Posts Tagged ‘Brighton’
A short snippet from our paper for the Liminal Landscapes symposium next month. This shows how we are using web technology to collect material for a ‘working convolute’ on Brighton. We are gathering images taken by other people that have been uploaded to the web, as a way of accessing representations and uses of the promenade, in an attempt to develop a methodological approach that builds on Benjamin’s methods in the Arcades Project.
“Becker (1974) provides a methodological way of thinking about this potential social research resource. This relates to the second conception of photography held by Benjamin. The possibilities for producing new constellations of knowledge by using photography suggests possibilities for the collection and reconfiguration of images of the promenade as a way to access its history. Becker imagines the ‘sociologist photographer’ as collecting a plethora of images of a social situation, almost at random, taking care not to pre-judge what is of value in the resultant images. A consideration of the photographs then guides a further concentration in the research as the sociologist photographer spends time with “his [sic] contact sheets and work prints” and developing questions about the practices and situations that he observes. This process of collection and interpretation then opens up further avenues of enquiry and begins to produce social knowledge. In Benjamin’s terms it constructs new configurations of the past, of a kind only accessible through these technological means. In this study we update Becker’s work, and by seeking to reduce the impacts of sociological bias in our approach to the collection of images we aim to prevent any imposition of the very false coherences that Benjamin had tried to prevent through his parataxic method.
In practical terms, we have utilised web-technology to trawl through the online photo-hosting site flickr in an automated process. We have set up a yahoo pipe, a relatively new piece of web 2.0 software which aggregates data from the web in the form of RSS feeds, images, blog posts and visual media. Crucially, a pipe then provides a visual interface through which you can access the aggregated data. A pipe can be user-customised to a great extent. Although, following Becker and Benjamin, we aim to collect data without prejudicing it in advance, we are also conscious of sociological / historical practices and the way in which fields of inquiry are constructed to guide even the most inductive studies. In this respect we have delimited the ‘feeds’ to the pipe to include only the most popular photo-hosting site and also set up keywords to structure these feeds. Images uploaded to flickr are ‘tagged’ by users to aid retrieval and to publicise the images to a wider audience. The processes by which images arrive in the virtual public/private spaces of the internet and are distributed throughout them via social networks, direct our attention to ‘sociogram’ quality of all photography.”
A collection of photos from Brighton’s promenade that have been brought together to illustrate the concept of ‘managed liminality’, which is a term we are developing in our work to describe how the carnivalesque freedoms offered by the concept of the liminal can come to serve dominant power relations. These images show how the liminality of the shore is limited and exploited through the regulation of the promenade itself.
Here we have a few snap shots of Brighton Promenade in action from 7 June 09.
The promenade as social space concerns itself with movement, surveillance and observation, display and distinction, and the integration of urban space with the sea (the ocean with civilisation).
As suggested by its name stillness is not permitted; only in specified locations can one opt out of movement and more often than not one must leave the promenade in order to be at rest.
The reason for the prohibition on stillness lies in the surveillance and observation which is such a key part of the use of this social space. We use the promenade to watch and be watched and the prohibition on stillness prevents this watching developing into voyeurism. The beach, a temporary space governed by the sea, is the proper site of the voyeuristic on the public shore. The promenade marks the limit of civilisation (i.e. the urban space) and beyond it one enters the realm of nature where the rules of civilisation need not apply.
In this sense the pier and the groins are the ‘strategic embellishment’ of the public shore. It is just that this is a symbolic defence of the space of civilisation rather than a concrete defence of the elite of society.
The main use of the promenade is for leisure and it is this activity that most marks this social space. The various needs of those engaging in leisure are to be met here.
One of the paradoxes of the promenade is its nostalgia and entanglement in its own past. The promenade is a nineteenth century, Victorian, social construct and we know that to be its origin. The promenade thus has the odd quality of being of the past and of now and so it is a key locus of that strangest use of the past, Heritage.
Heritage becomes a part of the whole experience and meaning of the promenade because of the promenades connexion to the Victorian age. The entire social space has the quality of Heritage and so we can expect the Heritage Industry to be found here.
The Victorian origins of the promenade and the presence of the Heritage and Culture Industries in this social space force us to recognise the fundamentally capitalist nature of the promenade. This is to be expected; just as the Arcade was an expression of 19th Century French Capitalist Society so the Promenade was and is an expression of British Capitalist (or one might argue ‘european’ capitalist) society.