social exclusion, social media, spatial studies, democracy, public space, vulnerability


URBAN DEMOCRACY AND ITS SUBJECTS AND MEDIUMS Democracy, whose precise meaning depends on whether an observer focuses on the individual or the collective, is a form of political control in its simplest expression. In representative democracies, the most prevalent form of government today, the equality between citizens before the law and the sovereignty of the people are essential. In democratic forms of government, political control and direction is either in the hands of the people or provided by representatives elected by them. The idea of the sovereignty of the people brings together concepts such as equality, justice, freedom, independence, which together define and complement democracy in ways that transcend mere representation. Individuals in modern democracies, in addition to their normal civic responsibilities, are also candidates for leadership. Aristotle (1999), who in his Politics developed his definition of democracy from the perspective of the individual citizen, associated the conditions of being a good citizen in society with both being governed and having the political ability to govern. Another discourse that prioritizes the responsibilities of the individual in democracy comes from Popper (1947), who emphasized that individuals, i.e. citizens of the democratic state, should be blamed rather than democracy for political inadequacies in the state. Democracy not only shapes individuals and therefore society with the responsibilities it imposes, but also takes its shape from the society in which it functions. The knowledge, abilities, and good citizenship of the members of a given community shape a society and thus its democracy. Although many philosophers have emphasized the uniqueness of the social aspects of human existence, whether in terms of individuality or collectivity, Aristotle and Plato did not consider the inability to live outside of a community a human-specific behavior; on the contrary, they argued that human life shares this collective nature with animal life, and that our social nature is thus far from peculiar (Arendt, 1998). Whether unique to our species or not, however, communal existence requires existence in a concrete place. The relationship that democracy establishes with space, which is the focus of this study, emerges at this point.

The spatial counterpart to the search for social and collective rights that accompanies democracy has inspired the debates around the right to the city in contemporary societies. Lefebvre (1991), who defined space as a product of history, described the right to the city as a requirement of democracy and directly associated it with humanism. Harvey (1993) highlighted the dynamic relationship of space with society in his exploration of the subject, touching upon the dynamics of societal and spatial relationships and claiming that spatial form is at society's discretion. He thus emphasized different human behaviors and experiences and suggested that instead of asking what space is, we should instead investigate how it is that different human practices create and make use of distinctive conceptualizations of space. (Harvey, 1993). Harvey additionally associated the right to the city with living in it, arguing that those living in the city directly or indirectly contribute to the production of urban space and that this contribution is associated with the claim of a right to the city one inhabits (Harvey, 1993). In this case, in addition to human practices, the practices of non-humans who are residents of and shape the city should share in the claim to the it. The comprehensiveness of the definition of the right to the city should be examined from this perspective, and the subjects of the practices that constitute that right should be taken into consideration. Democracy and its participants, which restructure and reproduce space public space in modern societies, redefine urbanization processes with the collective and organized power it requires. Harvey (2003) points out that the organized collective power necessary to claim the city through its alteration is quite beyond the capacity of individuals or individual rights: the realization of the right to the city demands claiming such a shaping power in an essential and radical way. Likewise, Lefebvre claims that the right to the city should involve a continual and active process of appropriation (in the sense of use rather than ownership) of city spaces (McCann, 2002). He also argues that “the right to the city [involves] the right to claim presence in the city, to wrest the use of the city from privileged new masters and democratize its spaces” (Lefebvre, 1996 in McCann, 2002). This definition specifically supports the fight against the privatization of public space and the maintenance of heterogeneity within metropolitan areas (Fainstein, 2006). The specific focus of this paper concerns this final point and attempts to engage in a discussion of the ways in which society can or cannot claim its collective rights and satisfy its needs in urban space while at the same time maintaining democracy within itself by allowing diversity and the inclusion of members with various needs and vulnerabilities.