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Imaginative geographies in the popular media The significance of the popular media to geography Imaginative geographies and the dramatisation of geographical.

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Presentation on theme: "Imaginative geographies in the popular media The significance of the popular media to geography Imaginative geographies and the dramatisation of geographical."— Presentation transcript:

1 Imaginative geographies in the popular media The significance of the popular media to geography Imaginative geographies and the dramatisation of geographical objects: some basic arguments The media and imaginative geographies of spatiality Mediated senses of place

2 The significance of the media to geography Major element in contemporary everyday life - 99% of households in UK have at least one television - 98% of US households have a TV, and average no. of TVs per household = 2.3 - over 80% of UK households owned or rented a video - the average adult viewing time = 25 hours per week in 1988 - the average child viewing time = 18 hours per week in 1988 - over 10 million people purchased a daily newspaper in 1988 (Figures from Phillips and Mighall, 2000; Burgess, 1990)

3 The significance of the media to geography The media is "saturated with geographical messages and meanings" (Burgess, 1990) Major element in contemporary everyday life

4 The significance of the media to geography The media is "saturated with geographical messages and meanings" (Burgess, 1990) "Consider, for example, the coverage in the press and television of issues relating to environmental pollution, water quality, natural disasters, nature conservation, development pressures on the countryside, the design of cities, green politics and long term climatic change. Think of the extent to which advertisement use particular landscapes to sell their products or the rise and manipulation of people's desire to purchase 'environmentally friendly ' goods. Reflect on the kinds of settings used in the film and television drama to lend realism to the fictions of their narratives" (Burgess, 1990, p. 141). Major element in contemporary everyday life

5 The significance of the media to geography The media is "saturated with geographical messages and meanings" (Burgess, 1990) "Consider, for example, the coverage in the press and television of issues relating to environmental pollution, water quality, natural disasters, nature conservation, development pressures on the countryside, the design of cities, green politics and long term climatic change. Think of the extent to which advertisement use particular landscapes to sell their products or the rise and manipulation of people's desire to purchase 'environmentally friendly ' goods. Reflect on the kinds of settings used in the film and television drama to lend realism to the fictions of their narratives" (Burgess, 1990, p. 141). Major element in contemporary everyday life

6 The significance of the media to geography The media is "saturated with geographical messages and meanings" (Burgess, 1990) "Consider, for example, the coverage in the press and television of issues relating to environmental pollution, water quality, natural disasters, nature conservation, development pressures on the countryside, the design of cities, green politics and long term climatic change. Think of the extent to which advertisement use particular landscapes to sell their products or the rise and manipulation of people's desire to purchase 'environmentally friendly ' goods. Reflect on the kinds of settings used in the film and television drama to lend realism to the fictions of their narratives" (Burgess, 1990, p. 141). Major element in contemporary everyday life

7 The significance of the media to geography The media is "saturated with geographical messages and meanings" (Burgess, 1990) "Consider, for example, the coverage in the press and television of issues relating to environmental pollution, water quality, natural disasters, nature conservation, development pressures on the countryside, the design of cities, green politics and long term climatic change. Think of the extent to which advertisement use particular landscapes to sell their products or the rise and manipulation of people's desire to purchase 'environmentally friendly ' goods. Reflect on the kinds of settings used in the film and television drama to lend realism to the fictions of their narratives" (Burgess, 1990, p. 141). Major element in contemporary everyday life

8 The significance of the media to geography The media is full of imaginative geographies, and may be the most significant mechanism creating these geographies John Thompson (1994) argues that there has emerged in the modern world a 'mediated worldliness': 'our sense of the world that lies beyond the sphere of personal experience, and our sense of our place within this world, are increasingly shaped by mediated symbolic forms' (Thompson, 1994, p. 34). The media is a key agent geographical 'dramatisation'

9 Imaginative geographies and the dramatisation of geographical objects The content of the study of 'imaginative geographies' is determined by your (and other peoples) 'geographical imagination' I.e. determined by decisions over what is 'geography' and what is a 'geographical object of study' At least three geographical objects which might usefully be taken as delimiters of imaginative geography Spatiality Places People and environment

