The essay examines street art as a lens on the workings of the contemporary public sphere to capture changing uses of urban public spaces and shifting conceptions of social order in the city. It explores the explosion in the popularity of street art at a time when urban public space is shrinking and control over its use has tightened considerably through zero-tolerance policing, growing surveillance, privatization, and gentrification. It argues that significant developments in digital media (e.g., the spread of mobile devices, photo sharing, blogging, and social networking sites) have created a new ecology for the documentation, sharing, and global dissemination of “ephemeral” street art that has fueled its popularity while complicating its commercialization, reception, and political impact. It shows how digital technologies mediate the tension between the countercultural aspirations of street art and the multiple ways in which street art is being turned into a commodity.

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