A search for social connection in america’s town square: Times square and urban public life

Document Type


Publication Date



Throughout the 20th century scholars, critics, and cultural practitioners explored relationships between urban space and public life. My ethnographic study of Times Square engages this larger conversation in an attempt to understand how images of a vibrant public sphere often collide with practices of everyday life. Because of the quantity of people who come to Times Square each year and the diversity of those people, the Square is an important place to locate and analyze questions about the construction and maintenance of a participatory public sphere. Further, photographs from the early part of the 20th century of crowds gathered in the Square to find out information via the newszipper at 1 Times Square, images of celebrations at the end of WWII, and footage of annual New Year's Eve celebrations in the district present Times Square as a site for collective action and social connection. I argue that these images conflict with an increasingly more prevalent desire by individuals in cities throughout the United States, including Times Square, to be left alone and feel comfortable in those places where they can be in presence of others while not having to give of themselves. © 2003 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC. All right reserved.

Publication Title

Southern Communication Journal