“Felt Population”: A Qualitative Study on the Subjective Perception of Population Density in Istanbul

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Akyurt M. A.

XX ISA World Congress of Sociology, Melbourne, Australia, 25 June 2023, pp.18

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Melbourne
  • Country: Australia
  • Page Numbers: pp.18
  • Istanbul University Affiliated: Yes


A local supermarket cashier going to work on foot, a white collar driving for hours in traffic jam for some days, and an employer interchanging several vehicles at crowded transport hubs every weekday may have different images of the city even if they live in the same neighborhood. Similar to concepts like felt air temperature or time, perceived corruption, subjective age, well-being or social status which underline personal/contextual aspects of phenomena, Jacobs’ “uses of space”, Lynch’s “image of the city” and Lefebvre’s “lived space” emphasize urban actors’ subjective experiences instead of objective calculations or “conceived space” designed by planners.

Different perceptions of urban population too may be analyzed in this framework, both in terms of crowdedness and diversity. Focusing on variation of demographic images, mostly ignored by disciplines such as urban sociology, social demography, urban planning and human geography, this study develops the concept of “felt population” in order to explore the differentiation between individual receptions of urban population as experienced by various residents of the city. How are impressions of population density and composition shaped? What is the role of daily routine and intra-urban mobility in the formation of this subjective demographic perception?

Adopting qualitative method, phenomenological design and maximum variation sampling, and excluding non-working and working-from-home population on the one hand, and “felt population diversity” (religious and ethnic) on the other, the research aims to describe various “felt population density” experiences of urban residents from various age, gender, socioeconomic status and occupation groups. It focuses on their everyday activities, residence-workplace distance, trip hours, route preferences, means of transport, level of traffic jam, sense of crowdedness and hurry of roads and stations. This paper analyzes initial data retrieved from in-depth interviews conducted with participants working in an office and living in one single neighborhood (Burhaniye) in Uskudar (Istanbul, Turkiye).