Whereas just hanging out in the city usually seems to be an activity for
dropouts and those on the lower end of the social ladder, skateboarding seems
to attract a higher-status group (Hazekamp, 1985; Roberts and Parsell, 1994).
What distinguishes skateboarding from just hanging out? Is it the relatively
expensive outfit, the patience and training it requires, or is it just a question
of personal?
The urban character of skateboarding seems to contrast with the extremely
peripheral and invisible areas and times that are sometimes skated. There
is little public honor to be won in an abandoned parking garage (the Free
University) or under an out-of-the way bridge (the Schellingwouderbrug).
How should the public, urban orientation of skateboarding be considered in
relation to the sometimes marginal places and times where it takes place?
And to what degree is skateboarding a more urban than suburban activity
(Van Vliet, 1983)? Does the image of suburban neighborhoods as places that
are intolerant of anything different from quiet family life have some relation
with the assumed urban character of skateboarding (Baumgartner, 1988)?
The geographies of different groups of youth remain to be discovered
(Skelton and Valentine, 1998). Skateboarding concerns an urban micro
phenomenon that, in spite of its modest scale, has a considerable impact on
the media, clothing, and culture. Skateboarding is used as a metaphor for the
increasingly rapid pace of city life. How this relationship exactly works needs
further research.
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... Skateboarders are one sub-group of young people who tend to be predominantly male, middle class with a dress code and identity of their own (Beal, 1995;Borden, 2001;Karsten & Pel, 2000;Woolley, 2003b). Their activity is different from organized sports, which are mainly competitive in nature. ...
... Their activity is different from organized sports, which are mainly competitive in nature. Within this sub culture, participants learn from each other, are supportive and encouraging of each other's abilities while at the same time being creative and not bound by rules (Beal, 1995;Karsten & Pel, 2000;Woolley & Johns, 2001;Nemeth, 2006). Skateboarders use the urban fabric in a way no other group in society does and have been identified as a resistant subculture of their own challenging capitalist norms, cultural forms and physical relationship with the urban environment (Beal, 1995;Borden, 2001). ...
Conference Paper
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Skateboarding started in the 1950s on the west coast of the United States of America (USA) as a response to a desire of surfers to continue their activity “when the surf was flat” This qualitative study focuses on the perception of what skateboarding is all about in South African cities and townships. In doing this, attention is also given to the skateboarding’s contribution to societal challenges in South African cities and townships. Skateboarding’s sub culture, like other youth cultures, are commonly regarded as being out of place in open public spaces as they tend to pose ‘a crisis for public space’ or resist the normative logic of public space and offer unwanted alternative uses. The problem within this context can be conceptualized as “an activity for youths involved in anti-social behavior or undesirable social behavior whereby skateboarders are in general previewed as outcasts, nuisances, and even criminals”. This study is closely allied to the social constructivist where the objective of research ‘is to rely as much as possible on the participants’ view of the situation being studied’. A grounded theory guideline approach was applied, thus including open axial and selective coding. Four focus group interviews were executed amongst respondents located in and around Pretoria (Menlyn, Atteridgeville, Lotus gardens and Eersterus). Themes that emerged include the need for experience, skateboarding awareness, skateboarding’s attributes and values, skateboarding as a leisure activity, skateboarding as a competitive sport, personal characters of skateboarding, and anti-criminal behavior. Societies in general, always use the phrase “don’t judge a book by its cover”, question is, does the society apply this widely used belief system? The findings of this empirical, proof beyond questioning that society does in fact, “judge the book by its cover”. Skateboarding could and should be considered by private industries (profit orientation and social responsibility programs) and relevant government structures (social development), as yet another element of a wider integrated social development plan
... A number of researchers have looked at the (1) ways in which skaters use public and private space; (2) the reasons skateboarders have persisted in the use of privately-owned public space even in the face of extensive regulation and the provision of skate parks; (3) the types of spaces skateboarders have appropriated; and (4) the informal social hierarchy within the skate subculture and how elite members maintain power and status (Karsten & Pel, 2000;Chiu, 2009;Vivoni, 2009;Dupont, 2014). Karsten and Pel (2000), in one of the earliest empirical studies on skateboarding practices, taking place at one skatepark and eight skate spots in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, systematically explored the ways in which skaters used the city differently from that of the rest of its inhabitants. ...