10 The media and imaginative geographies of spatiality Deleuze and Guattari distinguish between 'striated' and 'smooth' space Striated space = bounded space Smooth space = directionless variation and effortless movement Distinction not clear-cut but does highlight 2 possible connections between the media and spatiality The 'media' may be key agent in changing social experience of space The 'media' may be key agent in representing 'smooth ' space

11 Changing experiences of space Is space becoming 'smoother'? Movements across space have increased in length and speed (time- space compression; globalisation; culture as media of information transmission) Movements may be increasing in frequency - looking at things from mobile positions see Wilson (1992) and Cresswell (1993) on the 'the view from the road' Boundaries to cultural movement may becoming less significant - globalising culture –Soja (1986) argues that Los Angeles has become 'fully global' in that its image, and thereby its influence, 'is everywhere' Any one place may have may places present within it Smooth space = 'hyperspace'

12 The media and imaginative geographies of spatiality Representations of smooth space Television, cinema and computer graphics can move viewers instantaneously through space Inter-cutting of scenes 'Fly-by' shots and simulations Multi-directional movements Pastiche and montage

13 Mediated senses of place Geographers have suggested that places becoming 'encoded' with meaning Shields (1991): 'Social spatialisations' = the imaginative geographies of 'sites', 'zones' or 'places' which are encoded with, and frequently used to allude to, social differences

14 Mediated senses of place Shields distinguishes between: »'Core images' - widely circulated and commonly held views »'Peripheral images' - more varied, more individualistic, more transitory Place images combined 'core' and 'peripheral' images Short (1991) distinguishes between: »Myths: "(re)-presentations of reality which resonate across space and over time, which are widely used and reproduced, which are broad enough to encompass diverse experiences yet deep enough to anchor these experiences in a continuous medium of meaning" (Short, 1991, p. xvi) »Ideologies: nationally specific representations of reality

15 Mediated senses of place Rural and urban space Widely used 'social spatialisations' Short (1991) identifies three widely held place myths: »'wilderness' » 'country' » 'city' Each myth contains opposing but widely held codings »Wilderness as a place to fear or revere »Countryside as a 'pastoral idyll' (place of nature /community) or an 'antipastoral view' (place of poverty/backwardness) »Pro-urban and anti-urban

16 Mediated senses of place Countryside documentaries and the rural idyll Martin Young studied documentary films produced for Granada Television in the late 1960s and 1970s. Interviewed the film-makers and examined the visual and audio techniques of film production 'Core image' of the documentaries was a "nostaligic, pastoral, arcadian vision of the English landscape" Suggests that the images and sound tracks created impression of an 'English countryside' inhabited by 'local craftsmen' and made up of beautiful, peaceful and unchanging landscape Impression created through using 'chains of signification' running from the 'denotative' (the visual/aural signal) to the 'connotative' (the meaningful)

17 The audio-visual signals of localness in a Granada documentary Initial shot: "an elderly man over looking Swaledale". Man has a 'weather beaten face and a strong accent'. Connotations viewer asked to draw: this man is a local Second shot: Go to 'Bill-up steps' and following conversation heard: DAVID WRIGHT: 'Seen a few changes then?' BILL: 'Oh aye, by gum aye. Dale folk was full 'folk, good folk. We're getting a lot of Incomers now. some of 'ems alright and some of 'ems now't; Foreigners'" Cut to shot of 'hikers' Connotations viewer asked to draw: Things have changed here (and not for the better: the viewer should be nostaligic for a lost world). The hikers are the foreigners and there is a conflict between local and hikers:

18 Further audio-visual signals of nostalgia "Bill.... stands at the top of his steps in an ancient collarless shirt and braces. From here we travel to men building a dry-stone wall...... We return to Swaledale, the old man talks of the hay crop and we cut to people racking hay. A tractor appears, but this quickly goes out of our view as a close-up begins of an elderly women hay-making.. On then to a churchyard, where another elderly man, replete with cloth cap, is shown scything" (Youngs, 1985, p. 156-7). Denotative focus is on "on bygone skills" (Youngs, 1985, p. 156). People in the countryside documentary are portrayed as 'craftsmen'. Connotations viewer asked to draw: 'craftsmen embody skills and freedoms are in danger of being lost in a modern industrial society'

