Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Theory and Criticism


Allan Pero


This dissertation begins with Lefebvre’s theoretical framework that space is a social product and provides a brief account of the plans and road networks established with John Graves Simcoe’s founding of York (now Toronto). Foucault’s arguments about gridded street systems and early forms of policing are introduced to explain the intentions and desires associated with the gridded street pattern of Toronto. Foucault’s theory of governmentality is argued to be the marking of a limit rather than a strict prohibition, and is a specifically urban practice. Lacan’s graph of desire and Lacanian concepts are then introduced to continue this discussion of the problem of limits in contemporary urban everyday life. The overriding questions are, “What do we desire from the city?” and, “What do we think the city wants from us?” The central writers and movements in urban planning are then interpreted through Lacan’s ‘four discourses.’ Generally, early ‘organic’ urban spaces are understood through the master’s discourse, Olmsted, Howard, and Le Corbusier represent the shift to the university’s discourse, while Jane Jacobs is presented as within the analyst’s discourse. The reading of Jacobs shows her to be primarily concerned with the economic aspects of cities. A deeper analysis of Lefebvre’s theories, along with Manuel Castells’ theory of the ‘space of flows’ and ‘timeless time,’ are then used to tie together the problem of desire and spatial arrangement through a discussion of the implications of mobile communication, ‘Big Data,’ and the ‘internet of things’ on urban life with theoretical support from Simmel.