Seeking Place in Mediated Urban Space

Beginning the second round of our continuing Roundtable, Zlatan Krajina explores the phenomenology of mediated place-making: the interaction of routines, institutions and citizens
[Ed. note: this post is part of a roundtable discussion on “The Urban as Emergent Key Concept for Media Theory.” For more background on the discussion and to view other posts in the series, see here.]

This panel has made plain that mediated cities are difficult social spaces insofar as they keep media technologies and practices in a circuit with matters of urban construction and association, where it is not only difficult but also methodologically unwise to praise them apart. Just like representation circulates the social world by providing it with a framework for meaning,1I draw on the circular model of cultural power from Paul du Gay, Stuart Hall, et al. Doing Cultural Studies: The Story of the Sony Walkman (London: Sage, 2013). media-related processes are built into the urban. In mediated cities, issues of mediation and space are brought into sharp relief with matters of identity and power, 2See Zlatan Krajina, “Public Screenings Beside Screens: A Spatial Perspective,” in Besides the Screen: Moving Images through Distribution, Promotion and Curation (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), 177-196. in a dialectical way. One makes the other, and vice-versa, providing us with valuable insights into each of the above four elements through the mesh of mediated urbanity, or its “throwntogetherness.”3Doreen Massey, For Space (London: Sage, 2005). Thus, just like the Chicago sociologists in the early 20th century took the city as a laboratory for studying forms of human association, media scholars find it pertinent in early 21st century to observe a range of media phenomena in the urban context, where various aspects of mediation, which otherwise may remain silenced, become usefully elucidated.

I argue that one key aspect of mediation which cities make particularly evident is place-making. Though familiar from phenomenological analysis, as a name for the practice of investing space with routine and familiarity,4Shaun Moores, Media, Place and Mobility (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). I take it as the emblem and the lens through which the interaction between various institutions (not only media companies but also planners) and citizens (and communities) in mediated cities can be observed.5Zlatan Krajina, “From non-place to place: a phenomenological geography of everyday living in media cities,” in Conditions of Mediation: Phenomenological Perspectives on Media, ed. Tim Markham and Scott Rodgers (New York: Peter Lang, 2017 forthcoming). If there are certain tendencies that mediated cities tend to share, then one should be recognized as the pressure exerted on citizens to be available for communication (whether via “smart” technologies that allow one to carry their work home or via public displays that compel people to keep looking around), particularly when citizens seek to withdraw from interaction. I think that place-making will be one key issue for future media and urban analysis, given the variety of questions it raises: not only the negotiation of ordinariness, identification and belonging,6David Morley, Home Territories: Media, Mobility and Identity (London: Routledge, 2000). in cities challenged by exclusionary politics of regeneration, racial dispute, pollution and unwanted transnational migration, but also transformations of infrastructural landscapes, from large-scale transport projects, which command new definitions of locality, to media production innovations that turn select urban spaces into spectacle. Ways in which different people seek, successfully or not, to construct a place of their own, will be one measure of mediated urbanity of our time.


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