Abstracts – Paper Session 5: space, city, architecture

Surplus experience: phenomenologies of architecture and media
Joel McKim, Birkbeck, University of London

From mobile communication technologies to public screens, the increasingly interwoven status of media and urban space has been the subject of much recent interest in both architectural and media studies. Interpretations of these “augmented,” “mediated” or “soft” spaces have often involved the transfer of media theory into the realm of architecture and urban planning via the writing of such figures as Lev Manovich, Friedrich Kittler and Alain Mons. The movement of ideas has rarely traveled the opposite direction; the possibility that architectural theory might, in turn, contribute to our understanding of these new forms of “spatialized media” has remained largely unexplored. This paper will chart one possible link between architectural thought and current developments in urban public media by examining an often overlooked current of design theory, that of architectural phenomenology. A precedent to postmodern and poststructuralist design practice, the philosophy of phenomenology was a significant influence on the architectural discourse of the 1960s and 70s. Figures such as Jean Labatut, Christian Norberg-Schulz and Ernesto Nathan Rogers shared the conviction that the social “meaning” of buildings must be accessed primarily through bodily and sensory experience and that the recognizable patterns of experience produced by the built environment constitute a culture’s historical “lifeworld.” Focusing on Labatut’s development of an architecture of visual communication and intensified movement, and on Norber-Schulz’s Heidegger-inspired theories of topographical authenticity, the paper will consider what architectural phenomenology may teach us about both the experiential and social implications of our contemporary media environments.

On the phenomenology of mediated stranger (sex and) sociality: materiality and the varying pathways of GPS-based dating/sex apps
Bryce J. Renninger, Rutgers University

Several journalists have written think pieces on the effects of Grindr on the idealized gay space of The Pines of Fire Island, perfect for stranger sociality. By reading these editorials on the effects of these apps on physical spaces, we can inventory a great many material factors that affect the various phenomena of stranger sociality that these apps facilitate. The space of the Pines is materially transformed by the use of these apps: Users are glued to their screens; use of phones lights up the formerly “dark and sexy” rambles. While Brian Moylan mentions the difficulty some experience in connecting phone to satellite network, few writers interrogate the interactions between users from phone (to satellite) to phone. Nor does either write about the interaction between users and interfaces or users and environments other than packed clubs. Starting with these understandings of the encroachment of an app and its users on Fire Island, I will apply understandings of human-technology and human-environment networks from actor-network theory and umwelt theory to complicate the material experiences of users and non-users in these spaces to develop a better understanding of the new pathways of stranger sociality that technologies like Grindr are creating.

From digital mapping to tracking with others. “Internet of Things” as a practice of ecological thought
Mirko Nikolić, University of Westminster

Ecological thought postulates “human being … not [as] a thing in the environment, but a juncture in a relational system” [Naess, 1988: 79]. Can the perception of this ecological “mesh” [Morton, 2010] be mediated through digital mapping or tracking? Maps, once unmoving representations of space, with the evolution of GPS are able now to “track” or “trace” [Tuters and Varnelis, 2006] activities of human subjects. As a part of wider “internet of things” technological paradigm, tracking enables perception of the “presence” of nonhumans as well. But, the question remains whether these others become actors to all effects, or whether they remain background to the activity of humans, thus perpetuating the division between man and environment. Digital tracking, if adopted as a means of “performing, creating, and perceiving presence” [Wylie and Rose, 2006], becomes a processs of creating contexts for interaction between entities which mutually change their boundaries by “fitting together” [Bateson, 1979]. A series of visual arts and new media practices may be interpreted as paradigmatic exercises whose aim is expansion or transformation of the self through performative “gatherings” with others [Latour, 2004], which fortify old or establish new “collectives of humans and nonhumans” [Latour, 1999].

Cosmopolitanism, embodied expressivity and morality of proximity
Miyase Christensen, Stockholm University

Based on an ongoing three-year project on marginalized acts and groups (such as street-art/artists and urban explorations movements) in Sweden, this paper offers reflections on the ways in which mediated and embodied performance/performativity is deployed to claim voice/spatial presence in the center. The cosmopolitan debate and the question of social change are extended to a lesser-scrutinized area, to the margins (and the marginals) of the city. As such, the adjacent realms of cosmopolitanism and cultural citizenship are considered alongside body, embodiment, space/place and expressivity. One aim of the project is to take cosmopolitanism beyond its abstract ideal and address it at the everyday level by way of focusing on various articulations and experiences of morality and distance in the urban environment. The city as an experiential site embodies the universal and the particular and exclusions/inclusions in a different way than the more ephemeral realm of “the national” and its politics. The project brings together social phenomenology, in order to provide an interpretive social understanding and an inside view, and Bourdieusian theory, in order to account for the structural and institutional processes (and, specific histories) through which individual and collective positionalities are (re)produced.

The lived spaces of journalism and the city
Scott Rodgers, Birkbeck, University of London

Recent research and theorizing indicates a decline in longstanding dualistic assumptions where ‘media’ and ‘urban’ are mutually exclusive entities. Instead, media and urban spaces are now usually seen as intrinsically interwoven, for example, in how media technologies get embedded into daily practices of urban life, or how media forms are literally built into urban architectures and infrastructures. In this paper, I seek to address the curious under-study and under-theorisation of journalism, which despite recent developments tends to be cast in an extrinsic relationship with the urban. Yet whether or not its attention is trained on specifically urban matters at any given moment, I will argue that journalism is intrinsically interwoven with the city, as a field of media-related practice taking place in, through and in relation to urban spaces: it. I do so by conceptualizing journalism’s ‘lived spaces’: that is, its phenomenological conditions of possibility, which entails a substantial involvement in the journalistic field which is at once always already a involvement in the urban as material and symbolic space. Though this argument is primarily developed theoretically, it is also partly grounded in developing research on emergent experiments in ‘hyperlocal’ media practices, technologies and platforms in North America and the United Kingdom.

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