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Doctoral thesis, 2022

Behavioural Atmospheres and Vagueness in the Sharing of Urban Public Places

Wirdelöv, Johan


This thesis is an exploration of urban public places and social interactions understood as a sharing of place. Against the background of urbanization, migration, urban densification and new technologies, it can be assumed that our everyday ways of sharing place with one another are becoming more diversified. This calls for responsive theoretical tools and concepts to keep our understandings updated. This thesis unfolds theoretical considerations on vagueness in how we share place with each other. It is thus the subtle, peripheral and often unnoticed side of socio-spatial behaviour that is of interest here. How can vague place-sharing be understood?

The notion of behavioural atmospheres is advanced to discuss vague place-sharing. Sharing of place happens in context, and there is an atmospheric side to this context. A behavioural atmosphere is neither good nor bad by definition, and all places have them, in the sense that we — often without reflection — behave differently towards each other depending on circumstances like location, time of day, and with whom we interact. Studies of a public park, a residential area and street furniture offer different entry points into the world of behavioural atmospheres and vague place-sharing. Theory on rhythms, territories, material culture and everyday encounters is mobilized. Field observations, interviews and autoethnography are the primary research techniques. 

The exploration leads to a theoretical discussion of the social, spatial and temporal aspects of vague place-sharing and behavioural atmospheres. The discussion is thematized as vague figurations, situated instructions and temporal thresholds, along with a range of tentative insights and terms for further research. Thereby, an alternative view on spatial use of and social interaction is suggested. It is a view that nuances preconceived ideas in urban design of how public places work.


vagueness; place-sharing; behavioural atmospheres; rhythms; territories; material culture; encounters; socio-spatial; public space; urban design

Published in

Acta Universitatis Agriculturae Sueciae
2022, number: 2022:56
ISBN: 978-91-7760-987-2, eISBN: 978-91-7760-988-9
Publisher: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences

Authors' information

UKÄ Subject classification

Landscape Architecture

URI (permanent link to this page)