Espaces privés et publics / Private and public spaces – Bac d’anglais

Dans un monde rétréci de plus en plus par la mondialisation, la frontière entre les espaces privés (private spaces) et les espaces publics (public spaces) devient de plus en plus fine, jusqu’à parfois ne point savoir où elle se situe. Qu’est-ce qu’un espace privé et un espace public ? Comment la frontière entre les deux s’est-elle amincie avec le temps ? Quels sont les exemples d’activités confondant l’espace privé et l’espace public ?

Definition of a private space and a public space

There are two schools of thought regarding the definition of public and private space. The first one is from a geographic point of view. According to Social Language, Digital Media, “a public space is a social space that is generally open and accessible to people” such as roads or parks. On the contrary, a house, garden, apartment or building a person is living in would be considered as a private space.

The second one is from a psychological point of view. “Private space is the region surrounding a person which they regard as psychologically theirs”. That is, some people might have different definitions of a private space, depending on their personality (i.e., a more reserved person might have a shorter private space). According to that definition, a public space is thus “reserved for speeches, lectures, theatres, […] larger audiences”.

Relevant examples you can use to talk about private and public spaces

In a world shrunk by globalisation, the border between private and public space can sometimes be indistinguishable. Here are some examples where private and public space meet.

Teleworking – When the office meets the private space

Since the beginning of the 2010s, teleworking, i.e working from your home instead of coming to the office, has greatly increased in Western countries. This phenomenon was even more accelerated by the 2020 Covid-19 worldwide pandemic. During these troubled times, firms in countries affected by the virus had to adapt to implement teleworking for their employees. 

Teleworking is an excellent way of showing the sometimes blurry border between private and public space. During the XXth century, the office and working, in general, had nothing to do with personal space. An employee would come at the agreed time to do his work. Then, he would go home without carrying his task any further until the next day. Nowadays, teleworking allows people to work right in the middle of their living room three feet away from their kitchen, even at times while having their children with them. This shows how teleworking affected the line between private and public space.

Furthermore, it is now much more common than in the XXth to be friends with colleagues. (It is even recommended if not mandatory in certain companies, as having good relations show you belong to a group/project). Seeing colleagues outside of work, that is during your private space-time, also modifies the limit between private and public space.

Social media and vlogging – Where to draw the line between private and public spaces?

Another example of the border between private and public space is social media. It is a recent component of a lot of a person’s lives. It allows one to extend their public space by posting content on the Internet.

One example of this phenomenon that particularly affects the private and public space question is vlogging. According to the Cambridge Dictionary, a vlog is “a video blog”. It is “a record of your thoughts, opinions, or experiences that you film and publish on the internet”. Through this process, thousands of people post vlogs on content-sharing platforms such as YouTube daily. An example of a vlog can be filming a typical day in one’s life. Indeed, some vloggers usually film themselves from the moment they waking up to the moment they go to sleep.

Vlogs allow the private space of some persons to become public. For example, what you eat for breakfast has typically nothing to do with your public space. But vlogging allows sharing this kind of moments with a community, friends or even strangers. Thus, the public space enlarges itself due to vlogs, because it allows capturing moments we would not have been able to see otherwise.

Religion and laicism

The last example you can use to talk about private and public space is religion. The place religion has in public space has significantly shrunk since the XXth century. In France for example, the separation of church and state occurred in 1905, which laid the foundation for laicism.

Therefore, conspicuous symbols are forbidden, and religion has tipped right into the private space. However, places of the cult are an integral part of the public space (churches, mosques, synagogues…). Religious meetings are held inside of these places, that is an activity related to the private space is done in the public space.

The place of religion in public space has always been a debated topic. It shows once again that the border between private and public space can be hard to identify.

How to use these examples during your exam?

Example: Nowadays, the limit between one’s private and public space can be hard to distinguish. After having defined what a private space and a public space are, please explain how both of these two concepts have been affected by changes in society. Please use the examples covered in class as well as your personal knowledge to answer.

In the example above, we can see that it is essential that you clearly define the concept of private and public spaces. This will allow laying the foundation for your work. After that, use the examples you have seen in class. You can also use the examples above and your personal knowledge to argue the relationship between private and public space.

Conclusion

To conclude, we have seen that private space and public space are concepts with various meanings depending on one’s perception of them. We also saw how the border between private and public space has been affected by the upheaval in society, with three examples, namely teleworking, vlogging and religion.

Staying critical while answering during an exam is also a key aspect of any work on the subject. This topic is highly debated, you must consider every point of view while answering a question regarding it.