The Bartlett School of Planning


Jihyun Kim

Research subject

Thesis title: Multiple enactments of public space: An affordance analysis on stabilisation and multiplicity of user activity

Primary supervisor: Dr. Tse-Hui Teh
Secondary supervisor: Professor Jon Agar 
Starting date: January 2013
Completion date: 28th November 2017

Public space is an intrinsic element in our cities reflecting our everyday life. It contains various types of social, cultural, economic, and other relations. These relations continually change their ways of agglomeration in the space. In this regard, it has been pointed out that this manifoldness and changeability is one of the barriers making difficult for the public space studies to examine public space. This research seeks an empirical method to capture this multiple and ever-changing aspect of public space. It examined user activities in public spaces to address how public space performs multiple roles, how the behind-the-scenes dynamic relations make them different public spaces, and what the role of materiality in the performances of public space is.

To look at the multiple production process of human activities, the concept of affordances (Gibson 1979) was applied to examine the relations between the human and physical environments and Actor-Network Theory (ANT) was applied to investigate the characteristics of public space through the user activity networks. Data on user behaviour were gathered by observations, short interviews, and questionnaires from Fortune Street Park and Kingston Ancient Market Place, both small public spaces in London.

The ANT framework of material relations recognised that the stabilisation (Callon, 1992; Bijker, 1997) of user activity networks are achieved through a fluid  process (Law 2002) and that this fluidity is based on the multiple affordances in the space. Using the term multiplicity (Mol and Law 2002), this research describes the ways in which the multiple activities interfere and overlap with each other along with the actants involved. This research found the two cases perform multiple roles, which was verified by multiple enactments of user activity networks. However, the two cases showed differences in generating user activity stabilisations and in holding the multiple activity networks together in the space. These network differences were identified as the main causes to generate different publicness, which are constantly changing. Based on these findings, this research argues that the cases under study transform their network relations in multiple ways to be stabilised as public spaces, and finally suggests a new empirical tool to examine the multiple and ever-changing aspect of public space.


Jihyun Kim completed his doctorate entitled ‘Multiple enactments of public space’ at the Bartlett School of Planning in November 2017. He is an urban designer and planner practised for more than 7 years, and he finished MArch Urban Design in the Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL and MPhil Architecture in University of Cambridge.