Communication and the City: Voices, Spaces, Media


(Alphabetical by presenter surname)

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Alevizou, Giota; Alexiou, Katerina; Greene, Catherine and Ramster, Gail

Communications by design?: Intersections of creative citizenship, community media and participatory design
Urban theory has undergone a veritable normative turn, registered in debates – and in prescriptive practices in architectural planning, collectively known as community-led, co- or participatory design. Such debates, and practices, are centred on issues around democratisation and the right of citizens to participate in, and collaborate over, the design of their built or physical environment and public services and to creatively contribute to social capital, economic sustainability and cultural well-being of neighbourhoods and local businesses.  Such debates are also recently enriched by the ‘architecture of participation’ (Harrison and Barthel, 2009: 155) enabled by novel web tools and social media which, it has been argued, may have significant implications for citizens’ opportunities to involve themselves in media, and through media, and to shape new connections with communities and their environment. Responding to such turns, the centrality of media, and social media tools, is evident in localism policies across Europe, with the case of New Localism Bill in the UK proposing a new planning policy framework, promising to bring about reforms that will decentralise local governance, put forward grass-roots participation, and fuel the potential of digital creativity and economy.

The question then is, what is the definition and value of community-led design, as this is understood and represented by different communities through the use of media and via mediated creativity and civic engagement. Drawing on focus groups with a variety of participants from London-based community projects, interviews with architecture professionals and content analysis of selected public media outputs, a number of insights will be presented: a) Social media and the internet present new tendencies towards way-finding, information sharing, as well as communication, visibility and communal story-telling and self-representation. Likewise, face-to-face interaction, private communication and ‘small- media’ (see Sreberny and Mohammadi, 1994; e.g. posters, leaflets, pamphlets, etc) are vital for raising awareness or advocacy, and, for mobilising volunteer support and further engagement, promoting thus the need for an analogue and digital mix in community media; b) Participatory or community-led design projects surface a renewed impulse for the ‘articulation’ and mediation of issues, values and tensions that may represent the make-up of local communities in cities. Participatory design may indeed present some coherent narrative to fuel activism, to facilitate creativity and peer support among locally based communities of interest, to enhance cultural value and shared memory, but also to bring people together with a shared sense of purpose and mutual benefit surrounding public spaces and services. Nonetheless, numerous tensions prevail, pertaining the development, governance and sustainability of communities and projects, civic engagement and effective social action, as well as media and participatory literacies.

The research insights presented in the paper, are informed by research conducted within the project, ‘Media Community and the Creative Citizen’. The project is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the Connected Communities and Digital Economies Programmes.

Allen, Patrick

‘City of tiny lights’: Framing, the body and augmented space

This paper develops an argument about transformations in the experience of the urban as a consequence of the widespread proliferation of, so called, augmented space (Manovich 2006, Allen 2008). These are contemporary media spaces that merge media technologies with the built environment. The argument suggests that through particular forms of intervention (e.g. civic, cultural and creative), that these technologies and the spaces that are embedded within have a direct impact on the mediation of place and locality and further consolidates the central role of the body as a frame in contemporary urban media spaces.

Since 2006 members of the CCM research team in Bradford have been developing case studies based on both participation in, and observation of, a range of projects focused on how visual artists have engaged with issues of urbanism, place and locality within the city centre:  ranging from the use of public spaces in the city centre as a site for the display of artistic content through exhibition to the use of large scale media displays deployed as a platform for the display of creative output. All of these interventions engage directly with aspects of the urban experience and transformations in the appearance of the city centre.

This paper also maps out the potential for an archaeology of urban media spaces.  It sees these transformations in the light of more general cultural processes and aligns our work with the historical development of, ‘screen practices’ and the ‘discursive formations’ that cluster around these sites of display and exhibition (Huhtamo 2011). What institutional interests promote or constrain particular forms of participation? Participation is not a neutral phenomenon. As such, how is our engagement with the city and these sites of display mediated? What is the role of the body in the mediation of these processes?

Two key themes have come out of this work and both can be integrated into a discussion of framing. First, from the point of view that use of new media in urban space has the potential to “expand the body’s margin of indetermination” (Deleuze 1983, Hansen 2006).  Second, that the consequences give rise to the mediation of place and locality by further embedding of the body within its location, in addition, contrary to many earlier interpretations of the consumption of media in urban space (McCarthey 2001), may lead to an enhanced sense of place.

Basov, Nikita; Khokhlova, Anisya and Nenko, Alexandra

Knowledge-generating communication and the urban space: The cases of creative Communities in three European cities

Today city space is in the centre of communicative interaction between various actors and their groupings. As such it becomes the locus of intensive knowledge creation, clashes and intersections of different knowledge fields. Probably one of the major knowledge-generating powers in the city space are the artists. Their works appear to be knowledge objects that represent significant conceptual relations between meanings and – when introduced in urban space – influence knowledge generation processes. Knowledge evolution is stimulated by the artists through continuous use of art works as communication mediums between creative communities and publics in common urban spaces of experience. Particularly powerful communicators appear to be creative communities of artists, who join their efforts in a common narrative, style or artistic methodology and perform various activities in the urban space to provoke intellectual communicative resonance involving broad audiences in the development, reproduction and promotion of certain conceptual correlations. Our paper focuses on studying this knowledge-generating communication of creative communities in the urban space.

Using data of a comparative case study run in three European cities: St. Petersburg, Barcelona and Berlin, the paper describes knowledge-generating communication of urban creative communities working in the field of visual arts. Applying a set of qualitative methods such as in-depth interviews and participant observation the paper grasps various communicative strategies and tactics that creative communities use to engage other participants of urban art worlds and broader publics into the reconceptualization of different places of the city spaces, reframing of everyday life practices, reinterpreting political events and art itself. The strategies may include e.g. politization of the urban space and creation of an alternative urban reality, while the examples of the tactics include intimization, intervention and symbolic capture. The paper considers the ways in which creative communities embed their artistic activities in particular urban contexts where they locate their works and traces how artists and their publics jointly generate new meanings through art objects creation, discussion and promotion. The paper analyses how creative communities strategically choose city spaces to exhibit their art objects, assesses to which extent they engage local communities in the process of artistic co-creation, and reveals whether they consider the historical and sociocultural background of places they work with. Taking into account particular economic, political and cultural contexts of the three cities the paper aims to find out how such features of creative communities as structure, ideological orientation, professional background and artistic style influence their communicative strategies and tactics used to stimulate the processes of knowledge creation in different city spaces.                                             

Berry, Marsha; Cartwright, William and Harland, James

Spatialising narratives of place

Digital media have cultivated new modes of communication as well as representations, visualisations and imaginings of geographies. In this paper we will present how working in transdisciplinary ways can lead to new understandings of how we dwell in landscapes. We will adopt the approach of ‘travelling concepts’ as proposed by Meike Bal to explore intersubjective transdisciplinary conceptualisations of place and landscape in which ‘you do not conduct a method: you conduct a meeting between several, a meeting in which the object participates so that, together, object and methods can become a new, not firmly delineated, field.’ (Bal, 2009: 1). Cultural theorist Griselda Pollock describes this as ‘research as encounter’, stating that the ‘theoretical turn’ of the 1970s and 1980s has had its day, and that academic analysis is in need of a revamp through what is described as ‘transdisciplinary encounters with and through concepts’ (2008: xv).

Landscape is constructed through social practices and dwelling. In this paper we argue that storytelling is an important part of how landscapes are constructed and also critical to how we conceptualise different geographies and understandings of places. By aggregating together the various stories of a particular places we will move towards understanding the constellations of meanings that may be attributed to a landscape. We will explore how to support community mapping of ‘different geographies’ – physical, human, cultural and spiritual. In order to determine and appreciate a ‘whole’ geography a number of ‘different’ geographies need to be considered.  It is not enough to just consider physical and human geographies, which is generally what is done. Cultural and spiritual geographies also need to be determined (and represented) if a complete ‘picture’ of place is to be constructed.  Community mapping can provide both the workforce for data collection and the insight that will ensure that cultural and spiritual elements of a landscape, those cultural and spiritual elements that contribute to the assembly of documentation that can be used to better understand place.

We seek to understand how to imposed landscapes influence the narratives associated with them. What we mean by ‘imposed landscapes’ are those European grids that have been superimposed atop the Indigenous landscapes.  For instance, Hoddle’s grid of Melbourne was superimposed on the natural landscape of the area.  This imposed landscape defined how Melbourne’s inner suburbs were set-out and thus the look of the cityscape.  Other imposed landscapes are the boundaries related to bureaucracy (State boundaries), governance (regional boundaries or boundaries that mark different government or government departments’ interests), property ownership (the cadastral ‘overlay’ that defines the European concept of land ownership) and custodianship (the determination and depiction of things like reserves, parks and rights of way).  These imposed landscapes, in some ways, can override human, cultural and spiritual landscapes.  Methods need to be developed to reveal the other landscapes (or geographies) that lie beneath these imposed landscapes. In this paper we will explore how community mapping can uncover other landscapes leading to new understandings of place.

Birchall, Chris and Parry, Katy

A week in news – media content and survey analysis

In this paper we present an overall profile of the Leeds news ecology, collating data from our content analysis of one week’s coverage and survey of over 550 Leeds residents. In keeping with the ecological perspective set out in the introductory paper, we use such data as an initial resource through which to explore the stories that are told, and the stories that people tell themselves about their local area. Presented alongside survey data, we start to build a picture of how such news is encountered, experienced, or disregarded in everyday lives. We suggest that there are compelling reasons to chart the news ecology in empirical terms: How do people find their local news and to which sources do they return? What kinds of stories are covered by which local media? How are cultural or community events perceived in local news? Do blogs challenge the traditional sense of mainstream media as at the hub of communicating news? Local news informs us about those events closest to us in physical and experiential terms. In its routine assumption, even constitution, of a shared sense of economic woes or community anxieties, local reporting reflects back to us our immediate social world, usually recognisable in some shape or form, even if it’s simply the background landscape or cityscape.

Blumler, Jay G. and Stamper, Judith

Interviewing local news providers

We conducted unstructured but pre-planned and broadly comparable interviews with leading personnel of the mainstream local news media in Leeds (Look North, Calendar, Radio Leeds and the Yorkshire Evening Post). Averaging approximately an hour in length, these covered the informants’ perspectives on their outlets and their own work in respect of such topics as: recent developments in their outlets’ situations; the outlets’ overall roles and purposes, actual and preferred and forms of public service envisaged if any; most satisfying types of stories to present (and least); local story priorities and preferences, related perceptions of a Yorkshire character; how national stories might be `localized’; types of `voices’ (or actors) preferred and to be avoided in the output if possible; perceptions of and relations to their audiences; and any lines of self-criticism. The interviews were recorded and transcribed and then content-analysed in detail in matrices of topic headings. Main features in which the several outlets seemed alike and different were then identified. It was recognized that the interviewees’ statements might not correspond in all respects with the kinds of news the services actually produced. To some extent that can be checked, however, by the results of a content analysis of one week of their output that formed a complementary part of the project’s work.

Brandalism Project

Brandalism – ʻThe art of self defenceʼ

Following on from the guerrilla art traditions of the 20th Century and taking inspiration from the Dadaists, Situationists and Street Art movements, the Brandalism project involved the largest reclamation of outdoor advertising space in UK history. 28 artists from 8 different countries contributed artworks aiming to challenge the authority and legitimacy of the advertising industry within the urban environment – and these artworks were installed on 36 billboards in five UK cities (Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and London) in July 2012. Our combined research and theory behind the project draws on information from diverse range of sources similarly our network includes representatives from arts; academic; third sector; activist and think-tank organisations. The Brandalism project received worldwide press exposure as people from across the world shared, re-blogged and spread images of the installations and the motivations behind the project on social media networks. Specifically, the artworks aimed to draw the connections between advertising and the issues of consumerism, cultural values, body image, debt, climate change and creative resistance. The project can be seen as part of a growing public disquiet to the intrusion of advertising into every part of our shared reality.

If we are to understand our culture and society then we need to come to terms with the role and power of commercial images. Advertising does not stress the value of a collective long-range future, but more simply aims to generate a profit for corporate clients. The prevailing values of the commercial system provide no incentives to develop bonds with future generations. Faced with growing ecological and social crises, and with advertising being the engine of an unsustainable and detrimental economic system, this industry must be viewed as one of the major obstacles to our survival as a species. Instead then, there is a need to insist on alternative values that will provide a humane, collective solution to global crisis. In a small way, the Brandalism project attempts to create new dialogues, understandings and expressions within our shared urban landscapes that question the centralised information we receive via commercial images.

We propose to share the theory, themes, aims and results of the first phase of the Brandalism project whilst drawing on a wide base of theory that highlights the effects of unrestricted commercial messages on our individual and cultural values. We will explore the birth of the modern advertising industry from its foundations in nationalist propaganda campaigns to its modern day form; with a particular focus on the UK riots of 2011 as an example of how class divide and ʻyou are what you ownʼ culture can manifest in society. Finally we shall highlight alternatives to the pervasiveness of billboards such as Sau Pauloʼs ban on outdoor advertising in 2007 – as one of the many possibilities for liberating our urban environments from commercial messages.


Cardullo, Paolo 

“Hello, I am here! Can’t you see me? I can see you!” Visual aspects of security from the lower ground

The paper scrutinises an artist and hacktivist practice. It draws on a series of workshops done in collaboration with the art/media group Deptford.TV and the Centre for Urban and Community Research at Goldsmiths, University of London, during 2008-2009 and in 2012. The aim of such workshops was to create short films using hacked CCTV material. Participants, equipped with CCTV surveillance signal receivers, were led through the city by incoming surveillance camera signals. The groups adopted a Situationist stance creating the city while walking and ‘sniffing’ for open cameras. CCTV video signal receivers cached surveillance camera signals and made these spaces visible. The material was then stored on a shared video platform and re-shuffled in personal narratives and montages of the city.

The paper unpacks the issue of visuality in the context of video surveillance security in urban environment from the perspective of the subjects scrutinised. This security from below can be called ‘sousveillance’ or ‘counter-surveillance’, depending on the context in which it is effectively deployed. On the one hand, it concerns with the ability of media activists and artists to change the terms of the equation between watchers and watched. It problematizes this relationship to the extent that, at the end, we are not so sure who is watching whom. On the other, it focuses on the spaces available for media and art counterculture in order to play with an unprecedented amount of disposable ‘digital rubbish’ (Gabris, 2011) and its potential for fabricating new tales of the city. Crucially, these tales are the outcome of the ‘combined practices’ (Cardullo, 2011) of photographing and walking. The haptic bond that emphatic walkers determine with the urban landscape challenges, in fact, the passive attitude inherent in the metaphor of the ‘panopticon’, where detached vision is central to its functioning.

Chapain, Caroline

The rise of co-working space: New mediated creative communities?

