We are a small interdisciplinary research team that investigates questions of citizen participation in urban public spaces.

Tim

Tim Schnetgöke studied photography at the Bielefeld University of Applied Sciences. Tim is especially interested in non-commissioned art in public space.

Katya

Katya Assaf is a law professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Her current research focuses on politics behind the aesthetic design of urban spaces.

Jasmin

Jasmin Jossin is a transformation scientist with a PhD in urban psychology. Her research interests focus on the development of new visions and concepts for more sustainable urban futures. Her specific expertise lies in the various interactions between urban conditions and human well-being and behavior.

Together

Together, Katya, Tim and Jasmin conduct research on questions of citizen participation in urban public space. We develop ideas for making people visible in the city, enhancing the sense of presence and belonging. Our specific aspiration is to enable city residents to emblazon their city with their individual contributions, making the shared urban space more inclusive, colorful and multi-voiced.

Svenja

 Svenja Arndt has been photographing lost places, industry and architecture (modern or brutalist). She enjoys working on Google Maps so as to let others move around cities in creative and goal-oriented ways. In this context, she created “treasure maps” for Du bist am Zug. These maps provided information about the location of the posters, pictures of them and names of the artists. She is a social worker and works in the field of social media for Du bist am Zug, developing creative content. Svenja lives in Berlin. She is interested in the aesthetics of urban space and the possibility of participation of art and artists in the design of cityscapes.

Max

Max Mundhenke is a communications consultant and designs digital campaigns for business and culture clients. The former media studies student (University of Bielefeld) and book author is better known on social media under his pseudonym Tom Kraftwerk and was involved, among other things, in the internationally successful city marketing campaign of the city of Bielefeld (#Bielefeldmillion). He is the strategy advisor of the project.

What if people could design their city?
An experiment in Berlin 

We wanted to find out what would happen if people got a chance to design public spaces with expressions of their choice. Thus, we conducted a real-life experiment: during the summer of 2022, the project Du bist am Zug gave away 1500 spaces on billboards all over Berlin. This was made possible by the kind support of Wall GmbH and the Hebrew University Jerusalem.

What did people share? 

From April to June 2022, we invited everyone to upload contributions to our website. There were neither any specific topics nor a jury: everyone had an equal chance to present their submission on a billboard. About 800 people of various age groups and from diverse backgrounds took part in the project. Their contributions took different forms and touched upon a vast variety of topics: poems, artworks, personal stories, political messages, photos and children’s drawings.

A feeling of belonging

In interviews and surveys, participants told us that Du bist am Zug gave them the feeling of belonging to the city and the society. They felt present and visible. “This was a chance to be seen which I might have never had,” commented one participant. The personal posters evoked empathy and admiration, gave food for thought, provided new information and told interesting stories. Many participants noticed that they were surprised by how creative and diverse their co-citizens are. “Everyone is an artist in their own way,” commented one participant.

Future plans

Our experiment provides ample proof that the opportunity to become visible in the city enhances an individual’s feeling of belonging and contributes to social cohesion.
Allowing personal expressions in public spaces can serve as a meaningful tool of urban participation. Emblazoning the city with individual expressions realizes the residents’ right to the city: the right to actively engage in creation and recreation of urban spaces. In addition, creating space for individual expression has the potential to greatly enrich democratic discourse, opening it up to new topics, modes of expression and sensibilities.
Currently, we are looking for further ways to realize and develop our vision. How would Du bist am Zug function as a long-lasting project? What results would it yield in another city or another country? What would happen if one gave the stage exclusively to a socially disadvantaged group for some time? We are looking to answer these and many other questions with further experiments. If you are interested to cooperate with us on similar projects, please get in touch!

Recent Publications

Katya Assaf-Zakharov & Tim Schnetgöke, (Un)Official Cityscapes: The Battle over Urban Narratives, 57 Harvard Civil Rights-Civil Liberties Law Review 178 (2022)

Katya Assaf-Zakharov & Tim Schnetgöke, Urban Semantics through Law and Photography, 14 Cosmopolitan Civil Societies 52 (2022)

Katya Assaf-Zakharov & Tim Schnetgöke, Reading the Illegible: Can Law Understand Graffiti? (with Tim Schnetgöke)53 Connecticut Law Review 465 (2021)