... A number of researchers have looked at the (1) ways in which skaters use public and private space; (2) the reasons skateboarders have persisted in the use of privately-owned public space even in the face of extensive regulation and the provision of skate parks; (3) the types of spaces skateboarders have appropriated; and (4) the informal social hierarchy within the skate subculture and how elite members maintain power and status (Karsten & Pel, 2000;Chiu, 2009;Vivoni, 2009;Dupont, 2014). Karsten and Pel (2000), in one of the earliest empirical studies on skateboarding practices, taking place at one skatepark and eight skate spots in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, systematically explored the ways in which skaters used the city differently from that of the rest of its inhabitants. Going to all nine spaces eight times each, they observed skaters through mapping, charting, writing field notes, and collecting information about skating from skateboarder interviews. ...
Thesis
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Today, street skateboarding has transformed from a subcultural pursuit to a mainstream urban endeavor, as more than 50 million people partake in the activity globally. Cities respond to skateboarders' spatial movements by imposing contradictory legal prescriptions and physical design barriers in public and private spaces. The point of departure for this thesis is that planning reactions provide subpar public skate spaces while imposing regulations that ban/stigmatize skateboarding outside of these sanctioned skate spots. A sizable population is denied their full right to the city, proscribed from partaking in the everyday organicism of democratic spatial experience and life. These exclusionary planning/design practices/regulations warranted further investigation. The purpose of this research was to undertake an ethno-geographic inquiry into skateboarders' performances and transgressions in two public skateparks and two privately-owned plazas in Los Angeles, CA. My research questions were: What can planners learn from a ethno-geographic analysis of a subculture in space? Are current planning practices and engagement strategies allowing skateboarders to have citizen control and dictate how spaces are designed in order to provide quality, designated skate/recreational facilities? What planning tools and policies can provide multi-use, just spaces that celebrate diverse, cultural consumption and the social production of space? I conducted mixed methods research (i.e., field observations, interviews, photography, behavior mapping) following an actor-network theory (ANT) framework, rejecting the separation of humans/nonhumans, embracing materiality, and seeing space as a heterogeneous assemblage of constituent fluid realities/forms. I analyzed my findings through Lefebvre's trialectic conceptualization of space. Skateboarders' artistic spatial performances provide spectacles, reinterpret the functionality of objects, and transgress planned regulatory/physical boundaries. Ubiquitous handrails, stairs, and ledges as well as challenges posed by exclusionary spaces motivate skaters to blur traditional binaries of appropriate/inappropriate users in public/private spaces. Motivated by Sandercock's (2004) challenge for more imaginative planning and Beauregard's (2003) call to incorporate diverse storytelling and discursive democracy to build bases for collective planning action, I encourage planners to expand their politics, be creatively audacious, and adopt therapeutic tools for planning in 21st-century cities. I recommend one strategic occupation tactic for skateboarders to performatively represent themselves and engender planning responses. Using traditional planning tools (i.e., zoning incentives, engagement workshops, programming), I recommend four policies for cities to plan, design, and celebrate equitable, vibrant spaces where diverse publics can produce social space, create spectacles for cultural consumption, and represent themselves as legitimate actors in everyday urban life.
... These tensions can be a problem at skate parks, partly because there are too many people trying to use the space at the same time but also perhaps because of the differences between participants in the various groups. Skateboarding has been characterized as an activity for more affluent youngsters (Karsten & Pel, 2000), while there is a perception that some BMX bikers come from less wealthy families, although that has not been properly explored. ...