The co-working space concept emerged in the mid-2000s in the United States (Fabbri and Charrue-Duboc, 2012) with the increase in telecommuting supported by the IT revolution. While recent work from Spinuzzi (2012) shows that ‘co-working’ may mean different things to both their proprietors and their members, Leforestier (2009: 3), reviewing the emergence of the concept, argues that ‘co-working consists in renting a desktop in an open space for a very flexible period. The space is shared by other people coming from very different backgrounds: entrepreneurs, associations, artists, students, researchers… The “co-workers” can interact so that everyone brings his own talent to a project, improving the outcome.’ The number of co-working spaces has grown rapidly in Europe in the last few years: from 20 co-working spaces in 2008 to more than 140 in 2012 (Entreprise Globale 2010; European Coworking Space Conference, 2010i). The emergence of these types of spaces offers an alternative to coffee shops to respond to the challenges of working at home such as social isolation, distraction, lack of space to meet clients… for independent contractors, freelancers and professionals. In addition to offering basic services such as a desk, free Wi-fi and other IT and office facilities…, these spaces tend to offer formally or informally some forms of support to entrepreneurial activities notably through informal discussions with other co-workers or specific events and activities run by the space proprietors… (Leforestier, 2009; Fabbri and Charrue-Duboc, 2012; Spinuzzi, 2012). Many assumptions have been made about the positive impacts of co-working spaces in terms of innovation, support to star-ups, social networking and the strength of weak cooperation… Interestingly, some authors describe co-working space as part of ‘a physical manifestation of the “techno-space” that facilitates greater public engagement and social interaction’ (O’Brien, 2011:1). Despite the central role played by internet and online media such as blogging, twitter, wiki… in the running of co-working spaces (Aguiton and Cardon, 2007; Leforestier, 2009), little research has explored the way these online activities match informal and formal physical activities taking place in co-working spaces or how it contributes to the development of creative professional identities, creative processes and citizenship. This paper offers to fill part of this gap by providing a detailed literature review on the topic, an overview of the phenomena in Europe as well as an in-depth study of its manifestation in the UK building on detailed original survey data and interviews. A particular focus will be put on the link with local, regional and national policies.

The research insights presented in the paper, are informed by research conducted within the project, ‘Media Community and the Creative Citizen’. The project is funded by the UK’s Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council under the Connected Communities and Digital Economies Programmes.

Cheng, Chung-Tai and Tarantino, Matteo

How screens shaped the industrial village: Migrant workers and media consumption in Southern China

The rapid economic development over the thirty years has not only improved China’s people living standards but transformed its appearance and outlook, particularly in cities and coastal areas. In industrialized and recently commercialized regions such as Guangdong, Zhejiang, and Fujian, the changes of city landscapes are the driving force behind and of the growth. In the early stage of Deng Xiaoping’s reforms, the influx of investments from Hong Kong, Taiwan and other countries have not only brought financial and human capitals but also boosted the development of tertiary industries in the coastal areas. In particular, the establishment of factories in and around previous agricultural villages has been transforming these spaces to accommodate for the infrastructures and services needed by firms and by their ever-growing and ever-shifting population of workers. Luxury hotels, karaoke bars, nightclubs, massage centres, and other entertainment facilities have been built around in order to fulfil entrepreneurs and managers needs for relaxation as well as attracting more investment.

Besides, the increasing number of migrant workers has also created a huge demand for consumer goods and services for their everyday needs. Consumption, entertainment, and leisure for the new comers have thus become big business, which in turn transforms the appearance of industrial areas. Especially after the acceleration and intensification of market-oriented reforms in the early 1990s, numbers of shopping malls, supermarkets, game zones, cinemas, Internet cafés, and other consumer facilities have increased substantially in those industrialized towns and cities. These not only highlight the attraction of city life as an important pull factor inducing rural labourers to work outside, but reveal that the distinction of work time and non-work time has become more significant for the workers. The latter is the time at which they are able to search for their own interest and enjoy leisure and entertainment during their free time. It is worth to note that, however, the forms of leisure among migrant workers are largely offered by the (global) market and increasingly occupied by media commodities.

Drawing insights from a tripartite dynamic model of sociospatial production on the one side (Tarantino and Tosoni, forthcoming), and Chris Rojek’s leisure theory on the other, the paper attempts to periodize the interactions between the recent transformations of urban landscapes in the industrial areas of Southern China and the shifts in workers identity. With the support of ethnographic research performed in Dongguan (Guandong province), it will first look at how media consumption represents an important part of migrant workers’ daily and communication patterns in terms of job-seeking, daily life coordination, entertainment, and communication purposes. Second, it will give an explanation on how the changing socio-spatial and socio-technical landscapes may influence the emergence of a new working class in contemporary China. In conclusion, it emphasizes that in order to have a deeper understanding of the new cohort of migrant workers in China, it is necessary to re-visit the relationships between the affordances of workers’ living spaces, those of the increasingly commercialized-industrial spaces, and those of the (new) media technologies and infrastructures involved.

Chilingir, Elena and Sinekopova, Galina

Heard but not seen? Minority languages in Moscow linguistic landscape

The topic ‘Language and the City’ has been mostly developed by Russian communication scholars in terms of a ‘city language’ (jazyk goroda), focusing on grammar and stylistic variation of standard and substandard linguistic forms in various territorial settings (cf. Krysin & Kitaigorodskaya, 2008). Recently, the topic began to be developed using the concept of linguistic landscape, understood as the visual makeup of cities worldwide (Landry & Bourhis, 1997:25). However, such studies predominantly deal with Post-Soviet linguistic landscapes in such countries as Ukraine, Latvia, etc. (cf. Pavlenko, 2009). Very little research exists on Russian, let alone Moscow, linguistic landscape (cf. Perotto, 2012; Rychkov & Rychkova, 2012).

Our pilot study focuses on the minority languages in Moscow linguistic landscape. The study fits well into the innovative approach to the written displays of minority languages in public space, undertaken by Gorter et al. (2011), among others. Our goal is two-fold: (1) to find out which minority languages that are heard in Moscow streets and through various media outlets, are also seen as a part of its linguistic landscape; and, (2) to find out the attitudes of the (Russian language) majority to their visibility. We meet the first goal by using content analysis, which is “the most basic method of analyzing message content” (Keaton, 2001: 251). We use such content categories as the languages displayed, type of sign (top-down vs. bottom-up), conspicuity, functions, etc. We meet the second goal by using a series of visual images of minority languages landscapes and a Likert-scale questionnaire, presented to a group of Russian respondents who indicate their attitudes to what they see in the photos (space for qualitative comments is provided). Our project being a pilot study, we present all images together as one category (‘minority languages landscape’), and we are aware of this limitation. Our findings have both theoretical and applied value: it is the first attempt to present an analysis of the minority languages in Moscow linguistic landscape, and the results of the study can be used to reduce prejudice between people from different cultures living in the Russian capital.

Coleman, Stephen

Introduction to the Leeds media ecology

How does a city come to imagine itself? How does it tell itself stories, circulate news, create events, store its memories and come to terms with difference and diversity?  The ecological inter-relationships between the environment people share (common), their connectedness (community) and the mediation of this mutual reality (communication) is at the focus of our study. An ecological perspective acknowledges that cities as places are not simply uncovered or exposed through communication. On the contrary, they are products of communication; the urban space as context is made present through the contextualising work of communication.

In thinking about the mediated city as being both context-dependent and context-shaping, we focus in this panel upon a specific city at a particular time. The city is Leeds in the north-east of England. The time is the summer of 2011. Our aim is to bring place and time to life and connect them meaningfully to the media ecology through which they are apprehended. The opening paper of this panel explores what it means to speak of a media ecology; how such an ecology has taken shape over time in Leeds; and the extent to which this ecology is in the midst of a radical transformation.

Most studies of urban communication have focused upon either mainstream or alternative news production; either the stories told in the name of common knowledge or the practices engaged in by people seeking to engage with public knowledge on their own terms. This study focuses upon the ecological interdependence of these aspects of public communication. Adopting a variety of methods, including interviews with a range of local mediators, focus groups, a survey of a representative sample of the Leeds population and a content analysis of one week’s news output from various media, our aim has been to explore how the people of Leeds get their local news and what they do with it. The current panel presents a selection of the findings from work undertaken by a group of researchers at the University of Leeds: Stephen Coleman, Jay Blumler, Judith Stamper, Giles Moss, Nancy Thumim, Steven McDermott, Chris Birchall, Katy Parry and Julie Firmstone.

Coleman, Stephen and Firmstone, Julie

Contested meanings of public engagement in a city: The voice and influence of citizens in communicative spaces

This paper contributes to the themes of the conference by presenting an empirically based analysis of the contested meanings of public engagement in the third largest city in the UK, Leeds.  In addition to the local news media, the communications and engagement strategies of the city Council play an important role in contributing to the public’s understanding of the city, and their engagement with it.  Drawing on a study which included over twenty face to face semi structured interviews with elected politicians, Council strategists, Council communications specialists, mainstream journalists, and citizen journalists, the paper explores perceptions of the Council’s engagement and communication with citizens from the perspective of a range of actors involved in the engagement process.

The paper establishes that actors involved in encouraging public participation have adopted competing interpretations of the meaning of engagement, resulting in diverse practices and outcomes.  Four conceptions of public engagement are outlined and critically scrutinised. The paper considers the differing motivations behind the Council’s communication and engagement strategies and explores what these mean for the way that urban democratic space is constructed and publicised. In exploring this link between motivating values and strategic practices, the paper reviews the ways in which Leeds Council enables citizens to contribute (meaningfully or otherwise) to the democratic life of the city and the extent to which digital information and communication technologies facilitate potentially new relationships between local government and citizens.

Coppoolse, Anneke

Writing the sidewalks: Pedestrian mobility in transnational Hong Kong and Shenzhen

Asia has gained importance in the geopolitical transformation of the world, locating Hong Kong and Shenzhen – Chinese border places belonging to different historical and discursive formations – in a unique position: socially, economically, and rhythmically. These cities are distinctive assemblages of mobilities, in which the way people move is at stake. This paper engages with rhythmic narrations of the everyday in these two transnational plots. ‘Stories walk’ (John Berger 1982). In pedestrian movement cultural forms are generated, continuously (Ingold and Vergunst 2008). Building towards a comparative ethnographic research, this paper endeavours to discover how urban dwellers make place and define identities based on the nature of their movement. Following Lefebvre’s Rhythmanalysis (1992), the body of the walker in the streets entangles social and biological rhythms. Mauss (1934) notes that the social world exists of physio-psycho-sociological assemblages of series of actions that are habitual in society and in the life of the individual. The habitus of transnational cities such as Hong Kong and Shenzhen includes global, local, societal and bodily rhythms. In their interaction – executed in a meeting of different footsteps – the sidewalks capture stories of the local and the global and their intersection in transnational urban space.

Drawing on ethnographic, interpretative descriptions of different pedestrian rhythms and social tempos, this paper aims to catch interactions of the global, the local, the social and the individual in Hong Kong and Shenzhen, revealing social groups, individual bodies and their power relations. While in transnational spaces identity construction and the breeding of ‘a sense of place’ are constantly changing, this does not necessarily imply a loss of place. Discarding the possibility of a ‘single, unique identity in place’ (Lin and Chen 2010), transnationality and globalisation can intensify senses of place. As a walking ethnographer one attends to the ‘textual, embodied and phenomenological aspects of place-making’, while studying it (Pink 2008). Immersed in the mobilities of urban space and its sociality, this paper combines ethnographic descriptions of people on foot with new understandings of meanings of place and identity.

Corpus Ong, Jonathan; Yeo, T.E. Dominic and Zhiyang Lin, Tony

Polymediated moral surveillance: On hating and shaming the “Mainland Locusts” through user-generated video in Hong Kong

This paper is concerned about the increasing social hostilities between Hong Kongers and mainland Chinese tourists and immigrants in “Asia’s Global City” of Hong Kong. After a brief “period of romance” with mainland China after the 1997 handover, marked by cultural pride and a rediscovery of tradition (Ma & Fung, 2004), recent years have seen a reassertion of Hong Kong/Cantonese identity as well as an aggressive surveillance of what are seen as “undisciplined” and “uncivilized” mainland Chinese people seen to be “invading” the city. Mainland-ness is assumed to be readable off Chinese people’s bodies through subtle symbolic markers of clothing, accessories, and speech in spite of sharing the “same ancestry” of Hong Kongers.

While the Hong Kong press fuels anxiety about a loss of order and a depletion of local resources from the influx of mainland migrants crossing a border that is uniquely controlled here by the “sending” rather than the “receiving” territory (Ku, 2007), ordinary people use a range of digital media technologies to capture, critique, and circulate videos of mainland Chinese “misbehaviors” in public spaces. This genre of user-generated video generates thousands of “views”, “likes”, and comments of approval in spite of (or even because of!) their use of foul language and negative imagery, perhaps most explicitly seen in a music video montage that juxtaposes mainland Chinese people in Hong Kong spaces of transport and leisure with the image of swarming locusts descending on an open, fertile field.

This paper critically discusses this genre of video as a media practice of moral surveillance, where negative values of hyperconsumerism, individualism, and impropriety are sanctioned by ordinary people using the communicative opportunities of “polymedia” (Madianou & Miller, 2011)–the increased integration of digital media technologies into a common environment. Linking the discursive strategies of othering in these videos alongside their users’ comments as well as broader public discussions, this paper argues that the digital media environment becomes an ideal space to re-articulate ordinary people’s hateful us-them discourses about mainland others in light of Hong Kong officials’ and institutions’ self-surveillance of any and all critique about mainland China. The symbolic distancing and othering practiced in this genre is seen here as (partly) about an attempt to reclaim physical distance and sovereignty through the assertion of a distinct and desirable Hong Kong identity that is able to regulate and monitor self and social conduct better than the mainland who now governs their city.

As part of a broader project on the politics and ethics of media offence, this paper additionally critiques this genre of video for its crafty ability to deflect criticism that this practice is not discriminatory “hate speech”. It identifies how local justifications that Hong Kongers are the “new minorities” in the context of greater China and traditional legal provisions of hate speech as a political category are used to circumvent mainland Chinese anxieties that they are being discriminated upon. Finally, the paper poses a critique of both the reliance on technologies of visibility for social surveillance as well as the local Hong Kongese assumption of the body as the site of cultural identity through a counter-example: What happens when the object of shaming does not turn out to be mainlander but is in fact an “other Chinese”?

Desmoulins, Lucile and Deloge, Julie

Where is polyphony in Dunkerque grey-­green city magazines?

In this paper, we describe how different voices compete in cities’ official magazines and public communication to be heard and understood, how many different entities speak of their actions, their role but also about their right to be here and speak there. What is at stake in official cities’ magazines is more “who says” than the “what”, not to mention the “to whom” since these magazines are sent to every citizens but are read very little. Cities’ official magazines are ‘media’ that should link the symbolic and material existence of cities. At a time when one speaks of nothing else but of digital communication and community management, magazines are still considered as high stakes in many cities.

The different voices we plan to analyze through their words, names and icons (logos, pictures, portraits, colors, buildings, architecture) are: political groups (both the elected team and its opponents), institutional representatives, individuals and the many groups who claim to represent civil society. These public magazines are indeed special since their production process is a highly controlled and regulated. There is no public press conference to decide the magazines’ topics, the angles, or the formats. Every inch of paper is attributed to one group or another according to both objective/subjective criteria (votes, members’ number, celebrity) but also to opportunistic decisions made by the mayor’s team, who rightly considers that the credibility of such a media comes from its ability to represent their city’s sociological diversity and the diversity of the citizens affinities, interests, hobbies and aims. Their legitimacy is intrinsically linked with their “polyphony” (Jeannerêt, Ducrot, 2004). As far as the city magazines are concerned, what happens when everybody agrees on what is best for the city on a given topic? When is there too much “harmony”?

We examined different “formulas” (Krieg-Planque): ecology, sustainable development, and agenda 21 (its French governemental delination) in the magazine of the Urban Community of
Dunkerque (CUD) during the last decade. We propose to read the profusion of the formula of “sustainable development” and the significance of materiality as a successful attempt to reconcile economic concerns (polluting industries are where the jobs are) and ecological ones (bad smells, breathing problems, permanent risks of nuclear contamination, omnipresence of high chimneys with white or grey smokes that represent the city like metaphorical lighthouses). Dunkerque is indeed a city that can be compared to Leeds, even though Leeds is twin-city with Dunkerque’s nearby big sister, Lille. It has a great industrial past, a high unemployment rate and its development depends very much on very polluting industries and a nuclear plant. In the CUD public sphere and even more ine the CUD official media, even the environmental groups are reluctant to raise their voices to express their concerns or disagreement. They rather focus on simple ideas (Lordon, 2000) and concrete situations: individual good practices, the importance of children’s education to respect their environment, public visits to industrial and nuclear sites where they can touch their unspoken fears. They are not mute but confined to childish or euphemistic discourses. Therefore they illustrate the very success of the Socialist party and the mayor Michel Delebarre to grey-green-wash environmental issues.

