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Communicating the City

Meanings, Practices, Interactions


Edited By Giorgia Aiello, Matteo Tarantino and Kate Oakley

How human meanings, practices and interactions produce and are produced by urban space is the focus of this timely and exciting addition to the study of urban communication.

Challenging notions of the ‘urban’ as physically, economically or technologically determined, this book explores key intersections of discourse, materiality, technology, mobility, identity and inequality in acts of communication across urban and urbanizing contexts. From leisure and media consumption among Chinese migrant workers in a Guangdong village to the diverse networks and communication infrastructures of global cities like London and Los Angeles, this collection combines a range of perspectives to ask fundamental questions about the significance and status of cities in times of intensified mediation and connectivity.

With case studies from Italy, Britain, Ireland, Russia, the United States and China, this international collection demonstrates that both empirical and critical knowledge on the relationship between communication and urban life has become vital across the humanities and social sciences.

Communicating the City will be essential reading for all scholars and students who desire to gain an in-depth understanding of the multiple roles that media and communication have in lived experiences of the city.

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Chapter One: Journalism and the changing act of observation: Writing about cities in the British press 1880–1940 (Carole O’Reilly)


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Journalism AND THE changing act OF observation

Writing about cities in the British press 1880–1940



Peter Fritzsche’s (1996) study of the social and literary texts of turn-of-the-century Berlin begins with the observation that the key point of fascination around the nexus of city and its literature is the tension between the city as narrated form and the city as a geographical space. This tension provides the starting point for this work on the changing process of journalistic observation of the British city in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The chapter will demonstrate that the idea of the city in British newspapers of this period progressed from the city as mediated through narrated, first-person observation to the idea of the city as an imagined space.

The nineteenth-century journalist occupied a distinctive place in the British city. They were both observer and observed—a unique collision of spectator and spectacle. This chapter deploys Walter Benjamin’s concept of the flâneur (or “urban wanderer”) to examine the relationship between journalism and the act of observation through to the middle of the twentieth century. It argues that fundamental changes to the journalism profession in the late nineteenth century impacted directly on how journalists conceived of and wrote about the city. There was a gradual retreat from intense first-person observation of aspects of city life to a cooler, more distant...

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