Abstract: Everyday life in urban public space means living amongst people unknown to one another. As part of the broader convivial turn within the study of everyday urban life (Wise & Noble, 2016), this article examines outdoor public ice rinks as spaces for encounter between strangers. With data drawn from 100 hours of naturalistic and participant observation at free and accessible outdoor public non-hockey ice rinks in two Canadian cities, we show how ‘rink life’ is animated by a shared everyday ethic of public sociability, with strangers regularly engaging in fleeting moments of sociable interaction. At first glance, researching the outdoor public ice rink may seem frivolous, but in treating it seriously as a public space we find it to be threaded through with an ethos of interactional equality, reciprocal respect, and mutual support. We argue that the shared everyday ethic of public sociability that characterizes the rinks that we observed is a function of the (1) public and (2) personal materiality required for skating; (3) the emergence of on ice norms; (4) generalized trust amongst users; (5) ambiguities of socio-spatial differentiation by skill; and (6) flattened social hierarchies, or what we call the quotidian carnivalesque. Our data and analysis suggest that by drawing together different generations and levels of ability, this distinct public space facilitates social interactions between strangers, and so provides insights relevant to planners, policy makers and practitioners.
Keywords: affordances of sociability; conviviality; everyday ethics; public ice rinks; public space; strangers