Dickinson, Greg and Ott, Brian L.

Spatial materialities: Co-producing actual/virtual spaces

Cities move us. They make demands on us, shaping our sense of self and of our place in the world. They shape our sense of self partly because they shape and are shaped by our senses. Built of bricks and mortar, concrete and macadam, iron and steel, the city is somatic and symbolic. The city is produced as much (if not more than) by the senses as by the word; smell and taste, touch and hearing are at least as central to the city as its signs, symbols, and representations. In short, the city is produced through extraordinarily complex weavings of the actual and the virtual, the material and immaterial. This apparently simply fact raises a complex problem: How are material spaces and representations of and in space concretely and affectively entwined?

In fact, communication scholars have been increasingly good at thinking about the ways spaces are symbolic or discursive and the ways imaginative representations of space are powerfully constitutive. At the same time, some communication scholars have struggled to engage space’s materiality, urging scholars to move beyond the symbolic and the semiotic toward the somatic and the sensorial. In this project, we seek to unite these ways of thinking space.  Drawing on Gilles Deleuze’s (non-dialectically rendered) distinctions between actual and virtual space and Henri Lefebvre’s (1991) spatial trialectic we will begin by exploring the co-constitution of material and symbolic spaces, asserting that neither has primacy over the other and that, instead, materiality enables symbolicity even as the social world created partly through discourse consistently makes and remakes the material world. Even more fundamentally, we will argue that discursivity of the city is itself already material and at the same time, that materiality is a site of agency and suasion. The hinge on which the relations of the actual and the virtual, the material and the symbolic swing is the body. Following Jane Bennett’s (2004) argument that material things are agentful and that human bodies are highly complex material things, we will place the affective, performative and rhetorical human body at the fulcrum of the city’s communicative potentiality.

Dogan, Evinc and Sirkeci, Ibrahim

Transforming the image of Istanbul during the European Capital of Culture 2010: The impact of a mega-event on city branding

This study examines the ways in which the city image of Istanbul is moderated through the spectacles and mega-events within the context of the European Capital of Culture (ECoC) 2010. Istanbul “took the stage” as one of the three ECoC cities, where the urban spaces were projected as the theatre décor while residents and visitors became the spectators of the events. Organisers and agents of the ECoC 2010 seemed to rebrand Istanbul as a “world city” rather than a “European capital”. With a series of transnational connotations, this can be considered as part of an attempt  to turn Istanbul to a gobal city. In this study we examine posters used during the ECoC 2010 to see whether this was evident in the promoted images of Istanbul.

Purpose –This study aims at understanding ways in which the ECoC 2010 influenced the city image of Istanbul, which is considered as a core component of the city brand.

Design/methodology/approach – The research employs a hermeneutic approach in which representations, signs and language are the means of symbolic meaning, which is analyzed through qualitative methods for the visual data (Visual Analysis Methods), namely Semiotics and Discourse Analysis. The analysed research material comes from a sample of posters released during the ECoC 2010 to promote 549 events throughout the year. Using stratified random sampling  we have drawn 28 posters (5% of the total) reflecting the thematic groups of events in the ECoC 2010. Particular attention is also paid to the reflexivity of the researcher and researchers embeddedness to the object of research.

Findings – First of all, different stages and political conjunctures are identified in positioning Istanbul as a brand before and after becoming ECoC and the changing meanings associated with the city. The symbolic production and visual representation are therefore investigated firstly through the authoritative and historically constituted discourses in the making of Isanbul image and secondly through the orders of cultural consumption and mediatization of culture through spectacular events. The image characteristics of Istanbul, narratives conjuring up Istanbul’s identity and discourse streamlines for the Istanbul image are identified that are specific to image making strategies in Istanbul 2010 reflected on the posters as visual communication tools for the event. The images and the discourses employed in these posters, swings between the ‘pillars’ of being a global city and native, local and Turkish characteristics of Istanbul. Hence enforcing a transnationalisation on the image of the city where the image appears to be almost stateless transcending the national boundaries.

Implications – The research intends drawing a model for the understanding of the impact of mega-events on the city image and visual representation of this image. This can be useful in understanding similar cases and further research into the processes of city and place branding and image relationships.

Originality/value – Few studies concentrate on the Istanbul ECoC 2010 as a mega-event and some others looks into Istanbul image alone. However, there is no study examining the impact of a mega-event such as the Istanbul ECoC 2010 on the city image. Besides our study relates this process to the transnational place branding which is a novel concept within Marketing scholarship promoted by Sirkeci (2013). This study is also innovative in terms of its use of mixed qualitative method in analysing visual data.

Donovan, Jeremiah

The museums of Greenville, South Carolina: Contested racial histories of the city

The city of Greenville, South Carolina is a United States city of about 60,000 residents. South Carolina was the first state to secede from the United States Government in 1861, an event which eventually led to the United States Civil War.  As a city in South Carolina, Greenville’s identity has been subsequently connected to that action and since the post-bellum era to the mythic construction known as “the South.”  The myth of “the South” – of a united, culturally rich region that had fought for a just and righteous cause – entered the cultural imaginary when postbellum Southern ideologues, attempting to mitigate a demoralizing defeat and to provide citizens of ex-Confederate states with a laudable identity, rhetorically constructed and circulated historicized narratives in the press and in literature.  This mythology of “the South,” in its defence of ante-bellum life and culture, has come to be associated in the national imaginary with ultra-conservative politics and with the regressive social institutions of slavery and racism.

The City of Greenville, especially since the decline of its identity as the Textile Capital of the South in the 1970s, has sought to distance itself from such perceptions and to reimage itself as a cosmopolitan city and a hub of international business. Just as Southern ideologues constructed a discursive mythology of “the South,” Greenville’s elite are attempting to redefine city identity by constructing a new vision and version of the city.  The history museums of Greenville, SC, however, reflect the fact that real racial tensions are still being negotiated within the city.  Nowhere else in the city is the racial history of the city more publicly contested and variously represented.

My paper investigates this discursive battle by examining the historical narratives circulated by the Museum and Library of Confederate History (run by the Sons of Confederate Veterans, a Southern heritage group), the Greenville Cultural Exchange Center (dedicated to local African American history) and the Upcountry History Museum (the City’s official museum, constructed as part of a cultural arts district).  I place these narratives within the context of the social groups that circulate them, the mythology of “the South,” still prevalent racial tensions in the city, and the contemporary branding efforts of city elite.  I analyse not only what the museum spaces are “saying,” but also how social and cultural factors affect how and why they are “saying” what they do.  In short, I interrogate the ways that racialized identity of the city of Greenville, South Carolina is being mediated in its public museums.

Faber McAlister, Joan

Restoring the global past: Architectural renovations in Fairfield, Iowa

This paper examines how the restoration/renovation of facades of buildings on the town square of Fairfield, Iowa makes the international origins of its domestic past visible in ways that challenge popular assumptions about both its isolationist past and its multicultural present. Fairfield was founded in 1839 and it retains the Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic, Queen Anne, and Victorian structures forming the public square at the center of this small Iowa town. However, when Parsons College (a Presbyterian institution founded in 1875) became Maharishi International University (home to the guru made famous by the Beatles) in 1974, Fairfield saw an influx of practitioners of Transcendental Meditation (TM).  Today, Fairfield still has less than 10,000 residents and a public center that resembles those found in other small towns in the rural Midwest, but Fairfield Square offers Indian and vegan food, ayurvedic products, homeopathic supplements, anusara yoga classes, and spiritual encounters at the Divine Mother Church.  The presence of TM and its cultural influences prompted Oprah Winfrey to label Fairfield “the most unusual town in America” and national press coverage of this town tends to repeat the narrative of a traditional place in the heartland of America whose cultural landscape has been dramatically altered by the sudden arrival of foreigners.

Yet depictions of foreign influences on Iowa’s landscape had already been drawn via the contrast between the “traditional” architecture found on its town square and the Iowans who have long called this place home.  Grant Wood’s iconic painting, “American Gothic”—created in my hometown of Cedar Rapids and depicting a structure that is less than 20 miles away from Fairfield—focused on the visual contrast between internationally-inflected architecture and rural Iowan culture.  This image of a dour farmer and his daughter in front of a farmhouse with a facade evidencing the influence of the medieval gothic arch has been received as either a satirical or sincere portrait of resistance to, or assimilation of, foreign cultures by Iowans.  In important ways, Grant Wood’s painting calls attention to the contrast between European and U.S. vernacular visual environments, even as it relies on the ubiquity and status of European cultural forms in an anglophilic and (perhaps post-postcolonial) context.

Recent restorations/renovations to the Fairfield town square can be seen as an extension of Grant Wood’s portrait in that they take the additional step of exposing the non-European influences on European architecture.  The facades of the Federal, Greek Revival, Gothic, Queen Anne, and Victorian buildings now housing ayurvedic healing centers and Indian restaurants have been repainted in bright hues of glossy purple, green, and gold that restore the exotic and Eastern aesthetic to the architectural details borrowed to distinguish these styles from earlier Western designs: arches, cornices, moldings, columns, and towers with elements drawn from “oriental” sources.  This painting of Fairfield square is a project that is animated by the productive tension between restoration and renovation—residents have restored the original grandeur of these distinctive aesthetic features while renovating the status of their visibility in their contemporary context.  In other words, the restoration/renovation of Fairfield’s facades sheds new light on the Eastern influences on Western European architecture, repositioning the rural Midwest as a place that has been home to global cultural forms since its inception. Moreover, it recovers the architectural evidence of “orientalism” in an age of empire, summoning the ghosts of colonialism and imperialism that haunt all multicultural projects.

In addition to analyzing how Fairfield Square’s restoration/renovation challenges both its history and its present, the paper explores the degree to which the creative interplay between “West” and “East” that Fairfield stages and remembers relies on the forgetting of the conquest of the Western natives of North America by Eastern “settlers” and the imperial conduit through which India and Europe have come to occupy those compass points in a place called Iowa.

Ford, Heather and Graham, Mark

Cartographic attributes of the invisible: The semantic web and depoliticised urban data shadows

In a recent edition of National Public Radio’s ‘This American Life’ programme, Gwen Westerman, a member of the Dakota Indian tribe, stood by a plaque just outside the town of Mankato in Southern Minnesota. The plaque was etched with the names of the five white settlers who were killed here by Dakota men in August of 1862. Westerman read aloud the story from the plaque about four Dakota men killing a group of unsuspecting white settlers ‘in order to prove their bravery’ and then waging an ‘all out war with the white man’. She shook her head and said that this version of the story here left out so much and then laughed. ‘I mean, it’s a small monument, you can’t get everything on there,’ she said.

As cities, and our experiences of them, are becoming digital and digitised, the size of virtual plaques is similarly diminishing. This curious situation, ironic in that it has come at a time when we have almost unlimited space to present all the complexities of the modern world, has apparently come about in order to solve the problem of tidal waves of data crashing against the shores of individuals, organisations, companies and governments who are trying to make sense of it.

But the web, and the digital data shadows of cities are again changing. The “semantic web” is the next moment in the Web’s history: one in which information is being increasingly tagged, standardised, and ordered in order to allow information to be more easily shared and reused. The capital city or population of Israel, for instance, is no longer just text in a Wikipedia article or a series of ranked pages in a Google search, but rather a structured piece of data that flows through our ecosystems of information.

This fairly innocuous-sounding movement has a single impact that many didn’t foresee. In order to share data across sites, there is supposed to be agreement – but the agreement isn’t coming from people affected by those sites but from the controllers of the sites themselves. In the messy, complex world of city politics (especially in places that do not accord with the traditional semantic structure of most Western cities), the data that is being shared is definitely not agreed upon by many people, institutions and governments around the world. Without ‘enough space on the plaque’ (or in this case, with limited characters in the field for ‘city’ and relevant ‘country’) the semantic web is depoliticizing our notions of complexities in favour of the status quo.

This paper tackles these issues of the depoliticizing of information in, and about, cities by asking four key questions: In whose interests are these snippets of data being decided? How is Big Data and the semantic web depoliticizing our global understandings of cities and their history? What are the material conditions that have led us to this point in the history of the web? And what does it mean for the future of cities and the voices that represent them?

Forlano, Laura and Mathew, Anijo

Codesigning urban communication: Emerging methods for understanding the role of media and technology in cities

This essay presents the results of an on-going series of codesign workshops about urban technology for policymakers that are being held in Chicago, New York and Boston during 2012-2013 with funding from the Urban Communication Foundation. The purpose of the workshops are threefold: 1) to expose policymakers to a range of urban technologies including urban screens, the ‘internet of things’ and mobile applications; 2) to expose the values embedded in these technologies as well as in political decisions about them; and 3) to introduce policymakers to codesign methods as a means of bringing together diverse stakeholders to discuss issues related to urban technology.

This essay draws on theories from communications (Carey, 1988; Innis, 1951), design (Sanders, 2008) and science and technology studies (Bijker, Hughes, & Pinch, 1987; Latour, 2005; Nissenbaum, 2001; Star, 1999) in order to frame the results of the three workshops and their importance to the field of urban informatics. Over the past five years, a growing body of academic scholarship has employed new concepts that challenge the separation of physical from digital, global from local, and private from public, which are relevant to the understanding of the way in which digital technologies are enabling emergent forms of organizing (Humphreys, 2008), new modes of citizen engagement (Foth, 2008; Foth, Forlano, Gibbs, & Satchell, 2011) and novel ways of experiencing urban space (Ito, 2003). Specifically, terms such as net locality (Gordon & Silva, 2011), code/space (Kitchin & Dodge, 2011), situated technologies (Shepard, 2011), and codescapes (Forlano, 2009) have been introduced in order to better articulate the ways in which digital interfaces, artifacts and networks have been integrated into urban space. However, we do not yet have a nuanced understanding of how these theoretical concepts play out in everyday work and life in cities. Specifically, how do emergent hybrid spaces of connectivity and connection in urban areas shape our experiences? How do they limit or expand our sociability with others? And, how might they prevent or enable opportunities for citizens to express themselves? How are digital interfaces, artifacts and infrastructures imbued with socio-political values and invisible actors?

In this essay, we will expand on these issues based on the discussions, activities, artifacts and outcomes of the three codesign workshops on urban technology, which are uniquely situated in different urban environments and thus reflect different relationships between people, technology, policy and space/place. Finally, the essay will introduce a codesign toolkit about urban technology for policymakers that will enable others to replicate the codesign workshops for their own purposes.

Franken, Christina

A mobile app as matchmaker in urban work environments

One of the most visible effects of the economic crisis is the alarming number of empty office buildings afflicting our European capitals. For example 18% of the office buildings in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, are vacant or rather 1,300,00 m2 of idle space available for conversion. Meanwhile, a new type of workforce emerges as large companies downsize and outsource functions to specialists: These are mobile “one-person-enterprises” (OPEs) which already account for 8% of employment and almost 4% of the population in Europe. These OPEs adapt well to fast changing business environments where many projects start as self-initiated collaborations between “free agents”. Unfortunately funding for projects in initiating stages is rarely available. As obvious as it may be to pair these two trends together, the political forces have already announced that a ‘considerable’ portion of the vacant office stock in the Netherlands will have to be demolished. This is, unless the gap between spatial supply and the demand for affordable work or collaboration spaces can be bridged.


TempSpot is a mobile app that tackles this divide by matching individuals to affordable vacant properties. It works similar to flight reservations: by scanning user requirements and preferences, both hard facts (location, short-mid-long-term contracts, desk location, facilities, equipment, price range) and soft factors (matching professional disciplines, further interests and skills), the system is able to create socially engaging work environments.

