Whether we simply try to grasp the life worlds of the contemporary social actors, or we tackle the analysis of the big-scale structural transformations, two key themes can never be eluded: city and media.
On one side, in fact, in a world where the urbanized population has finally exceeded the non-urbanized, the themes of daily life and of human experience are more and more naturally declined in terms of urban life and urban experience. At the same time, as the critics to “methodological nationalism” (Beck) increasingly point out, cities play a key role in the structural dynamics triggered by the new logics of the network (Castells) and by globalization, with its complementary pushes toward sub and supra-national levels of organization (Sassen).
On the other hand, media have gained such a relevance for contemporary world, that would be redundant even to quickly remind as both life worlds and structural dynamics (as well as cultural, political, economical ones) appear to be more and more deeply media-pervaded and rely on the media infrastructure.
The proposed Temporary Working Group aims to bring together the two lines of research, addressing the theme of “Media & the City” as a main observatory for the analysis of post (or radicalized) modernity: and this, moving from the acknowledgment that city life itself, and our experience of the urban environment, are profoundly shaped by communication technologies (like personal and mobility media, diffused media, city displays and so on).
As a preliminary proposal, the general topic of “Media & the City” could be articulated along four general, and particularly urgent, areas of research:
1) Media representations of the city, and their relationships with the ongoing social, political, economical and cultural processes interesting the urban level, constitute the first area of interest of the Temporary Working Group. The main focus here is both on how the city is represented, and on how these practices of representation contribute to produce city spaces (Lefebvre), and to shape city experience. Under this point of view, both top-down and bottom-up representational practices are considered pertinent: the first ones, strategically enacted by institutional actors, like in city marketing or city branding strategies; the second ones, enacted in different ways by a vast array of different social actors. City representations and gentrification – or degradation – processes, the role played by city representations in urban conflict, media representation of city crime and securitarian urban policies, the role played by city representations in the strategies of urban political and economical institutions to defend or gain a position into global economical network are just few examples of the research topics covered by this first area of interest.
2) Urban spaces have always been spaces of mediated communication. Yet more, media and urban landscapes tend to overlap and amalgamate more and more, as a consequence of the dramatic acceleration in the diffusion of ubiquitous computing, personal and diffused media, city displays, geolocalization and augmented reality-based services: under this point of view, the mentioned media representations of the city are just a part of the content of the personal and social fruition of media in the urban context. The second area of interest of the Temporary Working Group addresses, on one side, the relationship among ubiquitous and diffused media fruition (and production) and the experience of urban space by citizens and city users; on the other, in a complementary way, it addresses the impact of the relocation of media fruition in the city on media contents, media devices, languages and aesthetics. Examples of the topics covered by this second area of interest could be identified in the practices of “city use” by real-time networked city users, the re-articulation of the categories of public and private spaces enacted by social actors through personal media, the re-shaping of urban experience by diffused city media or – in a complementary way – the semiotic analysis of media content aimed to urban fruition.
3) The third area of interest switches its focus from media fruition to the reconfiguration of city spaces related to the physical presence of diffused city media devices. To be addressed are both the urbanistic and architectonic “strategies” of integration of media devices into city spaces and buildings, and the “tactic” use (De Certeau) of such spaces by city users. Examples of topics covered by this area are the new forms of urbanistic planning and architectural design related to media incorporation, the forms of mediation and adaptation of new diffused city media to pre-existing urbanistic and architectural structures, new media-supported models of interaction with city space, security media deployment and models of city space, together with the unforeseen practices of use of such spaces by social actors.
4) A fourth area of interests addresses the relationship among cities and the media system as a productive sector. To be questioned here is the impact of the presence of media industries (and their workers) on city structural organization, city culture and urban life, together with the complementary analysis of the ways in which peculiar city characteristics (global connections, infrastructure, but also city culture or leisure resources) facilitate the development of networks of media companies, attract media enterprises, and contribute to shape the structural organization of such networks and enterprises. Examples of the topics pertinent to this area can be recognized in the relationship among city cultural resources, or infrastructures, and the development of specific media production agencies networks, the relationship among urban subcultural media production and commercial enterprises, or among life quality in cities and the availability of valuable human capital for media companies.
Such an articulation of the topic of “City & the media” into four areas of interest, often overlapping, does not pretend to be complete or definitive, but to provide the scholars interested in the topic with a first draft of a research agenda to organize and coordinate their efforts: the Media & The City Temporary Working Group intends to constitute an inter-disciplinary platform for European research and education around the manifold relationship between media and urban environments. It aims at establishing a strong international network, and welcomes scientific production of theoretical, empirical and methodological nature, with a strong emphasis on interdisciplinarity.
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