19 The encoding of the rural landscape Suggests encoding produces a 'petrified', 'idealised' and 'universalised' image of the countryside Petrified = unchangeable countryside »Created through presentation of "images of a slow moving, little changed and largely upland agriculture" which appears as " a picture of streams and hills, lanes and farmyards and picturesque stone walls". Idealised = a blissful countryside where everybody would wish to live »People express satisfaction with area »The sun is always shining! Universalised in that places in the countryside are described as 'typical rural villages', or as a 'characteristic' market towns

20 The encoding of the rural landscape DenotativeConnotative Craftmen Slow pace Historic Petrified landscape Upland Happy pop Sunny Idealised landscape Universalised landscape Typical Nostalgic romance Localised Chain of significance

21 Semiotic analysis Youngs adopts a 'semiotic' or 'semiological' approach Semiology = 'a science which would study the life of signs within society' (de Saussure) Link to linguistic structuralism and post-structuralist claims that language does not simply reflect reality Conventional view(Post-)Structuralist view Word 1Word 2Word 3Word 1Word 2Word 3 Object 1 Object 2 Object 3Objects

22 Semiotic analysis Range of different semiological analysis associated with people such as de Saussure, Barthes, Eco and others Often make use of a distinction between signs, signifier and the signified SignifierSignified Sign Connects to denotative/connotative distinction Signs work in chains of association DenotativeConnotative SignifierSignified Sign

23 Mediated senses of place : The encoding of the inner city Notion of media encoding of 'core' place images/myths also evident by Burgess (1985) Argues that newspaper reports apply the social category 'riot' to a wide range of social disturbances Argues that they also drew on, and thereby perpetuated, 'the myth of the inner city' n Identifies 4 'core codings' of the inner city: »A landscape of 'derelict terraces and rundown tatty streets' »A place of white and working class culture »A place of race conflict »A place of 'street culture'

24 The use of the 4 myths of the inner city: an example Pre-riot report in the Daily Mail: "Four grainy black and white pictures, one an inset showing a bloodied policeman, the others showing different views of derelict Toxteth. The vandalised, burnt-out car carries reminders of riot photographs; the men sitting on the ledge of a boarded up, crumbling mansion convey ideas of what Toxteth once was before the collapse of 'civilised life'; the 'posed picture with the two little girls is a romanticised comment on racial harmony" (Burgess, 1985, p. 208).

25 The use of the 4 myths of the inner city: an example Denotative Inner city Riots Dereliction Working class Race conflict Street culture B & W Photographs Vandalised cars Injured policeman Men on ledge Posed girls Inauthentic harmony SignifierSignified SignifierSignified = (Denotation)(Connotation)(Myth (Sign)) Connotative

26 Decoding 'Blade Runner': the questions 1. What sense or senses of 'spatality' are present in the film, and what techniques are used to construct them? 2. What connotations are attached to the denotation(s) of spatiality? 3. What is the role of 'the Orient' in the film? 4. Do you agree with the claim that the film acts 'as a key dystopia of our time'. 5. To what extent does the film's opening sequence draw on the 4 elements of the 'inner city myth' as outlined by Burgess. 6. How does the film subvert established 'geographical myths'

27 n Does the film's opening sequence draw on the 4 elements of the 'inner city myth' as outlined by Burgess? Decoding 'Blade Runner' Urban dystopia Polluted landscape The urban future Race conflict Oriental mercantilism Street cultureCorporate city = SignifierSignified SignifierSignified (Denotation)(Connotation)(Myth (Sign)) DenotativeConnotative Flames Huge Buildings Chinese food/people Purge control Los Angeles 2019

