Spatial Citizenship is an educational approach at the intersection of citizenship and geography education. Spatial citizenship describes an individual’s ability to interact and participate in societal spatial decision making through the reflexive use of geo-media (e.g. maps, virtual globes and GIS) regarding consumption as well as production and communication. Spatial Citizenship gains particular importance through the emergence of the Geoweb. Its main theoretical reference points are emancipatory forms of citizenship and the mature and reflexive appropriation of space.
Spatial Citizenship can be distinguished from traditional citizenship education approaches in many respects:
The geographical reference point of Spatial Citizenship is the (mature) appropriation of space, based on theories of action-oriented social geography and new cultural geography. These approaches contend that human beings constantly appropriate spaces, as they attach meanings to geographically located physical matter in order to prepare it for their own actions (Werlen 1995). Spaces in these concepts are regarded as being socially constructed. To a large extent, the attachment of meaning works unconsciously, following socially accepted, mainstream categories and discourses. Meanings given to physical objects determine the actions deemed possible. For instance, a field of asphalt in a city centre might have a two-fold meaning (or multiple meanings) – it may be interpreted as a parking area as well as a place for ball games, with both meanings competing for dominance. As soon as one meaning becomes superior, which is a result of social power relations, the other meaning declines, becomes invisible, and eventually is not used any more. The superiority of a specific meaning over another one might be supported by artifacts representing meanings attached, such as signs on buildings, structural modifications of the physical environment, or symbols and explanations of the socio-cultural significance of places and objects in spatial representations visualized via geo-media. A mature appropriation of space therefore includes the conscious attachment of meaning as well as awareness of meanings being attached to physical matter by others. It includes a sensibility to the multitude of meanings transported and hidden by a mainstream discourse. Keys to the mature appropriation of space are therefore the deconstruction of socially produced meanings, as well as the ability to communicate one’s own, potentially contradictory meanings and negotiate them with others.