... However, there are also competitions or exclusions in public space: the practice of public space is full of uncertainty and internal contradictions due to conflicting presentations, ideologies or powers of subjects who are taking, using and making the space [21]. Abundant studies on public space emphasise this moment of exclusion, conflict and struggle [22][23][24], such as the conflict between buskers and pedestrians in the streets [25]; the competitions between square dancers and other square users in community open space, etc. [26]. The social construction of social relations, cultural meanings and powers in public space is constantly produced in coexisting or incompatible practices [27]. ...
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Different cultural groups establish different usage habits while using public spaces and there are contradictions between them. For instance, the issue of whether Beijing’s public waters can be used as winter swimming spaces is controversial. Based on Edward William Soja’s Trialectics of Spatiality, we analysed the literature analysis, semi-structured interviews and participatory observations to conduct the survey, and the following conclusions were drawn. First, the contradictions between winter swimmers and public water administrators in Beijing are divided into three stages, and the turning points of these stages are based on the changes in Secondspace. Second, after three rounds of gradual progress in the Trialectics of Spatiality, Firstspace not only preserves the winter swimming areas for Beijingers but also avoids the current contradictions due to different usages of public waters between different subjects. Third, winter swimmers and urban managers may not be aware of the potential contradictions of public waters in the future without using Soja’s concept of Thirdspace (or Lefebvre’s concept of “representation of space”).
... Borden (2001) also describes how skateboarders can reproduce space through offering a temporary creative re-working of its time and space. This temporary appropriation of space can often transform it, so much so that it resembles a skateboard domain (Karsten and Pel, 2000). These spaces can be visited temporally over a period of minutes or hours throughout a day, week or month. ...
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This systematic review discusses 25 recent studies (from 2000 to 2019, 13 quantitative and 12 qualitative) on the associations between neighbourhood characteristics and outdoor play of children (7–14 years old). Both physical and social contexts are shown to influence outdoor play, though studies differ on which elements matter most. Play‐friendly environments with informal and safe opportunities are more stimulating than formal playgrounds. Moreover, parents' social safety concerns limit children's independent outdoor play. Investigation of moderating factors is limited to age and gender differences and offers inconclusive evidence. Further research should collect evidence from both parents' and children's perspectives on how and for whom neighbourhood features matter.
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This chapter begins with the cultural base of the SLP, as served up in its relationship to ethnicity, gender, information, social class, cultural costs and constraints, and temporal space. A discussion of social change follows.
Article
Weaving together observations and insights from ethnographic research gathered over two years, this article considers how design and everyday life intertwine to create convivial places, but also pauses to take in the moments when tensions rise and conviviality fails. To illustrate, the article takes as an example the redevelopment of a small urban square in London, designed by landscape architects Gustafson Porter and completed in 2011. Gustafson Porter’s practice is deeply informed by inclusive design, and they strive to design barrier-free environments that ‘promote choice, flexibility of use and enable everyone to participate equally’. Taking in both the material design of the square and the social encounters that happen there, the article considers how inclusion and exclusion operate in a public space like General Gordon Square, and reflects on the challenges of making and maintaining conviviality. It suggests that inclusive design might be imagined as a vision of convivial culture in which we live together with difference.
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So far, children have not gained much attention in the field of segregation studies. In the research reported here, the notion of segregation is related children's daily life paths in the public domain. Given the local dimension of children's everyday lives and the growing number of 'black' and 'white' schools, it is apparent that children deserve a higher place on the agenda of segregation studies. Drawing on research carried out in five different Amsterdam neighbourhoods, this paper addresses children's time-space behaviour—after-school time. The central question is whether differentiation and segregation form vital dimensions in Amsterdam childhoods. Special attention has been given to children's orientation towards the public domain, their membership of leisure clubs and their freedom of movement. Results show that differences among children growing up in Amsterdam are big. At first sight, there seems to be a sharp divide between Amsterdam children with Dutch parents and Amsterdam children with a Turkish/ Moroccan or Surinamese/Antillean background. However, incorporating gender and class into the analyses, the picture becomes less clear. Ethnicity is a far more complex and dynamic concept than is sometimes argued. However, on the geographical scale of the neighbourhood, we must conclude that in three out of the five studied areas the contours of segregated childhoods are evidently clear. The material presented in this paper is based on observational studies and interviews in public playgrounds and a survey with 454 schoolchildren (7-12 years of age) and 214 parents.