The app’s matchmaking functionality allows professionals to engage and interact on and off premises with other users. The goal is not merely to find a local inexpensive space to work, but also to create inspiring environments to work in and to open up opportunities for collaborative innovation.

A Mobile Tool Facilitating New Working

The concept eases communication between two groups in the urban context: stakeholders with a supply of space and individual users in demand of space.

The functions of the app are designed to create healthy professional communities in shortest time. Decision-making is a key feature of the app encouraging governance, maintenance and even conflict resolution through collective anonymity.

TempSpot helps property managers with cost effective administration for a large numbers of tenants through automating and organising. As an example, the repeated letting of vacant spaces can be automated by sending push notifications directly on users’ mobile devices when a space matching the user preferences becomes available. The advantages of harmonic self-regulating communities speak for themselves. The concept begins to act as a catalyst for local professional networks and new spaces of production.


The project reflects the collaborative effort of a group of architects, social designers and researchers with a shared interest in utilising technology to solve contemporary issues within the urban context. The aim is to convince more real estate firms to offer shared spaces with flexible contracts. TempSpot could be easily scaled to scenarios on regional, metropolitan and national levels.

Giaccardi, Chiara

The square as a clock: On the chronemics of contested public spaces

Several neighbourhoods in Italy, albeit located not far from their city centres, are currently undergoing a process of “suburbanization” entailing high levels of immigration, an ageing of the Italian resident population, a decline of economic activities and services, a weakening of social ties and general sociability and increasing levels of un-safety. Adapting Lefebvre, we could say that if space is represented, perceived and lived, suburbanization implies a decline in the representation of an area, a change in its morphology in the direction of an increasing “un-readability” of space by its former residents (inasmuch as foreign shops and unknown sign replace the familiar ones for instance) and hence a difficulty in the capability of space to support the everyday practices that constitute the fabric of local social life.

One of the most interesting areas in this respect is the Esquilino in Rome, a neighborhood located next to the main railway station. The area has become the destination and main site for a number of migrant economic activities (especially Chinese and northern African) but also the meeting point for a number of immigrants from different ethnic and national groups who live elsewhere, whose gatherings in the area appear to elicit in the residents a feelings of territorial dispossession, loss of identity and growing insecurity, vulnerability and alienation.

Supplementing with new fieldwork the data gathered in a previous nationwide research project on problematic neighborhoods including Esquilino (collected in Magatti 2006) the focus of this paper will be twofold:

1. Assessing the current state of the relationships between representations, morphology and social practices. In particular, it will be stressed how representations enacted by actors with varying stakes impact differently on social practices. While “top-down” positive representations of the area produced by progressive intellectuals who choose to live at Esquilino publicly praising its multicultural flavour were more helpful to gentrification projects while being much less effective on regenerating sociability,  grassroots projects (which also generated positive representations in mainstream media) were more successful in this second respect. The paper will briefly cover two such experiences. The first one is the multicultural music band Orchestra di piazza Vittorio (founded in 2001 and taking its name from the square at the center of the quarter) composed by Italian musicians as well as non-Italian performers, many of which formerly homeless, jobless, or illegal aliens. The second case is the DiDonato Association, founded by parents of local primary schoolchildren, which succeeded in creating within the school area a safe environment for the regeneration of the social life in the neighbourhood. The association did so by renovating and maintaining the school open overtime, and organizing a variety of activities (such as courses of Chinese language for Italian parents) and events (including multi-ethnic dinners and festivals). Subsequently, also relying on this (media-covered) new positive framing of the area, residents started a process of re-appropriation of space and of re-signification of its sites. To some extent, a former reason of shame (the “invasion” of foreign people) has been reframed as a resource, insofar as reportedly parents from other areas of the city are bringing their children to the school thanks to its newfound fame.

2. The second focus will be on the core of the neighbourhood: Piazza Vittorio, a very large square which is in fact a public gated garden, the site of the local street market and the main social point of Esquilino. Like every piazza it is not only an environment for communication, but a communicating device in itself, a medium speaking out the composition, the contradictions and conflicts, the rhythms of social life.  Through an ethnography focused on proxemics (social distances, separation and auto-exclusion, group gathering, forms of inclusion) and chronemics (rhythms, timing of space claiming by particular groups in particular times for particular activities, temporal segregation of groups temporary claiming a territorial sovereignty) we will see how a particularly significant place can be the magnifying lens for understanding crucial social processes, being not only space, but “space in time” the main object of claim. Furthermore, the paper will focalize how in this case the lack of shared and shareable representations prevents the possibility of a negotiation while widening the gap between generations, ethnic groups, residents and visitors.

Gomez Nicolau, Emma and Muñoz Rodríguez, David

The continuing war of Parke Alcosa: Urban mobilization and communication strategies in Valencia

The impact of the current crisis has opened a new stage in relations between the society and social movements. The number of protests has increased and the social acceptance is higher than in the previous years, especially in the countries of southern Europe, where the cuts in social rights are more evident. One result is greater visibility of the protests, which is particularly intense in the urban spaces. These processes have been accompanied by a diversification of the action repertoire of social movements and some changes in the uses of urban spaces, which are no longer a simple scenario of the protests, but also they have become one of the central themes in the symbolic struggles.

In the Spanish case, on the basis of the new social movements (like 15-M, Stop Desahucios…) there are small groups and individuals who come from previous social movements (like anti-war movement, squatter movement or anti-globalization). Some of them have disappeared or have a weak social presence but others, especially those with a local strong presence, have a deep influence on the new movements, while they have themselves been influenced by the new ones.

We show a case study focused on one of the most active groups in the city of Valencia and its metropolitan area. The “Kol·lectiu del Parke Alcosa” (KPA) is a network of local groups whose activity against the poverty and social exclusion began in 1985. In the KPA are involved about 120 people in several initiatives. They have had a strong influence on the emergent groups because of their imaginative protest actions. Moreover its claims also mesh well with the demands claimed in last events of social upheaval (democratic transparency, new social benefits…). By an ethnographic approach we describe the wide range of actions and initiatives focusing the urban space uses. On one side, we analyse the performance of the actions and its symbolic aspects. On the other, we examine the communication products (videos, flyers, web pages) they made in order to explain their demands and to mobilize.

Han, Cheng

A dream in Chinese reality TV: City and its dreamy identity

The Exchange Programme is a successful modification of the western Reality TV format. Produced by Hunan satellite television, it takes as its backdrop the rural-urban divide in China. Categorized as “life experience Reality TV”, The Exchange Programme juxtaposes urban and rural youth by arranging for them to experience the life of their counterpart for seven days. The show aired from September 2006 to April 2008, and featured four independent stories in each season. The show then came back for a fifth season in Jan 2012.

In giving the urban participant a leading role to play, the editor of The Exchange Programme positions it as “a story about an urban youth’s transformation in a village, meanwhile it gives us a vivid impression about other [i.e. rural] youths.” Interviewed by the programme makers, Cheng Manli, associate dean of News and Communication School, Beijing University, believes, “It is a good model we could use for student education, including family education, school education and other deeper levels.” Meanwhile, Wang Xiaohong, associate dean of Television and News School, Communication University of China, comments, “I like this programme very much, from lots of different perspectives, it represents media responsibility.”

This paper will analyze the portrayal of urban youth in The Exchange Programme and the way their identities are held to be representative of modern city life in China. What actually are the “deeper levels” of education on display here? What kind of “media responsibility” exactly is at work? Through an examination of how the cultural identities of urban youth are constructed, I will argue that the “rediscovered” poverty of rural areas is presented as a form of punishment and heart-rending pathos with which to physically and emotionally affect urban youth (and audiences), and contribute to their transformation. In this way, I will show how The Exchange Programme endeavours to persuade urban youth to docilely accept the discipline and the education of school, serving as it does as a representative of modernization. If the fantasy of urban youth is to be “modern, moral and disciplined”, then by presenting this ‘myth’ as an assured future the programme can be seen as functioning to maintain the legitimacy of Neoliberalism in present day China. Within the context of those contradictions and struggles between capitalism and communism that are currently facing the Chinese government, the programme can also be held as allegorically revealing the changing “hybridity” of the city, with the latter becoming a battle field, a “third space” of culture and discourse, in which the country acts as the nation’s “original culture”.

Harold, Gill

Interrogating phonocentrism in the ‘hearing’ city: Exploring Deaf experiences

Embedded in classic ideas of citizenship and the public sphere, as devised by Habermas (1996: 360), are the arts of discourse and communication:

The public sphere can best be described as a network for communicating information and points of view (i.e., opinions expressing affirmative or negative attitudes); the streams of communication are, in the process, filtered and synthesized in such a way that they coalesce into bundles of topically specified public opinions.

Commentators interested in active citizenship and forms of urban participation have critically undermined the notion of a singular homogenous public. Young (2000: 171), for instance, draws on Fraser’s argument that ‘when there is a public sphere it tends to be dominated, both in action and ideas, by more privileged groups’. Pluralist models of citizenship depart from Habermasian understandings in an acknowledgement of the diversity of city life. As Young (2000: 168) sees it, ‘public communication in civil society is often not unified and orderly, but messy, many-levelled, playful, emotional.’

Phonocentrism is explained by Bauman (2004: 243) as ‘the historical assumption that speech is the most fully human form of language’, and the impact this has for Deaf people’s experience of accessing information in city spaces is pertinent, given that Amin and Thrift (2002: 121-2) discuss how ‘the city is constantly talked into being’. Empirical research with members of Deaf communities living in urban centres in Ireland, as well as in London, England, is engaged in the paper as a lens through which to critically understand what Emery has identified as ‘[…] the ways in which Deaf citizens are excluded from citizenship, namely, due to citizenship being phonocentric, [and] social policy being audist’ (2009: 42).

Forms of citizenship which acknowledge and embrace the concept of difference in cities are arguably jeopardised by Habermas’ suggestion of an ideal, unified public realm. Presenting the public sphere as a singular network which channels opinions to formulate a generic public consensus creates an impression of citizenship, and of civic participation, which is static, and this is clearly problematic. It is arguable that for Deaf citizens whose first language is Sign Language, engaging with hearing citizens in spaces designed with an implicit bias towards the hearing, speaking person, means that their urban experience forms a lens through which we can further interrogate and deconstruct notions of an idealised public realm in a bid to fortify models of citizenship which acknowledge difference in an accessible city. This paper considers how negotiating predominantly hearing contexts becomes significant in the everyday geographies of Deaf people. It argues that there is an assumed homogeneity of a hearing public, with the consequence that the hearing citizen who speaks and hears is perceived to be socially intelligible, thus ultimately exposing the deeply embedded sets of exclusions that persist in the audist city and phonocentric tendencies in the design of urban spaces.

Harris, Keith

Planes of organization, expression, and content in Seattle’s South Lake Union neighborhood

One of the largest urban redevelopment projects in the United States is currently under construction near the northern edge of Seattle’s central business district. Over the last ten years, the South Lake Union (SLU) neighborhood – developed by Vulcan, Inc., the real estate investment arm of Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen – has grown from a sleepy light industrial neighborhood to the home of, a burgeoning center for biotechnology companies and life sciences research, and a residential neighborhood that has begun to flourish despite the economic collapse of 2008. In concert with the wholesale reshaping of an urban neighborhood, Vulcan has also undertaken a comprehensive advertising and branding campaign, which is centralized in SLU Discovery Center. Under the tagline “Rethink Urban,” the Center proffers information about the neighborhood’s history, Vulcan’s vision for its future, as well as central design elements, such as sustainable infrastructure and construction. Additionally, since the project grew out of two failed attempts to create a public park on the same land, and is currently being considered for a rezone that will allow towers of up to 40-stories tall in some locations, a wide variety of discourses – affirming and negating – have been and are currently flowing through and around the space.

This paper draws on the vast array of utterances that have shaped and are currently reshaping the production of SLU’s urban fabric, in an effort to reveal the primary themes that constitute what Deleuze and Guattari (D&G) would call SLU’s “plane of organization”: a set of forces that strives to create its own forms – buildings, parks, plazas, streets, etc. – and subjects for whom these forms exist. By using this concept we are able to go beyond the traditional divide between structuralist (economic) and culturalist explanations of gentrification – epitomized by Neil Smith’s and David Ley’s theories, respectively – and, instead, examine a variety of elements that interact with varying degrees of resonance and dissonance, and shape “revitalization” efforts: state and local policy, existing and “hoped-for” cultural values, international economic trends, architectural and design discourses, growth coalitions, and neighborhood resistance, to name a few. Moreover, D&G’s concept accounts for the relationship between the language and representation concerning the neighborhood and the materiality of the place itself through Hjelmslev’s conceptions of a “plane of expression” and a “plane of content.” While this paper will focus on the multimodal discourses (cf. Kress and Van Leeuwen) – text, imagery, and video – that occur on the former plane, the simultaneity of communication and materiality will also be addressed, through both the function of the Discovery Center and an uncanny location in SLU where a marketing video seemingly plays on a loop, throughout the night, to an empty sidewalk.

Hill, Katie

Provocation and imagination: Inspiring activism and social change in the city of Leeds

In an asset mapping project that sought to make visible under-recognised and under-utilised resources within an inner-city neighbourhood (Leeds Love It Share It ‘Margins Within the City’ 2011), questions arose around how to mobilise those resources to address current problems and future challenges anticipated as a result of economic and climate crises. Three approaches were identified: to support existing activists within the neighbourhood to grow resident-led projects; to work with local government to develop strategic projects; and to develop a tool to facilitate discussion of critical issues and to collectively devise solutions with local residents.

As part of the latter of these three approaches a set of cards were produced as a prompt for discussion to be used with residents of the city. The cards combined images from the Margins within the City project as well as images from other change making projects with a set of questions and propositions drawn from the research. This practice based paper reflects on the role of visual communication in the articulation of critical issues and the production of a visual and textual tool designed to provoke and inspire residents to take action. The tool was devised in 2012 and is being piloted with communities in early 2013 and this paper will draw on the experiences of this pilot phase as well as earlier experiences of producing and sharing the Margins within the City report.

Leeds Love It Share It is a Community Interest Company. It was formed in late 2007 when a number of people got together in recognition that Leeds is at an important crossroads and that we need urgent policy debate on how key issues will affect Leeds’ future, such as climate change and energy use, land use and planning, participation and community empowerment. We believe that the city needs to prepare for the future challenges in each of these areas and that there is a need to galvanise debate and action.

The management group of Leeds Love it Share It consists of cultural and architectural practitioners and academics. Their expertise is drawn from the University of Leeds (School of Geography), Leeds Metropolitan University (School of Art, Architecture and Design), Bauman Lyons Architects, the Permaculture Assocation and Media And Arts Partnership. The group aims to conduct programmes of education and research that support the citizens of Leeds, local organisations and policy makers to promote understanding as well as design and implement solutions to sustainability and climate change.

Margins within the City emerged as a first project for the group in order to develop and test new methodologies for understanding how an inner suburban neighbourhood might be strengthened. It was funded by Yorkshire Forward and Local Enterprise Growth Initiative. Our website is

Hussein, Mohamed; Porter, Nicole and Borsi, Katharina

‘Who Speaks for Liverpool?’ Communicating Urban Identity through Place Branding

Against a backdrop of intensified urban competition, cities are under pressure to communicate positive place images more than ever. Place branding is a pervasive marketing and management tool being used in a bid to transform negative images of urban environments, becoming an integrated part of urban regeneration (Zhang and Zhao, 2009, Patteeuw, 2002, Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2005). To what extent do such marketing messages reflect the complexity of urban identity? Place branding raises questions concerning the process of image selection and communication, and how the collective city image can be identified, shared and spread (Peel and Lloyd, 2008).

