Urban Semantics through Law and Photography

Katya Assaf-Zakharov*, Tim Schnetgöke

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The visual design of urban public spaces (hereinafter “cityscape”) has an important impact on city life – it can channel interpersonal communication into certain directions while excluding others; it can powerfully communicate notions of what is socially acceptable or important. Yet, while everyone may access urban public spaces, cityscapes are designed by a very limited social group. This paper focuses on the narratives embedded in the cityscapes. Analyzing legal conflicts arising around expressions that seek their way into the shared visual environment, as well as expressions whose presence in the cityscapes is disputed, we trace the dynamics of battles over urban narratives. The discussion of legal rules is complemented by photographs. Rather than illustrating the text, the photographs will relate to the discussed topics in their own way, enriching the discussion and broadening its perspective.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)52-79
Number of pages28
JournalCosmopolitan Civil Societies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 30 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 by the author(s).


  • Freedom of Speech
  • Graffiti
  • Law and Photography
  • Public Spaces
  • The Right to be Heard
  • Urban Semantics


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