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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 Three: Spatial materialities: Coproducing imaged/inhabited spaces (Greg Dickinson / Brian L. Ott)


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Spatial materialities

Coproducing imaged/inhabited spaces



Cities move us. They make demands on us, shaping our sense of self and of our place in the world. How they do this is complex. Cities are framed by our mediated experiences of them, by their artistic renderings in books, paintings, and photographs. But they are also framed by our immediate experiences of them, by their physical entailments such as layout/design, architectural features, and construction materials (bricks and mortar, concrete and macadam, wood and steel). Cities are, in short, experienced symbolically and sensually; they are coproduced by images and sensations. Our experience of a city’s signs, symbols, and representations, along with its smells, sounds, and textures “constitute” it. In short, the city subtly interweaves imaged or represented space with the inhabited or lived space. This apparently simple fact raises a complex problem: How are the symbolic representations of (and in) a space and the materiality of that space itself experientially entwined?

For several decades, communication scholars have thought and written about the ways spaces are symbolic and discursive and the ways visual representations of space are powerfully constitutive. More recently, some communication scholars have also begun to seriously engage space’s materiality, urging scholars to move beyond the semiotic and the symbolic toward the somatic and the sensorial (Dickinson & Aiello, 2016). ← 31 | 32 →

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