Research collective Partners in Urban Knowledge, Action and Research (PUKAR) teamed up with the BMW Guggenheim Lab to analyse how rapid urbanisation in Mumbai is redefining citizens’ definition of city space and privacy.
The objective of the study was to determine the concept of privacy and its relationship to public spaces in Mumbai with certain themes emerging during the survey and interview process such as people’s view of privacy in the city in relation to technology and gender.
Canvassing a broad cross-section of Mumbai’s population, the researchers gleaned their findings from 39 video and audio interviews, 800 surveys and photographs of public spaces and their use. A large proportion of young people took part in the project, reflecting the city’s young population.
Among some of the key results, the study found that:
- 26 percent of respondents said they like to spend time with themselves at home, perhaps highlighting a growing need for solitude in a packed city.
- Religious spaces, community grounds and parks were the public areas most respondents had access to, however nine percent of respondents had no access whatsoever to public spaces. 25 percent of respondents who have access to community spaces do not feel comfortable using them, while 45 percent were not interested in using them, citing poor infrastructure, long commutes to such places and a lack of cleanliness as reasons.
- Gender plays a huge role in perception of public spaces. A whopping 87 percent of female respondents feel that certain public spaces are not accessible to them despite Mumbai’s reputation as one of the safest cities in India. A majority would not visit a nightclub or a tea stall alone, highlighting reasons such as safety, harassment and societal perceptions of them as explanations.
There is currently much debate about the effects of urbanisation in Asia and how to manage rapid urban migration. A 2012 study by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Environment Improvement Society showed that only 10 square kilometres of a possible 30 square kilometres of open space in the city are being used and made accessible to the public, leaving people looking to find tranquillity and space in Mumbai in a bit of a pinch.
Based in Mumbai, PUKAR undertakes community-focussed research projects independently, looking at issues related to urbanisation. This study was commissioned as part of the BMW Guggenheim Lab, a travelling research team that focusses on urbanisation.
The Lab is currently based at Bhau Daji Lad Museum in Mumbai until January 20 and has plans to conduct a larger research project involving 4,000 participants. There are a series of events happening as part of the Lab’s residency in Mumbai (details on the website).
Check out Mumbai Lab Team Member, Aisha Dasgupta, discussing the impact of public spaces on perceptions of privacy:
Author: Anna Rees/ RESET editorial