28 Decoding 'Blade Runner' 6. How does the film subvert established 'geographical myths'? Blurs human/nature/machine divide Represents new experiences of spatialities: "Blade Runner is, in many ways the quintessential city film: it represents urbanism as lived heterogeneity, an ambiguous environment of fluid spaces and identities" (Bukatman, 1997, p. 12) "Blade-Runner explores... the postmodern condition... of flexible accumulation and time-space compression... with all the imaginary power that the cinema can command" (Harvey, 1989, p. 313)

29 Decoding 'Blade Runner' 6. How does the film subvert established 'geographical myths'? Blurs human/nature/machine divide Represents new experiences of spatialities: Blurs relationship between image and reality Human simulation (the replicant as (or more) real than real) Spatial simulation 'Cinematic movement becomes an essential mode of comprehension: the camera often takes on a subject, first-person point of view … Blade Runner … build[s] worlds' (Bukatman, 1997, p. 9)

30 Travel movies: some initial remarks Cresswell (1991) claims that travel is of major importance to American culture Two major themes : »disillusionment with places »the joy and power of mobility Suggests themes are 'counter-hegemonic' to 'hegemonic culture' "ensconced in the family/small town/home ownership nexus of the American dream" Travel became a signifier of power Travel imagery a 'duplicitous'/'hybrid' image

31 Decoding Thelma and Louise 1. What is the social codings of spatiality at the beginning of the movie? 2. What signifiers are given to suggest this spatiality? 3. What signifiers are given to suggest change from this spatiality? 4. On which of the myths of travel does the film draw (escape from place or love of travel)? 5. Discuss how the changing physical landscape is used as a signifier in the film 6. Draw a chain of significance chart detailing how the film is both 'counter- hegemonic' and 'hegemonic'

32 Decoding Thelma and Louise Denoted elements Geographical connotations Social connotations Constraining striated spaces of the home/workplace Emancipatory smooth space of 'the road' Patriarchy Feminine power What are key denotative elements ? What is hegemonic and counter-hegemonic? n Patriarchal/striated space = hegemonic n Feminine power/smooth space = counter-hegemonic

33 Decoding Thelma and Louise Denoted elements Geographical connotations Social connotations Constraining striated spaces of the home/workplace Emancipatory smooth space of 'the road' Patriarchy Feminine power Relationship to other road movies and other movies: Easy Rider, Bonnie and Clyde, Paris Texas, Natural Born Killers n Hegemonic/striated space = capitalist/familial n Counter-hegemonic = men taking to smooth space Thelma & Louise as counter-counter-hegemonic?

34 Decoding Thelma and Louise Considerable debate amongst feminists about the film: n Representation of female emancipation and empowerment? Betrayal of feminism? – Successful women emulate men n Masculinist film? "a savvy male director used the buddy movie genre to please the males in the audience by having attractive actresses accentuate their sexiness with their gun-wilding, fast-driving shenanigans, and simultaneously pacify the female viewers as their characters shoot male chauvinist characters" (Roberts, 1997, p. 63) n A white feminist/masculinist film?

35 Counter-hegemonic travel movies Followed by range of other 'counter-counter-hegemonic' travel movies Masculinity/heterosexuality My Private Idaho The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert Ability/disability Rainman

36 Imaginative geography of the mass media: some concluding remarks Are imaginative geographies central to mass media products? If so, what 'imaginative geographies' can be 'decoded'? »Place »People/nature relations »Space »Movements through space Relationship between imaginative geographies and social identities »Imaginative geographies as 'socio-spatialisations' (socio-environmentalisms, social- landscapes) Has study of imaginative geographies been symbolic or critical?

37 Imaginative geography of the mass media: some concluding remarks Critical dimensions of imaginative geography might include: l Incorporation of notions of hegemony/counter-hegemony and ideology l Recognition of a 'political economy' of the media "Movies in America are, above all else, a commercial enterprise. Companies make them to make money. This is the major constant of the movie industry. However,.... [w]e cannot read off the subject of the movies from the profit motive. It is always there like the keel of the ship but it is not the rudder. The dynamic of the industry is the work of creative people to meet the demands of a fickle audience" (Short, 1991, p. 179-80). Also need for audience research to: l Explore the convergence and divergence of meanings l Explore how producers perceptions/expectations of audiences impacts the creation of cultural texts


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