Locating Media, Mediating Place

9 Feb


One of the main courses this semester is the biannual seminar Critical Issues in the Cultural Industries, which focuses on processes of commercialization and globalization in the areas of art, media and architecture — or what in the mid-20th century the philosophers Theodor W. Adorno and Max Horkheimer scathingly referred to as the ‘culture industry’. Since this course is taught by different professors every other year, the issues addressed alternate along with the teacher. While in the past the emphasis was on the changes in the institutionalization of the visual arts, currently the focus lies on issues of space and place in different cultural practices. Taught by Ginette Verstreate, this edition is subtitled “Locating Media, Mediating Place: Between Power and Play,” and addresses the entanglements of space, place and media from a variety of perspectives.

Starting point is the spatial turn in media studie,s as this runs parallel to the increasing importance of location-based mobile media in diverse fields of application: in advertising, Google navigation, on-site social networking such as Foursquare, but also in artistic projects, urban games and in the context of social activism. We will ask how to interpret these current media developments in theory and practice as these are situated in the tensions between power and play. We will learn that location-based media practices have a genealogy of their own (involving different kinds of media) and that the academic reflections on them have a long history that can be traced back to 20th-century French thought and (post)Marxist geography.

Along with the increasing mobility of goods, money, and people and the rise of networks through digital media – both known as globalization – issues of space and place have been on the agenda in various disciplines and cultural practices. As if the so-called placelessness (the famous “abolition of space”) that comes with globalization has paradoxically called forth a renewed attention to what gets lost. This does not mean that place and space in those discussions and practices simply refer back to rootedness, as opposed to movement. Rather, spatiality often gets redefined in relation to the physical and virtual (also imaginary) mobilities through which it is reshaped. Interestingly, addressing such new questions about space and place in media, art and cultural theory also has far-reaching effects for ourselves since it enables us to take the objects of our research beyond their presumed autonomy – beyond the screen or frame so to speak – and into the streets.

This semester there will be a couple of guest lectures focusing on the city/media nexus, both in the context of this course and of Ivo Blom and Koos Bosma’s The Cinematic City seminar.  On Tuesday April 8, 1.30 PM in 11A36 Steven Jacobs (University of Ghent) will lecture on “City Symphonies,”  and in June there will be a master class with and plenary lecture by Eric Gordon (Emerson College and Harvard University).

Image: the center of Amsterdam, photo published in Internationale Situationniste no. 3 (December 1959) with the caption “Une zone experimentale pour la dérive. Le centre d’Amsterdam, quit sera systématiquement exploré par des équippes situationnistes en april-mai 1960.”


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