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In this study of a sample of 148 teenagers from metropolitan Toronto, home range is found to be smaller in the city, in lower social classes, and-in the suburbs only-for girls and younger teenagers. Home range is the spatial manifestation of exploring the "fourth environment," which is globally defined as the environment outside the home, playground, and specifically child-oriented institutions. The significance of this fourth environment in the process of growing up is discussed, and some findings are presented that indicate that home range may be related to use and knowledge of the environment. It is suggested that the local neighbor-hood continues to be an important developmental context for young people, and common interests of other population groups are recognized as enhancing the potential for planning that is responsive to children's needs.
Article
This study primarily sought to identify constraints to adolescent girls' participation in outdoor recreation. A secondary focus probed the efficacy of outdoor programs in surmounting constraints. Focus group and individual interviews were conducted with thirty-four adolescent girls, six female outdoor program leaders, and five adult women. Qualitative analysis revealed several meaningful sources of constraints, including stereotypical gender roles, differences in outdoor recreation opportunities for males and females, peer and family expectations, access, and physical and environmental factors. Broad support was found for the notion that outdoor programs help girls overcome constraints. Themes emerged supporting both coed and all-girls programming, and structural components that could enhance girls' participation.
Article
This paper consists of two sections. In the first, theoretical, section I explore the questions of divergence and reconceptualization of women's leisure with notions derived from Giddens's structuration theory. In the second section these theoretical notions are used to structure empirical findings from the Netherlands. This results in three different types of women's leisure. The traditional family type has a long history, while the modern family type and the individualistic type are rather new. Each type can be characterised by a specific division of leisure into own time, leisured caring time and leisured labour time and by a specific time-space behaviour. Both the modern family type and the individualistic type are strongly related to women's growing participation in the labour market, which for the former type goes hand-in-hand with an unequal gender division of work. The expectation is that, rather than the individualistic type, the modern family type will become most widespread in the Netherlands and that therefore unequal gender relations in the labour, caring and leisure domain will endure.
Article
ABSTRACT What it means to be a child and what it means to be a parent are both cultural inventions, ideologies which are (re)constructed and (re)produced over time. The two are deeply intertwined. The dominant contemporary Western imagining of children as vulnerable and incompetent in public space contributes towards structuring the way that parents look after their offspring and determine their children's personal geographies. Children's safety in public space from traffic accidents and stranger-dangers is an issue that is high on the public agenda in the USA and UK, heightening parental anxieties about the amount of independence and spatial freedom they should grant their offspring. Mothers' and fathers' understandings of their children's safety and the culture and conduct of parenting are gendered processes. This paper therefore explores how parents' attitudes towards girls' and boys' respective vulnerabilities and competencies to handle danger in public space vary. It then goes on to consider the way that parental practices, such as taking responsibility for managing children's spatial boundaries and disciplining them for any infringements, are also gendered.
Article
This paper describes some of the ways in which popular culture may be a site of social resistance. The subculture of skateboarding is described as one form of popular culture that resists capitalist social relations, and the skateboarders’ particularly overt resistance to an amateur contest provides a framework for characterizing their daily and more covert behaviors of resistance. Although social resistance has the potential to change dominant social relations, it is often limited by contradictions and accommodations. In this case, the skateboarders’ sexist behavior is one of their significant contradictions. Finally, some implications of social resistance are addressed.