This paper explores the place branding phenomenon through a case study of Liverpool, a city whose brand tagline proudly declares ‘Who Speaks for Liverpool? We all Do.’ Liverpool has experienced serious urban decline followed major economic restructuring greater than any other city in the UK (Couch, 2003). Today, the city has the fastest growing economy outside London and it is one of the UK’s leading business destinations. However, with the establishment of Liverpool Vision in 1999, the concept of place branding has come forth. Liverpool Vision aims to strengthen the Liverpool brand world-wide in order to attract inward investment (Liverpool Vision, 1999). Focussing on the period of Liverpool Vision from 1999 to the present, this study draws on archival material and interviews with a number of stakeholders involved (including those managing the process and those critical of it), to identify the extent to which Liverpool’s transformation represents a distinctively local identity or one of global homogenised change. Like all cities, Liverpool gives rise to many voices, although some may speak louder than others in the branding age.

By reflecting on the Liverpool case, this paper elucidates the relationship between place branding and urban identity, and the challenges of facilitating regeneration whilst still allowing for local distinctiveness.

Karvelyte, Kristina

A creative approach to representing Taipei

In response to increased inter-city competition for tourism, investment, businesses, talented workforce and the like, few decades ago city governments around the world finally started to recognize the importance of city image and brand. Consequently, nowadays cities are often portrayed as financial centers, business headquarters, cultural capitals, creative clusters or tourism destinations. Large cities, however, should not be regarded as single-function devices. Due to their size, diversity and power they may carry out several or all of these functions simultaneously (Friedman 1986).

This paper is aimed at exploring so-called ‘cultural turn’ in urban marketing. In particular, it seeks to investigate the role of creativity and cultural production in enhancing the image of the city. In academic literature city is often seen as the preeminent location for fostering creativity and innovation. Hall (1999) identifies city as a ‘cultural crucible’ and argues that ever since the first cities came into existence, creativity’s role “in finding solutions to the city’s own problems of order and organization” (p. 6) has been immense.

Drawing upon the case study of Taipei City, I will analyze some major branding practices and techniques that are applied to represent the city in terms of its creative and cultural potential. Taipei City is one of the most modern metropolitan cities in Asia. However, due to the unresolved political status of Taiwan, the city faces a massive competition from other global cities in the area, including Hong Kong, Shanghai and Seoul. In last few years Taipei City Government worked hard to build a positive and attractive image of the city. Although in the beginning the general aim was to represent Taipei as an international financial centre, later it was realized that due to controversial international status, Taipei hardly stands a chance against Hong Kong, Shanghai or Singapore – cities that have also declared themselves the global financial centres in Asia. Consequently, taking into account a well-preserved Chinese heritage and culture and rapid development of creative industries in the city, it was decided to take a ‘cultural turn’ establishing Taipei as Chinese Culture Capital or the Best Chinese City in the World (Karvelyte and Chiu 2011). Starting from late 1990s, Taipei City government dedicated a number of efforts to boost culture and creativity in this city. In 1999, it established the Department of Cultural Affairs that initiated the development of cultural infrastructures (surveys and locations for cultural activities) and a series of cultural events and activities (Wang 2007).

Currently applied city branding techniques in Taipei include hallmark events, signature (flagship) construction building, personality branding, signature cuisine, in-film branding, and the promotion and stimulation of creative enterprises and creative and cultural clusters. Although their content is mainly targeted at Asian audience, learning more about these practices and techniques could also assist the local governments in Europe in building and developing the brand of ‘creative city’.

Khatchikian, Alicja; Palekaite, Goda; Strasser, Silja and Stupar Browne, Jana

Graffiti tags as urban markers and means of communication

Non-official and, mostly, illegal urban movements and subcultures have been significantly affecting the faces of modern cities since the second half of the 20th century. Graffiti is one of the most controversial issues in various discussions among diverse groups of inhabitants, concerning such topics as urban aesthetics, publicity and privacy, art and vandalism. In this research, we aim to touch only a small part of this large issue and, hence, we focus on tags. Tags are mostly pseudonyms of graffiti artists written in a stylistic manner that can be found not only on walls in the streets, but anywhere in public spaces and on different surfaces, like advertising boards, café toilet walls and public transport.

In an attempt to gain insight into graffiti and tagging as a subculture, we firstly aim to explore the communities of graffiti artists and their use of graffiti tags as signs within these urban spaces. Additionally, we want to explore how these signs function as, a) a particular form of communication within a specific (urban) community or as markers of such a community and b) as markers of an individual artist. The research will take place in Vienna (A), Turin (IT), Vilnius (LT), and Zagreb (CRO).

The initial theoretical framework is urban semiotics, which seeks to understand different visual, spatial and performative manifestations as carriers of meaning and tries to decode them. Our hypothesis is that a tag functions as a personal logotype or identifier for graffiti artists – since it always consists not only of a verbal, but also of a visual component and is an individual marker. We expect to find that graffiti tags serve as means for the artists’ presence to be noticed and to have their names remembered. Furthermore, we assume that graffiti tags depict “words in disguise”. They, therefore, allow the artists to both hide and reveal their identity, as they have meaning to the insiders, but are concealed from the outside. We, therefore, expect our research to show that tagging is a modern urban language, enabling communication through an urban medium (e.g. wall), within a certain group of individuals and, at the same time, excluding the majority of the city’s inhabitants.

For this purpose, we are conducting ethnographic interviews with graffiti artists. The questions that we want to have answered during the research are, among others: What kind of communication generates tagging?; How do taggers create their urban identity through the signs that they leave?; Who is the intended and unintended audience of these tags? The research already started in October 2012 and will be completed by February 2013. For the purposes of the Communication and the City Conference we aim to present our project and illustrate it using visual materials.

Kim, Tae-Sik

Representation of cultural citizenship at contact zones: the symbolic exclusion of Vietnamese Czechs in urban/digital space in Brno

This study examines how an immigrant population is symbolically represented in both urban and digital spaces. The investigator, who is a newcomer in Brno, a city in the Czech Republic, reflexively interprets the symbolic meaning of spatial settings and information on the Internet. In this research, the investigator especially interprets visual and textual representations of the Vietnamese population at two main cultural contact zones (Appadurai, 1991) for a newcomer, the area near the main railway station in Brno and the Internet.

According to the 2011 census, more than 83,000 Vietnamese people, including citizens and residents, live in the Czech Republic. While there are no census data of Vietnamese who are Czech citizens in Brno, there are over 4,500 Vietnamese citizens who live permanently in Brno and its vicinity (Czech Statistical Office, 2011). Most businesses owned by Vietnamese Czechs in Brno are located around the main railway station, and there are a few Vietnamese restaurants in the city center. There are also some small shops in the underpass under the station and tiny outdoor shops forming a line of street vendors along the railway. These businesses specialize in selling cheap, imported fashion items, such as clothes and shoes. For visitors, this area is an entryway to Brno because the international bus terminal and a bus stop for passengers coming from the airport are also located near the station. At the same time, this area creates a border between the old city center, in which most historical heritage sites, cultural facilities, and public offices are located, and the south parts of the city, which are not popular tourist destinations. In other words, the area is a symbolic space forming a “margin” for the well-packaged city center. Because they are concentrated in this area and selling shoddy goods, Vietnamese small-business owners and workers deliver messages to visitors of symbolic exclusion from mainstream urban relations (Ong, 2006).

In a digital age, the Internet plays an important role as an information hub. Especially for those who are newly settled in a city where the official language is other than their native language or English, the Internet is one of only a few information sources. Despite language differences, various websites provide information and user-generated contents in multiple languages. In addition, recently well-developed online translation provided by major portal services, such as Google and Bing, have become useful tools for obtaining information encoded in Czech. Being interested in the sizable number of Vietnamese people in Brno, the investigator has tried to obtain information about this population on the Internet. However, a very limited number of Internet sources in English are available. Despite their relatively long history of migration to Czech Republic, Vietnamese Czechs are underrepresented in the digital space where many people learn about a place they visit.

In this study, the investigator first describes his interactions with spaces, images, and textual information in and about Brno. Based on ethnographic observation, he interprets their meanings and shows how the immigrants are symbolically excluded from the mainstream population. Finally, this study critically explores how both urban and digital spaces signify symbolic meanings of cultural citizenship in a neoliberal world.

Lamb, Matthew D.

LED me not into temptation: Urban screens, Toronto’s Dundas square, and the boundaries of normality

The architectural façade has long been a large-scale media display. The ubiquitous, and often pervasive, practice within high-density urban areas is to wrap architectural façades with LED screens, using them to project myriad images and messages generative of a social-spatial ethos. The media displays projected on and from the buildings in downtown Toronto have profound influence on actants’ expectations, interpretations, and affective responses to, specifically here, Dundas Square. Thus, the atmosphere of public space must be taken seriously because, as Ash Amin argues, it subtly defines “performances of social life in public and meanings and intentions of urban public culture” (15). The purpose of this study is to examine architecture as a site of communication, contestation, and part and parcel to our experiences of urban space. Thus, the presence of LED screens directly impacts Dundas Square as a formative site of urban public space. In this study I investigate how these symbolic projections “shape public expectation, less so by forcing automatic compliance, than by tracing the boundaries of normality and aspiration in public life” (Amin 15). I use, among others, the work of Ash Amin on collective culture and urban public space in conjunction with Sharon Zukin’s recent work on authentic public spaces. Using an immersive critical ethnographic method I seek a better understanding of how architecture communicates. In so doing, I explore how these LED displays participate in shaping public expectation by projecting interlocking hegemonic discourses circumscribing the boundaries of normality and aspirations in public life.

Lotze, Kathleen

Cinema culture and urban change: How a cultural quarter turned into the city’s trash bin (and is being revived again)

The paper proposes to examine the relation between cinema and urban change from a historical perspective. Test case is the Station Quarter in Antwerp, Belgium. As the largest city of Flanders, the northern part of the country, Antwerp played a vital role for film distribution and exhibition nationwide and abroad during most part of the 20th century. It was especially the Station Quarter, the neighborhood around Antwerp’s central train station, where cultural life was most vibrant and where most of Antwerp’s cinemas were located. From the late 19th century until the 1970s the Station Quarter was the place to be and to be seen. It was also the spot where Antwerp´s cinema tycoon George Heylen (1912-95) started his career after the end of World War II and where he established a quasi monopoly in the 1960s. Heylen was famous for having the most beautiful picture palaces, where cinemagoers were treated like kings and queens and could see the best pictures. He was also renowned for inviting famous (national and international) film stars to attend the premieres of their films. Nevertheless, the ongoing worldwide recession in the film industry did not stop at Heylen’s doorstep. From the 1980s onwards an alarming deterioration of the Station Quarter, combined with drug trafficking and high crime rates, was paralleled by the closing down of many of the cinemas there, culminating in the spectacular bankruptcy of Heylen’s Rex-cinema empire in 1993. In a blink of an eye the number of cinemas in the Station Quarter was reduced from eleven to three, of which two were sex cinemas. The disappearance of the picture palaces from the Station Quarter brought with it dramatic profit loss for the restaurants and bars located there. As a result, the Station Quarter became even less attractive for tourists and locals alike. Today, drug trafficking has been banned, buildings have been renovated and a 17-screen multiplex located at the heart of the Station Quarter offers film screenings from 11 a.m. until midnight. The Station Quarter is about to become Antwerp’s jewel again it had once been famous for.

The results presented in the paper are based on my doctoral thesis about film exploitation and reception in Antwerp between 1945-1995, with special focus on Heylen’s cinema empire in the Station Quarter. The paper relates institutional history to the lived experiences of (former) Antwerp citizens, by drawing on a broad range of methods and sources. More particularly I combine quantitative datasets and analysis (i.e. databases and maps with spatio-economic features of the cinemas) with qualitative data (i.e. in-depth interviews with Antwerp citizens about the role of film and cinema in their pasts), thereby placing cinema culture in a broader framework of the cultural and socio-economic dynamics of a city that shape it.

Lui, Debora

The digital production of social space: Examining the ‘Elite Squad’ on

Social media tools are continually presenting more opportunities for people to record the everyday details of their lives. While some online sites seek geographically disconnected personal information (such as your favorites or your friends), other services such as Yelp, TagWhat and FourSquare specifically collect spatially-grounded data, including restaurant reviews, personal memories about a place, or site-specific pictures or video. These services thus produce multiple layers of spatial ‘meta-data’, available to all Internet users. The proliferation of this kind of information, as well as the impulse to continually produce and access these, poses the question of how they shift people’s perceptions and experiences of public space. What are the political implications of this change?

In this paper, I attempt to answer these questions by focusing on, a popular crowd-sourced city review site based in the United States. It offers reviews on a range of places including businesses, restaurants, cultural institutions (galleries, museums, theaters) and public utilities (libraries, bridges, parks). Within my analysis, I highlight the activities and perspectives of the Yelp “Elite Squad”, a group of Yelp members chosen by the company for their prolific contributions to the site. Using the work of spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre (1992), I argue that the Yelp Elite produce new kinds of urban space through their participation on the site.  In other words, through the practices of rendering the city ‘legible’ to outsiders, the Yelp Elite, and the larger community of Yelp members, create a new environment where all places are made equally ‘consumable’ – whether they are businesses or public goods – and where local civic engagement is thus reframed as a mode of ‘communitarian consumption’.

In terms of method, my conclusions regarding this new public space draws from

in-depth interviews with a dozen Yelp Elite members about their practices and attitudes surrounding the site. These interviews are read against information found on the site itself. I examine how the company structures members’ activities, but also the personal artifacts, such as profiles and reviews, of those whom I interviewed.  Using a grounded theory approach, I identify three themes that frame Yelp Elite’s use of the site: the ‘consumable-ness’ of the city, the positioning of Yelp as a public service, and the idea that knowledge production is a social activity. In analyzing these findings, I re-frame these themes according to Lefebvre’s spatial triad of conceived, lived, and perceived space – modes that all constitute production of social space. Positioning Yelp in this way allows me to account not only for the logistical ways in which Yelp Elite render the city ‘legible’, but also the affective and social dimensions of this practice. It is this shifted perspective, I argue, that reinforces the neoliberal restructuring of society. While this changed spatial practice may be viewed as problematic, I contend that it also yields to new and productive forms of local, civic engagement.

Macek, Steve

Policing the image of the city: Politics and the control of screen representations of Chicago, 1907-1968. 

On February 21, 1961, the BBC broadcast Denis Mitchell’s controversial documentary “Chicago: Portrait of a Great City.” Co-produced by the BBC and local Chicago TV station WBKB, the film’s impressionistic survey of a day in the life of the metropolis included footage — of a drug raid, hobos passed out on skid row, cheap rooming houses and cattle being slaughter at the stockyards– that deeply offended and outraged Chicago’s civic leaders. Its airing in the UK provoked an immediate response back in the US. Chicago mayor Richard J. Daley denounced it as a “monstrosity” and used his influence with the Kennedy administration to engineer an official protest from the American embassy in London over what US officials labeled “a cruel distortion.” The head of the ABC TV network, owner of WBKB, pledged never to show the film and it was kept off of television everywhere in the US for seven months.  Daley-ally and advertising executive Fairfax Cone even traveled to London to speak out against the “false” picture of Chicago allegedly presented in Mitchell’s film.

Mayor Daley’s attempt to suppress Mitchell’s documentary is typical of the way that Chicago’s political elites have policed and attempted to control media images of the city over the years. From the outright censorship of unflattering gangster movies and embarrassing newsreels of strikes during the 1920s and 30s to city hall’s production of a propaganda film designed to tell “Daley’s side of the story” about the violence that broke out at the notorious 1968 Democratic National Convention, Chicago’s powers that be have a long record of acting to sanitize and burnish the city’s representation in the media, particularly the screen media.

