Tag Archives: symbolic representations

Zukin, S. (2011). Reconstructing the authenticity of place. _Theory and Society_, 40(2): 161.

In this article, Zukin asserts the importance of looking at both economic motives and cultural strategies of urban and rural placemaking. There are “three necessary and sufficient factors that create both a structural and institutional base for modern settlements to develop distinctive, contrasting cultures” (161).

  1. People must be free to choose where they live.
  2. A local history, appealing to outsiders, must exist “through the social construction of either a material or a symbolic landscape” (162).
  3. Local entrepreneurs must market these attractive elements while suppressing others.

Under these conditions it is possible for residents to “engage in the reflexive creation of a spatial habitus” (162). Place branding is a powerful rhetoric that becomes a growth strategy, articulating zoning and other laws that ban traditional income engines in favor of making the areas more attractive to newcomers. Sometimes these makeovers are unsuccessful, if attempted, because if a local economy is not already diverse it’s less likely locals will band together around a new growth scenario.

Rural gentrification in such places as Vermont and Utah read a lot like city-district gentrification narratives. Newcomer entrepreneurs help develop a new place identity through creation of new art spaces, boutiques, restaurants, etc. In some cases a new place identity highlights historical elements “and present itself as respectful of the community’s authenticity — social and cultural networks of new producers and consumers create, nurture, and often capitalize on a completely new sense of place” (164). And so Williamsburg’s grittiness translates into high rents.


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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Community Development, Cultural Economy, Major Field, Minor Field, Research Fields

Manovich, L. (2007). Abstraction and Complexity. In _Media Art Histories_, O. Grau, ed. Cambridge and London: The MIT Press.

Lev Manovich is Professor at the Visual Arts Department at UC, San Diego, a Director of the Software Studies Initiative at California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology, and a Professor at European Graduate School. He teaches new media art and theory, software studies, and digital humanities. He’s authored Software Takes Command (2008), Soft Cinema: Navigating the Database (2005), and The Language of New Media (2001).

In this essay, Manovich traces two concurrent modernist reductions and ‘complexifications’ from the 19th century. From 1860-1920, modern art streamlined the image, reducing it to abstraction. Likewise, physics, chemistry and neuroscience all discovered foundational elements, deeper scientific truths. However, at the same time and into the 20th century, Freudian psychoanalysis, quantum physics, Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, etc. all underscored the world’s deeply complex constitution: “the sciences of complexity seem to be appropriate in a world that on all levels–political, social, economic, technical–appears to be more interconnected, more dynamic, and more complex than before” (346).

So, the big question is, how can we adequately represent this complex world? Manovich submits that software-generated

“symbolic representations . . . seem to quite accurately and at the same time poetically capture our image of the new world” (352).

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Filed under Annotated Bibliographies, Media Arts, Minor Field, Research Fields