The Digital Public Space - How digital communities and social media is changing the public space

Patrick Vedel Sternberg

Student thesis: Master thesis


This project is about how digital communities and social media is affecting public space and what consequences it can have on access to these places. The project focuses on two different cases. One case have a focus on how digital media can introduce a public place with a different culture and push the old one out. This will be done by looking at how digital media can create urban gathering points with the help of digital applications. The other case is about how digital communities, through misinformation and echo rooms created a vaccine problem in New York state and how the government react to digital communities creating a healthcare problem. By looking at both cases it is possible to see some tendencies in how digitale communities and social media is used to influence public space. In the case of Pokémon Go’s occupation of Det Kongelige Biblioteks Have in Copenhagen, we saw that a private company inadvertently created a hotspot in the middle of a small garden. This meant a large number of people suddenly used the public space in a whole new way and disrupted the old way of using it. This resulted in a cultural battle about the meaning of the place and how it was used. It showed how a cultural battle is fought when one of the communities is from a digital place. The power struggle is fought not on the place, but in the digital realm, where social interactions and communication between private companies, the government and the communities are a lot easier and faster.
The other case showed how digital media can create a larger problem for public space through online communities and misinformation. By having a digital community promoting the anti-vaccine movement, it created a healthcare problem in New York state, where the government had to step in and create new legislations to prevent a larger outbreak of measles. The removal of access to public spaces created a large backlash from the community as they saw this as a form of exclusion. Because the digital community sees the anti-vaccine movement as part of their home and ideology, they get defensive when the government involved themselves. The healthcare problem was solved, but this project saw it as a half-measure, because the community is still there, and they will choose alternative methods to keep their beliefs. This means that the denial of access to public institutions have only isolated this community even more, and made it harder to dissolve the whole movement. It is the children of these people that will suffer the consequences long term. By looking at the Pokémon Go case, this project concludes that if we want to prevent communities like the anti-vaccination movement, we have to look at the digital space and social media, and combat false information through better communication and interaction. Only then will public places not be threatened by the rise of digital communities.

EducationsGeography, (Bachelor/Graduate Programme) Graduate
Publication date24 Sep 2019
Number of pages7442
SupervisorsKeld Buciek