Drawing on extensive archival research, this paper traces the history of Chicago municipal government’s efforts to police representations of the city and argues that anxiety about the damage to the city’s reputation caused by cinematic “monstrosities” like Mitchell’s documentary was a central factor in mayoral support for local censorship of motion pictures in the face of various legal challenges.  It also examines in some detail the struggles of civil libertarians, social movement activists and dissident journalists to counter the political elite’s efforts to manage the city’s screen image.

Makagon, Daniel

Take me to the basement: Punk houses in Chicago

Over the past few decades, urban and community scholars have been concerned with a steady shift inward to the home as a private space for social interaction for urban dwellers. The home for these folks has replaced public spaces or more open private spaces (e.g., pubs and cafes) as sites for informal gathering. Urban communication scholars want to understand why public life is less of a priority in contemporary times and critical urban communication scholars seek to offer ways to reconsider urban public interaction as something that should be prioritized by individuals and public officials. My study unpacks this public-private dualism through a critical examination of punk houses in Chicago. These houses, as private living spaces, function as important sites of public engagement. More specifically, this paper analyzes punk rock shows in the basements of Chicago punk houses. These punk houses serve as material locations for broader modes of symbolic action (e.g., discussions among participants about gender equity, activism surrounding challenges to racism and heterosexism, and quests to offer alternative economic models to those that feature in our everyday lives). At the same time, these shows offer an alternative to mainstream music industry practices. That is, since the rise of Napster (and later iTunes), the music industry in the US (and globally) has been destabilized. Live music is one of the few remaining profitable areas in the music business. But the music industry’s focus (and by extension, the focus of popular music scholars) has been mainstream industry practices, completely glossing over the existence of alternative economic and cultural models. There are groups of people who gather multiple times each month, or each week in larger cities, to see local and touring punk bands in the basements of punk houses. The size of these crowds can range from ten to the hundreds depending the venue size. These shows happen without the implementation of mainstream moneymaking business practices (e.g., booking agents and money guarantees for bands, alcohol sales, pre-sale tickets/high ticket prices, insurance).

Taken together, this unpacking of the public/private dualism and an analysis of alternative music practices will provide communication scholars with a unique consideration of DIY music spaces as an important alternative urban cultural experience.

Martin, Niall

The elevator pitch: A rhythmanalysis of Marc Isaacs’ Lift

One of the quintessential spaces of urban modernity, the lift, or elevator, is also a material presence in one of the city’s most recognizable minor genres: the elevator pitch. As a genre the elevator pitch encodes an imperative to communicate effectively, succinctly and memorably that is intimately bound with the city’s paradigmatic form of encounter: the chance contact with a stranger, your one shot at making a favourable impression.

This rhetorical insistence on communicative efficiency however contrasts with the function of the lift as a mode of physical communication between different spaces. Typically occupying a liminal position between the properly public (street) and the nominally private (home or desk-space) the lift exhibits many of the ambivalences associated with the liminal generally including an uneasiness about the appropriate code of behaviour or communicative context.

Henri Lefebvre’s (Rhythmanalysis 2004) argument that space is neither static nor contained but stabilized and made habitable by the rhythms of its use and reproduction provides a useful model for understanding this tension. When we view place as produced through social practice and itself the producer of ‘habituated bodies’ the lift becomes a space which needs continual reinvention as place; a place which has to be made anew in every encounter, and which as such is always in danger of becoming pure space, often with terrifying consequences.

This paper examines that dynamic through an account of British documentarist Marc Isaacs’ short film Lift (2002) whose own pitch is simple: stand at the back of the lift in an East London tower block and record what happens. What happens from a rhythmanalysis perspective is the encounter of a variety of bodies – inebriated, pious, exuberant, reflective, Muslim, Jewish, Catholic – all of which are habituated, forced to conform to the material constraints on communication imposed by the lift, but which seek through a variety of strategies to reclaim that space from its Taylorised functionality.

But what also happens, this paper will argue, is a reflection (literally) on the relationship between the implied spaces of documentary and the spaces of the global city. In adapting itself to the rhythms of the lift, Isaacs’ documentary invites reflection on the kinds of space involved in the representation of the urban and its marginalized bodies generally. What happens to the implied perspective when the people in front of the lens offer the cameraman a chair? What happens when somebody reaches across the plane of representation to feed him some betel leaf? These transgressions of the space of representation, although apparently minor, I argue, mark a transformation of the ethical space of the documentary from hospitality to accompaniment whose nature and implications for communicating the city the paper will explore.

Mattern, Shannon

A city of books in a digital dynasty

When I first heard of Paju Bookcity I imagined a place one might read about in an Italo Calvino or Georges Perec short story. I envisioned human-scaled buildings with legible facades, stacked together like books on a shelf; folks strolling along sidewalks with their faces buried in double-page spreads; plenty of shade trees to sit under, sunlight just right for reading, and a light breeze that flutters pages and circulates the smell of freshly-brewed coffee. Throughout history there have been other Book Cities, including places like Jianyang, Leipzig, Lyon, and Boston, that have served as important publishing centers. And since the 1960s the International Organization of Book Towns, which promotes second-hand and antiquarian bookselling as a tourist attraction and means of rural development, has attracted members across Europe, Asia, and North America.

On paper, Paju’s version of the Book City sounds like something slightly less poetic: it’s an industrial estate created for and by companies related to all dimensions of book publishing – publishers, printers, distributors – and sited about a half-hour drive north of Seoul, next to a highway in the wetlands near the Demilitarized Zone. But it’s also kind of a Cinderella story: this is the industrial park remade. Rather than a generic grid masterplan and nondescript buildings, Paju Bookcity features a collection of one-of-a-kind structures designed by a stable of international architects, and a carefully considered “urban wetlands” masterplan. “It is not hyperbole to claim that this is one of the most extraordinary and most unsung cultural and architectural developments in the world,” design critic Edwin Heathcote wrote in 2009. “The idea that a city, right now, [could] be dedicated solely to print and that an industrial estate could be a place of architectural pilgrimage could not be more heartening, more encouraging to anyone who delights in those very old information technologies – books and buildings.”

Bookcity attempts to write a new chapter for Korean history that weaves together publishing, architecture, and urban planning – all fields that have faced dramatic changes in the nation’s tumultuous twentieth century, and particularly in the past two-and-a-half decades, since plans for Bookcity began to take shape. What I want to explore here is the place of this relatively new publishing center within what c|net has called South Korea’s “Digital Dynasty.” Why build a new “city of print” in the land of Samsung, in a nation so seemingly focused on the digital future, in a society considering the complete digitization of its elementary, middle, and high school textbooks by 2015? Why build a publishing enclave amidst the rice paddies when there are major developments all over Seoul, a city recently designated a World Design Capital? As Paju Bookcity enters its second phase of development and plans for its third, how will it negotiate shifting technological and urban terrains?

McClellan, Erin D

Boise’s best: “Best of” city accolades as a discursive formation of the ideal city

A population explosion in the late 1990s of a region in the western United States known as the Great Basin has been attributed most notably a draw of the “wild west,” a contemporary American cultural movement idealizing “wide open spaces.” One way to attempt to understand the draw of cities in this region, like Boise, Idaho, lies less in investigating the spaces themselves and more in coming to understand the ways that people struggle to settle them. I propose in this essay that focusing on the ways in which urban spaces are idealized in places like Boise can help us to understand larger discursive formations of contemporary ideals of urban living. By critically reading four texts that award “top” rankings to Boise for a variety of reasons, I claim that we can look to such texts as illustrative of a larger “discursive formation” (Foucault, 1972) that defines a “successful” city in ways that simultaneously align and diverge.

The recent trend in ranking small cities with recent growth spikes higher than large cities with long histories of stable growth and development lends itself to an embedded curiosity of what is so “desirable” about such smaller cities. Cities like Boise (instead of New York or San Francisco) have consistently appeared in recent “best city” rankings, in large part to their “success” in areas of measurement like job growth, housing affordability, raising families, retirement, and business prospects. Such measures are linked not only to the larger regions within which these small cities reside (like the Great Basin), but also to the shift of “success” that Grand Narratives like the American Dream continue to shape.

Ideal constructs of urban life that position “space” as an integral part of how a “best city” is understood are not unique. When determining the best cities in which to live, work, play, retire, or recreate, prioritizing “having space” appears consistently as part of the criteria of judgment. In a glowing review of Boise, The Economist (2010) published that “space really is the final frontier”; perhaps the internet age in which this mantra was originally applied is not the only space for which urban prospectors should be hunting. It is my contention that a preoccupation of statistical representation of city life remains the most prominent way that ideal urban life is assessed. This critical reading of the discursive formation of “Best of Boise” reveals that such quantifiable portrayals of “desirable” urban life create a universal ideal that if unquestioned, produces an unproblematic shift in the construction of ideal urban life. If the value of space is linked to economic viability, then the effects of this value creation is not limited to American culture nor to small city dwellers but widespread in its ability to affect how we come to understand space as part of an (un)attainable “ideal” of urban life.

McGuire, Meghann

Co-opting street art: The muralization of cities

Graffiti as a communicative event has been studied by scholars such as Rodriquez & Clair (1999) and Conquergood (1990) who expressly state that graffiti can communicate between marginalized groups. I contend that graffiti can also communicate between a marginalized group and a power structure. It shows an attempt to reclaim agency, and also shows a way that people, and ultimately the signs they produce, can alter the public space. The space, before the addition of protest paint, is one of ownership and power, a place where the graffiti artist has no control. Through an assemblage of wall and paint she attempts to rearticulate this space into a site of protest or rebellion.

The graffiti creates a new layer of reality in the autopoietic structure of society, speaking to the perplexities of a public life where there is so much hidden beneath the surface. This emergence speaks to the self-perpetuating nature of communication and society (Luhmann, 1991). The graffiti on the building becomes an emergence of a reality that is layered on top of other elements of expression. It also is a form of protest in that the graffiti represents a reclaiming of the public space by those that feel marginalized. This rebellious emergence assembles the paint and wall with a very different outcome than the one produced by the assemblage of paint and wall that is created through a city “approved” mural.

The potentiality of the elements of paint and wall cannot be looked at alone because, “they are the result not of an aggregation of the components’ own properties but of the actual exercise of their capacities. These capacities do depend on a component’s properties but cannot be reduced to them since they involve reference to the properties of other interacting entities. Relations of exteriority guarantee that assemblages may be taken apart while at the same time allowing that the interactions between parts may result in a true synthesis” (DeLanda p. 11). So we can still live with the notion of communication as constitutive, but it may not be as essential as we think, instead it is transitive, in that is speaks to an emergence of a different type of social reality, or understanding of a potential social reality.

Complexities arise when one looks at the growing movement around many cities to construct street murals. Muralization takes the ideas of the graffiti of disempowered youth, and relocates the power within those articulations. Grossberg (2010) might note that the milieu, or the given location of the wall that has potentiality before the introduction of paint, is transformed into a territorial battleground in the fight between city officials and kids over whose assemblage of paint and wall will be privileged. The emergence from a mere milieu into a territory is important in the hegemonic battle of power and agency. It could be argued that the territoriality of the space emerges through the specific expression created by the milieu.

McKim, Joel

Spectacular infrastructure: The mediatic space of Montréal’s “Quartier des spectacles”

Montréal’s “Quartier des spectacles” development plan represents a substantial public and private investment in the city’s creative economy and built infrastructure. A striking element of this urban initiative is the manner in which the architectural structures and public spaces of the area are themselves in the process of becoming spectacular through the incorporation of numerous screen and projection-based media technologies. Traditional dividing lines between public art, urban design and site branding are becoming significantly blurred in the mediatic space of downtown Montréal. Whether the area constitutes an exciting site of creative cross-pollination or a bland tourist-oriented experience economy is the subject of considerable debate within the city. This essay will discuss a number of public media art installations that have already taken form within the Quartier des spectacles, produced by such artists and design collectives as Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, Philipp Geist and Moment Factory, and consider how these projects coincide with or challenge existing interpretative models of aesthetics, economy and public space. Particular attention will be paid to the relationship these public media projects may have to the municipality’s larger efforts to establish and reinforce a creative industry founded on the commerce of digital design.

Nacher, Anna and Zdrodowska, Magdalena

Nodes and flows of Kraków’s urban cultural life

The paper discusses the dynamics of participation in urban cultural life in the age of postfordist affective capitalism based on the logics of activating particular consumer niches and cooptation of cultural resistance. The main point of interest is how the bottom-up, participatory and spontaneous forms of cultural activity interweave with events and institutions of the official  cultural offer of the city.

In 2012 in cooperation with Malopolska Institute of Culture we carried out a research project aimed at investigating the everyday practices of participation in Kraków cultural life. In particular we wanted to capture relationship between online activity within social media and various forms of experiential urban walks and movements. The offline and online actvity has been perceived as continuous, according to the concept of hybrid space [de Souza e Silva, 2006] and critique of “digital dualism” [Jurgenson, 2011]. Kraków is notoriously a place offering the rich palette of both everyday and artistic cultural pleasures ranging from classic city strolls along the historical routes of the old town to the possibilities of getting involved in the vibrant life of underground artistic initiatives, with thriving clubbing scene and a number of idenpendent venues. At the same time official discourse of Kraków marketing strategies is based on the concept of culture as a form of a capital and aimed at drawing the creative class [Florida, 2005; Glaeser, 2011]. Hence the significant amount of funds and energy is devoted to spectacular international cultural events, often dubbed locally “Big Festivals” and coordinated by Kraków Festival Office and organised as an umbrella project.

The paper is based on the field research conducted both offline and online in ethnographic and netnographic paradigm (Kozinets 2010). It covers the strategies applied by the participants of city space in creating their own routes and practices of urban drifts that both recreate and oppose the official marketing strategy of Kraków as the city of culture. The paper includes the tactics employed to articulate the relationship between official and underground (the latter often disruptive toward the former) discourse of the city and (especially social) media usage in spreading the information and managing one’s cultural activities.

O’Reilly, Carole

‘A badge of belonging’: Newspapers, the city and civic identity 1880 – 1940

This paper examines the idea of the city in a range of late nineteenth and early twentieth century British newspapers. It argues that a range of discourses was employed by the press to describe and codify the city for its readers and that journalism played an active role in developing a sense of belonging. The end result was to develop a form of ‘civic consciousness’ or a civic identity that was not especially uniform or consistent but was capable of reflecting and influencing urban priorities and concerns.

The continual social, political, economic and cultural reforms visible in British cities during this period were, in part, a result of the campaigning journalism prominent at local, regional and metropolitan level in the early decades of the twentieth century. The focus of much of this was on attempts to develop new civic identities that could meet the challenges of life in a rapidly changing urban environment. The creation of this ‘badge of belonging’ involves an analysis of newspaper interests and agendas that pertain to urban life during this period, covering such subjects as public health, governance and citizenship. It will examine the role of agenda setting, rhetorical devices and framing as well as narrative creation and maintenance strategies. The motif of the city and its representation in the popular press was a common theme during this period and allows for an examination of the evolution of ideas about urban life and the emergence of a variety of journalistic voices and opinions on this subject.

The relationship between local newspapers and local government in particular during this period provides some insights into the mechanisms which were deployed to develop and sustain these new civic identities. Newspapers were prominent businesses in the urban landscape and, as such, they were firmly implicated in the commercial life and prosperity of the city. Newspaper agendas provide an important gateway into the realisation of a civic consciousness based on ideas about citizenship, identity and the role of the individual in shaping the city.

Pan Lu

Writing at the end of the history: Carnival, graffiti and spatial politics in contemporary Hong Kong

This paper explores the relationship between Hong Kong’s graffiti culture and the formation of Hong Kong identity. Graffiti, a common but largely overlooked form of subculture in Hong Kong, actually reflects several key issues of the city’s spatial politics such as the right to urban space, cultural globalization and the making of the “the core value of Hong Kong”.

