EASST Conference 2010
2-4 September, 2010
University of Trento, Italy
Convenor: Katharine Willis
“The space of the city is not a static reality defined by built forms or demographic facts, but is instead a form of spatial practice created by the interweaving of everyday actions and interactions of its citizens. These interactions are no longer confined to face-to face contact, as communications media have re-arranged many social environments so that most people now find themselves in contact with others in new ways. Walls, doors, gates and distances still frame and isolate encounters, but new technologies have increasingly encroached on the situations that take place in physically defined settings. This session will look at how thinking about places as performative opens up new possibilities for both understanding and reacting to the potentials for communications technologies in space.
The media theorist Castells has popularized the concept of the ‘space of flows’; where space is understood as linking up electronically separate locations in an interactive networks that connects activities and people in distinct geographical contexts. He contrasts this with the traditional concept of the ‘space of places’; which he defines as organizing experiences and activity around the confines of locality. One of the social consequences of such networked space is that that multiple social realities can occur in one place. The same physical space may be caught within the domain of two different social occasions. The social situations that occur in these overlapping behaviour settings support gatherings that possess a special characteristic in that they exist on more than one social level. For example, presence in public space and interaction has traditionally been equated with face-to-face contact. Yet, presence in public space as mediated by new technologies has a different type of aesthetic, no longer dominated by visual access but by informational access. The features and structure of the interaction is enabled by a connection, which is not necessarily achieved through physical movement from one location to another. As such, everyday actions and behaviours no longer belong to particular places, and are now multiplexed and overlaid; there now exists the possibility to switch rapidly from one activity to another while remaining in the same place, so we end up using the same place in many different ways. On one hand this gives rise to confusion, and ambiguous and contested zones emerge, where the multiple and overlapping behaviours created create disparate, fragmented and discontinuous spatial references. On the other hand we can consider space as a field of interaction, composed of intersections of mobile elements it is in a sense actuated by the ensemble of movements deployed within it (de Certeau 1984, 117). In this case space is performed so that, rather than being inhabited as an intransitive bounded entity, it is experienced as a far more fluid event-based space that comes into existence only through the social actions of those present.
In this session we will investigate the social effects of communications media on how space is inhabited and acted upon. We will explore the relevance of concepts such as neighbourhood, community and territory in times when cities become essentially transitory social spaces for many of those who experience them. In particular we will focus on the performative nature of space.”
Abstracts of no more than 500 words should be sent by email (following website instructions) by March 15th 2010.