Two specific moments when graffiti drew enormous attention of the public and the authorities in Hong Kong are under my examination here. The first case is “Graffiti Girl”. After the arrest of the world famous Chinese artist Ai Weiwei by the police in April 2011, numerous stencil graffiti of Ai’s portrait with a line underneath reading “Who is afraid of Ai Weiwei?” were found in the street corners of Hong Kong. The works were later discovered to be the creation of a young woman, and the symbolically resistant stance of the “Graffiti Girl” has made her almost a public hero who tries to keep Hong Kong’s political integrity under the totalitarian China. In the second case, the fate of the public scribbling of the “Emperor of Kowloon” Tsang Tsou Choi underwent a dramatic twist. Firstly seen as vandalism, the “authentic ink writings” written by the most well-known Hong Kong “graffitist” was suddenly transmuted into an important part of “Hong Kong culture” after the western art world began to collect his works as contemporary artworks.

I will argue that the above two ostensibly unrelated cases of graffiti writing, however, have both been situated in a time of what Russian French philosopher Alexandre Kojève called “the End of History”(1980). For today’s Hong Kong, the former British colony and now the SAR of the PRC, it seems that the end of history has arrived before the Hong Kong people truly experienced the struggles of history in progress, which is exemplified by e.g. decolonization, democratization movement, rise of nationalism or other revolutionary movements. Hong Kong, which is already practicing liberal capitalism and democracy to certain extent, finds itself in a dual temporality: being simultaneously in and after the end of history. The quasi-nationalistic consolidation of Hong Kong identity shown in the first case and the “madness” of the “Emperor of Kowloon” under the Foucaultian governance in the second case combine to unfold the real dilemma of today’s Hong Kong: a tension between a Hong Kong that believes it is making/experiencing history and a Hong Kong that has already passed by the end of history.

If this dilemma is true, how can one comprehend the current Hong Kong that is even unconscious of this schizophrenia? To understand Hong Kong’s graffiti discourse as a Bahktinian “carnival” (1984) may provide some clues to the question. The above two cases are carnivalesque because they generate a reversion of a current order that is restored, will be restored or even wishes to be restored. The graffiti precisely embodies the lack of real revolutionary impulses at the end of history. Hong Kong, due to its lack of experience of history, seems to practice rehearsals of revolutions without really having it.

Pauwels, Luc

Repositioning the visual essay and panoramic photography as instruments for urban research and communication

This presentation first explores the dominant practice and the unrealized potential of panoramic images to study urban culture and subsequently focuses on the possibilities to include such pictures in a ‘visual essay’ format which gradually takes root in the social sciences.

Panoramic photography from its inception has played a significant and very particular role in ‘framing the city’. The resulting images with their extreme image ratio seemed to match the dominant horizontal plane of much of what the city and city life has to offer visually very well and also proved helpful in documenting the vertical dimension of urban high rise sections. But the panoramic image also entertains a special relation with time and space through different technologies as enablers of this special relation. In their different forms and guises analogue and digital panoramic cameras seem to favour only certain aspects and views on the city. Therefore this presentation seeks to explore, theorize and illustrate the typical effects, subject choices and practices of urban panoramic photography, as well as scrutinize its unrealized research potential both as a data source and a tool for urban research.

In addition and connected to the previous this presentation will discuss and exemplify more visual and expressive way of constructing and presenting sociological insight by articulating the specific demands, traits and potentials of the ‘visual essay’ as a societal and sociological practice and format. More in particular it will provide some observations, propositions and arguments that may further help to clarify what the visual sociological essay as a unorthodox scholarly product might entail and what place it could acquire in the broader scholarly discourse.

Following these two distinct but connected theoretical discussions about the panoramic and about the visual essay, my presentation will conclude with a visual essay of urban panoramic images (all made with a Hasselblad XPan camera). This visual essay is an attempt to disclose aspects of the city and city life through a combination of texts and black and white pictures of unstaged aspects of urban material culture and human behavior. The textual part describes and evokes the city as a hybrid semiotic place which can be literally looked at from different angles that often refer to different orders of signification: the use of space, the types, means and degree of control, mobility, fashion, cultural diversity, entertainment, tourism, commerce, personal, interpersonal and group behavior, the public and the private sphere. Much of this materializes in numerous artifacts and behaviors. These multiple intermeshing discourses – the historic, the political, the social, the multicultural, the commercial, the religious etc. – provide the city with its unpredictable, multi-layered, never fully graspable, character. The text contains multiple hints to visual aspects of experiencing the city and as such it helps to read the photographs in a certain way. In turn the photographs provide a concrete context to the introductory text, as well as opportunities to move beyond it. The – mostly panoramic – pictures were made in numerous cities around the globe: New York, Tokyo, Sydney, Buenos Aires, Chicago, Beijing, Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris, London, Manchester, Phoenix, Berlin, Montreal, Copenhagen, Las Vegas, Dublin, Barcelona, Milwaukee, Lisbon, Shanghai, Milan, San Francisco, Rome, Athens etc. This concrete example will help to explain some of the basic strengths of the visual essay as a scholarly format that tries to play out the synergy of the distinct forms of expression that are combined: images, words, layout and design, adding up to a scientifically informed statement.

Pinzon, Laura

Beyond connectivity. The impacts of social media in urban development. The example of Puerto Ayora – the Galapagos Islands – Ecuador

The way we communicate is changing rapidly, and according to Thompson (1995), such changes also imply transformations within the social organizations and structures of power in society. New communication technologies and digital platforms have evolved quickly and extended vastly during the last 20 years. Being able to communicate with someone on the other side of the world using different applications on a pocket size device is no longer a novelty. Rather, it is becoming commonplace – and even necessary – for some people. However, this paper is motivated by questions that go beyond the amusement of new technology, questions such as: what profound changes can new communication mechanisms support in urban social and political spheres? What are the different meanings of online connectivity on a local scale? What are the motivations behind using Internet for collective organizations in the city? How can Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) help people to overcome local social inequalities where resources are scarce and access to communication services are limited?

Beyond the recognized significance of the Internet in connecting people’s interests on a global scale, this paper explores the effects of social media at a local level, in terms of the interaction between the people and their transforming cities, and between citizens and planning authorities. In attempting to unpack these interactions, this paper analyses how social media – as a tool for collective organization, sharing and producing information – affects the power relationships around the making of cities.

Factors like social features of new technologies, tensions between global and local implications of digital connectivity, the different ways social movements support their actions through social media, and the limitations and challenges of new ICT are analysed to increase the understanding of social-media potential in urban development. That said, and following Shirky (2009), this paper is not concerned with questioning the performance of media platforms per se, but rather with their potential role in facilitating social and urban transformation.

In the final part, the example of Puerto Ayora – the Galapagos Islands, analyses some situations where the use of social media – alongside traditional media – has supported social initiatives in achieving their goals. In the situations described, the groups’ claims have been born of social, political or environmental injustices associated with urban development processes in the islands.  This study suggest that a prompt analysis of what is happening, in the digital – as distinct from the physical – spaces where people discuss the city is needed to broaden urban theories in a more holistic way.

Poulter, John

Spaces of remembrance: Identity, memory and power on the streets of Belfast

The streets of Belfast have long been renowned for their role as public galleries for the exhibition of political artworks. Typically these murals and memorials tend to function as part of the discursive construction of narratives of identity for the local inhabitants. Such narratives weave together strands from a range of ‘pasts’ to construct a heritage that justifies struggle and demands preservation. These strands are drawn from both the recent and distant pasts of ‘the people’ or ‘the nation’ and such temporal juxtapositions intertextually create meanings that are borrowed from one era and worn by another. In the process they work from and on memory. Collective memories (Hallbwachs) are constructed, maintained and shaped. Post-memories (Hirsch) are refashioned and represented. These sites of memory (Nora) are mnemonic devices for the remembering of the story of the present. For the remembering of the intertwined myths (Barthes) that reify and naturalise ‘the people’, ‘the nation’, and ‘their’ story. Their presence also materialises and communicates local power over space. As a part of this it defines the space in terms of ownership, identity and function.

The public texts on the streets of Belfast that communicate Remembrance of the First World War are examples of such a process. On the Shankill Road, one of the heartlands of Loyalism in Belfast, an ever-increasing number of monuments and murals construct memories of the Great War that are linked to more recent conflicts involving the locals. Connections are made and parallels painted that work to situate one conflict within the other. In the process the linked practices and texts of the wider discourse of Remembrance are shaped in ways that give them a political toxicity for many of the island’s population. In the city centre, another site of memory, the cenotaph in the grounds of Belfast City Hall, has, because of its spatial and aesthetic connection with this traditional seat of Unionist power, also played its part in the shaping of the meaning of Remembrance in the city and beyond. This communicative power has, however, recently been harnessed to move this meaning in a different direction. This site has been a stage for the performance of the regaining of lost memories and the challenging of ownership of memory.

This paper will explore the potential such sites of memory have to construct and shape identity in the divided and united cities of Belfast and the role that power and memory play in that process.

Ridell, Seija and Tosoni, Simone

The challenge of the city to audience studies: Some methodological considerations on the exploration of audiencing amidst the complexity of mediated urban practices

Less than 10 years have passed since Stephen Graham (Beyond the ‘Dazzling Light’, New Media & Society 6:1, 2004) was calling (new) media scholars to leave behind the ‘dazzling lights’ of the dominant academic discourse on cyberspace, and to start a systematic effort to tackle the complex ways in which these media are “adopted and shaped within the fine-grained practices of everyday urban life” (p. 16–17). Since then, media-related urban practices have been assumed as the objects of a heterogonous and lively field of study, whose aim is not only to understand and analyse the way in which media are adopted in urban everyday life but also to explore how urban life is mutually shaped by media both as technologies and representations.

Empirically speaking, the array of specific topics addressed within this vibrant field, which can be called ‘mediated urbanism studies’, appears wide and diversified. The theoretical and methodological work, however, seems definitely less attended, and often appearing quite discontinuous. This is true, in particular, for one of the main areas of social life in which the reciprocally constitutive links between urban practices and media are articulated: the one dealing with audience activities. While there are increasing empirical attempts to tackle the topic, such research efforts lack, most of the times, a theoretical and methodological common ground, solid enough to allow a productive dialogue both among researchers and between individual case studies – and especially across disciplinary boundaries. Consequently, it is no wonder that the field as a whole appears dispersed and fragmented.

What we will try to show in our presentation is that the lack of systematic theoretical and methodological elaboration is not to be read simply as typical of a young research field, but can be ascribed also to the self-imposed limits that characterize the field of audience studies more particularly. There, the current theoretical and methodological disintegration makes itself felt in the difficulties registered in addressing the new technology-mediated forms and practices of communication that seem to challenge any clear distinction between media “production” and “use” and that, consequently, call for self-reflection and rethinking of the key concept of “audience”. In the urban context, these difficulties are further radicalized by the complexity of practices that compose everyday life in the cities, of which audiencing is but one and as such intermingles with diverse other urban practices.

In the presentation we take the diversity of city life as our starting-point in order to discuss the theoretical and methodological limits of the prevalent understandings of ‘audience’ and to shed light on the nature of present-day urban environment as a context of people’s everyday activities, and their activities as audiences in particular. The contemporary city as a ‘relational space’ can be seen to challenge, in quite a beneficial way, both ‘mediated urbanism studies’ as a more general field of research and the more specific study of (media) audience activities. Our aim is to contribute, in a resolutely interdisciplinary spirit, to the theoretical and methodological dialogue that is needed in order to take up this challenge.

Rodgers, Scott

The lived spaces of journalism and the city

Recent years have seen something of a growth industry in academic studies of the media-urban interface. From the embedding of media technologies into daily practices of urban life to the ways in which media forms are literally built into urban architectures, new lines of scholarship have emerged which productively view ‘media’ and ‘urban’ together, as at once interlinked phenomena. In this paper, I seek to address the curious under-study and under-theorisation of journalism as an important and complex media-related practice of such a mediated city. Whether or not its attention is symbolically trained on ‘the city’ at any given moment, the field of journalism clearly does things in, through and in relation to urban spaces. Indeed, journalism is arguably an intrinsically urban practice.

In response, this paper focuses on how we might conceptualise the ‘lived spaces’ of journalism and the city: that is, the overlap between the phenomenological conditions of possibility of journalism as practical activity and the urban as both material and symbolic spaces. This argument is not only developed theoretically, but with reference to ongoing research into recent experiments in city-focused and ‘hyperlocal’ media in North America and the United Kingdom. Such new media, which include for example collaborative blogs, geo-locational storytelling and ‘community-powered news’ platforms, tend to be primarily conceived of in technological terms. They are imaged as assemblages of networked, wireless and mobile infrastructures and devices that emerge in and through urban spaces. Without disputing such interpretations, my own emphasis here will be on how such new city-focused and ‘hyperlocal’ media are simultaneously positioned in and symbolically appeal to urban as well as the values, premises and structures of journalism as a professional field. On the one hand, new hyperlocal and city-focused platforms perform or invoke various geographies of the city or the local. On the other hand, they are often founded through philanthropically-funded competitions (e.g. by the Knight Foundation or Nesta) that invoke distinctly journalistic language, or are based on experimental business models that attempt to fund journalism as a paid vocation or profession.

In attempting to conceptualize the lived spaces of ‘journalism’ and the city, this paper seeks to make a critical intervention at a time when it is frequently claimed anyone can become a journalist. It may be, as some suggest, that we are witnessing the downfall of the very idea of ‘the media’ as traditionally conceived. Yet even if true, as Couldry (2009) argues, this new reality will more than likely provoke renewed contestations around just who the media are, who they speak for, and on what justifications. This paper therefore stakes the claim that understanding journalism as an urban practice is not only theoretically or empirically important, but also a prime normative dilemma for scholars of 21st Century urban politics and public life.

Rose, Gillian; Melhuish, Clare and Degen, Monica

Light fantastic: The digital imaging of new urban developments

This paper presents findings from the ESRC-funded research project ‘Architectural Atmospheres: the impact of digital technologies on architectural design practice’.  Drawing on workplace ethnographies with the architects, visualisers and client of a large-scale redevelopment project in central Doha, Qatar, it explores the agency of the computer-generated images which have been produced as part of this project.

A concern with ‘atmosphere’ has entered the commercial mainstream of architectural practice and urban development, at the same time as digital visualising technologies have allowed the creation of increasingly sophisticated imagery of planned urban redevelopment schemes.  Yet discussion of these images has not moved beyond seeing them as spectacular representations masking the reality of displacement, demolition and exploitation which characterise so many of these schemes.

These images are indeed ideological. However, they are also highly complex because they are designed to address ‘Qatari’, ‘western’ and ‘global’ contexts.  Moreover, observing how they are crafted through the assembled technical and artistic expertise of architects and visualisers, within an overarching process of sharing and negotiation between designers, consultants and client, suggests that they also require a conceptual analysis that can address the particular qualities of their digitality. We will show how these images move through a global network of localised sites during this process, as visual artefacts in both electronic form and different physical formats, before becoming embedded in the spatial and material landscapes of Doha and elsewhere.  We will suggest that they demand a conceptual framework that can address their circulations and permutations, and their constant address to diverse audiences, materials and spaces of display.

Rutigliano, Lou

“NeoBohemia in the newsroom”

This paper reconsiders the concept of NeoBohemia as central to understanding recent developments in urban and national journalism. In particular it proposes that shifts in journalistic culture towards the embrace of subcultures often masks exploitative labor practices and complicity in the transformation of urban spaces to centers of elite consumption and contingent service-based economies. Yet the convergence of mainstream and alternative journalistic cultures that mirrors similar processes unfolding in urban spaces also presents opportunities for resistance through the quest for cool and maintenance of subcultural capital.

A key site for examining these tensions is Vice Magazine, which built its reputation as documenter and participant in the more unruly and hedonistic sides of urban life since the late 1990s. Over time Vice’s journalistic tendencies have grown more ambitious, and by 2011, Vice was available in and had contributors reporting from more than two dozen countries, with multiple corporate allies bankrolling its journalistic efforts and mainstream news outlets in the U.S., U.K., and Brazil lending it more credibility and attention with each partnership. A news program for HBO will debut in 2013, likely bringing Vice its greatest visibility to date.

Vice’s success is a telling development in the ongoing transformation of journalism. It reflects a major trend, namely that those involved in the production of news are no longer strictly employed by traditional news organizations. The local ecosystems of news now include a constellation of individuals and institutions producing information of varying depth and focus. Previously unheard of alliances are emerging, and worlds that were more distinct in the past are now mingling, creating hybrid forms of journalism that defy simple categorization.

One aspect of this phenomenon that has not been considered is that amid these convergences there is a mixing of mainstream and alternative media cultures that have long been distinct. Alternative weeklies arose in the 1950s and 1960s to serve audiences who felt alienated by mainstream dailies politically and culturally, as part of a broader split between mainstream cultures and subcultures in large metropolitan areas post-World War II. As the counterculture grew in size and influence into the late 1960s and 1970s, the alternative press did as well, despite the cooptation of symbols of countercultural lifestyles in the advertising strategies of major corporations. Within the realm of journalism, there were still stark dividing lines culturally in the 1970s between the “moral guardians” of the mainstream press and the alternative press’ more permissive, accepting, and celebratory approach to bohemia.

Similarly major urban areas in the U.S. have seen mainstream economic power grow more intertwined with bohemia amid neoliberal restructuring of labor practices, economic regulation, and urban geography. In both cases bohemia presents a useful partner for neoliberal business practices by providing a value system that prizes freedom, independence, creativity, youth, and novelty. The bohemian narrative motivates buy-in on the part of labor and ideological cover for strategies with more mercenary intentions. The resulting shift in media content complements the material changes in urban areas, driving the changes while being driven by them.

Saha, Anamik and Watson, Sophie

Suburban drifts: Mundane multiculturalism in outer London

On 5 February 2011 at the Munich Security Conference, David Cameron declared the failure of state multiculturalismin Britain today (BBC News 2011), where we have encouraged different cultures to live separate lives, apart from each other and the mainstream. As a result, he suggests, Britain has failed to provide a vision of society to which many young men (sic) feel able to belong, and in so doing the seed beds for home-grown terrorism have been laid. In this paper on the mundane multiculturalism of London suburbs, we want to challenge this pernicious rhetoric. Through reviving the concept of ‘multicultural drift’ deployed by Stuart Hall over a decade ago to frame our research into the experiences of three generations of British South Asians in two London suburbs, we reveal the much more subtle and ordinary ways in which multicultural diversity is simply a fact of life in Londons erstwhile predominantly white suburbs.

Based upon a qualitative study of a mixed Asian community in the London borough of Redbridge, involving interviews and visual methods, the paper demonstrates how the respondents’ narratives on belonging and attachment to both national and local spaces disrupts the dominant discourse on the supposed ‘failure of multiculturalism’. In particular we focus on the accounts of 2nd generation 30-something respondents and their reflections on the visual feel of this typically London suburb in which they have lived for the majority of lives. Despite an inevitable narrative on how boring and bland suburbia is, we also find that a sense of attachment to place (and perhaps even, nation) is articulated precisely through their descriptions of how the area has changed visually. On the other side of the coin, the respondents’ focus on the apparent physical decline of the area reveals a troubling critique of contemporary multiculture – a critique that in effect is coming from a fairly affluent migrant group. The aim of this paper is to present our interpretation of these seemingly contradictory narratives, which we explain as the ambivalence of multicultural drift. In addition we want to demonstrate how an emphasis on the visual make-up of cities, and the impressions and residues that various communities leave on urban and suburban spaces, can tells us more about the true nature of everyday multiculturalism in the UK and the way in which communities ‘rub along’ than is suggested in policy discourse and the inflammatory rhetoric of politicians.

Sakurai, Takuya and Nishiguchi, Masahiro

The cherry blossom as a city discourse: A Gebserian approach

While cherry trees are inhabited not only in Japan (they are inhabited in the world, especially in East and Southeast Asian countries), no countries have exploited them as symbolically and ideologically as has Japan. From ancient times to now, the Japanese have sought what the cherry blossom means to them and have produced different varieties of cherries by artificially fertilizing them. By the time of the Meiji Restoration (1868), the cherry blossom was symbolized as a flower of the Japanese spirit or yamatodamashi. Around that time, various kinds of wild cherry trees were replaced to an artificially crossed, mass-produced variety, the someiyoshino.

The someiyoshio has spread all over Tokyo and changed the urban landscapes. It has also become a standardized form of the cherry blossom that determines what the Japanese find beautiful in the cherry trees planted in cities. The mass-produced someiyoshino has quantified the beauty of the cherry blossom in the way that the more cherry trees there are, the more beautiful they are. Since the someiyoshino can survive in most areas and is easy to replant and raise, those who are in charge of city landscape and park management choose to plant the someiyoshino. The more the someiyoshino is planted, the more the demands for it occur. The images of governmental buildings, public schools, and parks are fixed with the someiyoshino. These landscapes become identical, as every single someiyoshino is identical.

Today more than eighty percent of all cherry trees in Tokyo have been replaced to the singular human-made variety, even though there are more than three hundred kinds of cherries in Japan. Accordingly many interpretations of the cherry blossom are reduced to a singular kind of discourse that is related to the someiyoshino. This reduction also helps the Japanese see their history through a filter of the someiyoshino linearly. The singularity and linearity ultimately lead the cherry blossom to a fragmented and atomized ideological discourse.

In this paper, relying on Jean Gebser’s (1985) cultural hermeneutics, we trace the transformations of the Tokyo landscape along with the cherry blossom, especially the someiyoshino, and expand on the impacts the cherry blossom has had in the transforming process. In so doing, we decipher how a variety of interpretations of the cherry blossom have been reduced to the singular discourse within the “city” contexts. Gebserian cultural hermeneutics frees us from a one-sided, mechanistic-causal understanding of the cherry blossom and offers a nonreductive approach to unfold the multidimensional meanings of the cherry blossom. Thus we are allowed to deal with the singular discourse as one way of understanding the cherry blossom, not as the only way. The purpose of this paper is twofold: 1) to offer a case study of the cherry blossom as a cultural text of city; and 2) to demonstrate how a city landscape can be related to the cultural discourse.

Slawinska, Marta

Let me tell you! Street art as voice of the city

This paper draws from research dealing with recent developments of the Street Art movement from a global perspective, which I am currently conducting at the department of Computing and Creative Practices at the Institute of Technology, Sligo, Ireland.

My interest lies in the relationship between street artists and public spaces, and the way they communicate with, influence, and are influenced by their audience and environment in which they work. I’m investigating the potential of Street Art as a tool for a democratic dialog in public spaces and questioning recent assimilation of this countercultural movement into the mainstream popular culture, its appropriation and progressing commodification. I am asking how much freedom street artists have to freely alter their surroundings (which significantly differs depending on location) and how the surroundings (spatial, cultural, economic and political) influence development of the movement itself.

The proposed paper focuses on the relationship between cities and urban dwellers by exploring how Street Art questions use of public spaces and provides an impulse for liberation from established hegemonic practices. It explores the potential of Street Art as an alternative way of communication and mediation of ideas and cultures, and how it can act as a social indicator. Presented findings come from qualitative empirical research evaluated on the ground of existing theories related to visual culture and cultural geography and contextualised within a contemporary global perspective.

Many scholars from the field of human geography emphasise the importance of public spaces in developing real democracies and in today’s social, economic and political climate art critics and audiences consider critical capacities of art with greater regard. While most of contemporary, uncomissioned art tends to be confined within the white cube gallery spaces and therefore aimed at a limited and very specific audience, Street Art dares to invade the public space. In so doing it poses questions of accessibility and freedom that citizens are given to reshape and contribute to the environment in which they live, rather than just passively consuming it. Street artists expose their ideas to a wider public allowing for engagement of marginalised or ordinarily excluded groups. Some street artists are politically involved, others focus more on the aesthetics of their images, and rather than trying to influence the public they look for attention. Nevertheless, all of them, either consciously or not, pose questions related to the use of public spaces. They motivate others to ask whose privilege it is to decide what our surroundings should look like and why it has to be exclusive. These interventions break the established order and invite participation and an open and inclusive discussion in a creative and accessible way.

Thumim, Nancy

News, audiences and publics

Seen from an audience perspective the meaning of news in the city is opened up beyond that provided by looking at the producers or products of traditional news institutions. As part of the Leeds Media Ecology project we carried out six group interviews with members of the public about the news.  Six themes arose in these interviews, namely: news as word of mouth; trust; cultural distance; political distance; interaction, and self-representation.  After briefly introducing and discussing each of the themes, this paper focuses on the idea of news as word of mouth. It turns out that old-fashioned grapevines are crucial to the acquisition of local news/gossip/information. Moreover, from an audience perspective, definitions of news, gossip and information overlap. What news is, therefore, is shifting and contingent on context.

Timeto, Federica

‘Here’ I am: Location-sharing on Foursquare and the performances of sociospatiality. A case study

Today, our relationship with the networks of information and communication is more and more ubiquitous and localized at the same time. Our lives are immersed in a condition of diffuse addressability linking human and non-human actors, in which the Web is continuously interfaced by the convergence of different communicative flows. The locative aggregation of data has become foundational of mobile technologies, increasing the availability and diffusion of so called locative media for several purposes. Since locative media, however, does not coincide with locative technologies, when considering it, the following issues should be addressed: 1) the new forms of negotiation and recombination that different practices of “located” production and consumption assume 2) the experiential value that they manifest in a context which in turn is “mobilized” and reveals its materially grounded performativity 3) the convergence with other media and mediated existing practices.

As an important component of locative media, Location Based Social Networks (LBSNs), that is all those SNSs that both rely on geolocalized communication and on the communication of location, foreground the links between spatial and social mediations through such practices as locative status updates, locationstreaming, visual, textual and audio geoannotations, creation of personalized itineraries, search for geolocalized social relationships, discussions focusing on specific spatial topics (a single spot, a neighborhood, an entire city), performances aiming at notifying ones’ own positionality inside mediaspaces.

Contrary to the prevailing quantitative tendency of the current scholarship on LBSNs, in my study I combine preliminary participatory observation together with qualitative methodology, so as to focus on the sociospatial performances taking place inside Foursquare, the most adopted location-sharing system in Italy. My research, whose provisional results will be presented at the conference, comprises 30 in-depth interviews to the Italian users of Foursquare, equally distributed on the national territory and chosen on the base of their regular use of this social network during time. In the interview’s questions, the following thematic areas are explored: 1) the relationship between the subject and the technological object of locative communication 2) online locative practices 3) offline locative practices 5) geolocalized social relationships 5) the spatialized performances of identity.  Aim of my research is highlighting how the new affordance of location awareness proper of locative media brings forth, on the one hand, the relational, performative and processual aspect of those contexts in which such locative practices make place, on the other, the ways in which contemporary technosocial actors co-emerge in their positionings, inside the hybrid dimension of locative experience.

Topinka, Robert

The digital city: EveryBlock and gentrification in Rogers Park, Chicago

This paper examines urban gentrification as an uneven material and communicative process. Although gentrification appears to be relatively simple—neighborhoods transform as the affluent come in and the poor are priced out—gentrification is also about the forms of development, consumerism, segregation, and surveillance that affect and are affected by movements of people and capital. Neil Smith has argued that all gentrification is uneven: It moves block by block and even building by building.  Drawing on Smith’s work on gentrification and on recent scholarship on rhetorical space, or the notion that the material is always simultaneously symbolic, this paper attends to the uneven process of gentrification through an analysis of EveryBlock, a website that aggregates local news and civic information and hosts a message board for people who want to “be a better neighbor,” as the website’s tagline suggests. Since EveryBlock is organized by neighborhood, it offers unique insight into the unevenness of gentrification. Focusing on the message board for Rogers Park, a neighborhood on Chicago’s north side that is currently undergoing uneven gentrification, this paper offers a rhetorical analysis of a recurring post, the “What’s the neighborhood like?” post from prospective new neighborhood residents. Such posts, which appear almost weekly, frequently ask about a specific address or intersection. In response, EveryBlock users debate the relative safety of particular streets and intersections in Rogers Park, revealing complex understandings of race and segregation, safety and surveillance, citizenship and criminality. A recurrent point of discussion on these boards is the race, location, and potential criminality of former residents of public housing who have relocated to Rogers Park as the Chicago Housing Authority has enacted its Plan for Transformation. This plan attempts to solve the problems associated with high-rise housing projects or so-called vertical ghettos by razing the buildings and offering former residents Federal Housing Authority (FHA) vouchers to secure housing in the private market throughout the city. Not all landlords in Rogers Park accept the FHA vouchers, but those who do frequently advertise with banners on the buildings, making visible the location of former public housing residents. Although analyses of gentrification typically focus on how those who are mobile and affluent displace the poor, the dynamic in Rogers Park suggests that gentrification involves complex and often competing forms of mobility as former public housing residents and young urban professionals negotiate the same urban streets and buildings. In their discussions of the relative safety of particular intersections and addresses, EveryBlock users merge blackness and former residency in public housing with potential criminality. Mobility thus becomes racialized. Ultimately, gentrification involves a contestation over what David Harvey has called the right to the city. I argue that, as a user-driven website that is updated in real time, EveryBlock demonstrates how the digital mediates daily life in the city, creating a venue for the contestation and construction of rhetorical space.

Vine, Josie

The newsroom as a vehicle for journalism’s micro-cultural ideology: An urban semiotic analysis of Melbourne’s Argus, Age and Herald and Weekly Times buildings

This paper is about how Melbourne’s urban newsrooms have, in the past, communicated an industry-specific micro-cultural ideology. To the majority of the public, the ‘rules’ of journalism appear to have little of no boundaries. This is understandable; the ‘rules’ of journalism are difficult to accurately conceptualise, and even more difficult to explain.

This is partly because the ‘rules’ of journalism constantly evolve through contestation between freedom of speech and individual rights in a democratic society. These ‘rules’, therefore, are culturally constructed in various moments in time, and are communicated through industry-specific cultural products, including newsrooms and other centres of journalistic activity. So, although journalism’s ‘rules’ may appear somewhat murky to the majority of the public, they are actually very clear to members of the micro-culture of journalism itself.

However, because of rapid change in work practice and work place, mostly brought about by digital technology, the newsroom appears to be becoming obsolete. It is, therefore, timely to examine what journalism may be losing in shifting professional practice out of the newsroom, and what, if anything, can replace it as a vehicle for professional micro-cultural ideology. Using a formulation of cultural-historiographical studies and urban semiotics, this paper explores how three ‘grand dames’ of Melbourne journalism – The Argus, The Age and The Herald and Weekly Times buildings – functioned as vehicles of professional micro-cultural ideology.

This paper takes into further consideration that The Argus existed in two homes during its lifespan from 1846 – 1957, while The Age has moved newsrooms three times since its inception in 1854 and The Herald and Weekly Times has moved twice since it began in 1921. We can, therefore, also compare and contrast the semiotics of these newsrooms in an examination of how they have possibly communicated modified journalistic micro-ideology over time.

Nevertheless, with current and future digital technology, professional practice appears to be migrating from the newsroom into home offices and, indeed, anywhere that has mobile reception. Using a cultural-historiographical framework, this paper concludes with discussions about what, if anything, can replace the newsroom as a vehicle of industry-specific journalism micro-cultural ideology both now and in the future.


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