Whose Culture? Whose City?

Zukin, S (1995), ‘Whose Culture? Whose City?’ in The Cultures of Cities. London. Blackwell.

The symbolic Economy

A large number of public spaces owe their form and  shape to the entwining of cultural symbols. ‘Building a city depends on how people combine the traditional economic factors of land, labour and capital.’ (Zukin, 1995). They also depend on how the cities look and feel reflect who and what should be able to be seen. Disney suggests the symbolic economy unifies labour, finance, art performance and design. We can’t speak about cities today without considering three key ideas.

  • How the power of culture is related to the aesthetics of fear.
  • How cities use culture as an economic base.
  • How capitialising on culture spills over into the privatisation and militarisation of public space.

Security, Ethnicity and Culture

Everyday fear plays a large role in a cities culture, and security. The dangers of being in public spaces such as assaults, random violence and hate crimes that target specific groups completely destroy the idea of open space.  The elderly specifically who live within these cities commonly experience fear as an erosion of these spaces due to these factors. It is difficult to prevent this as the idea of a public space is to invite everyone to enjoy it and it is difficult to privatise and tailor these spaces. ‘Despite the real improverishment of most urban populations the larger issue is weather cities can again create an inclusive public culture.'(Zukin, 1995).


The Anxious City: America E14

Williams. R,J, (2004) The Anxious City: British Urbanism in the Late 20th Century: Routledge.

In the instance of Canary Wharf we see buildings constructed without British input, The buildings are very much American in style tall sky scrappers built with all imported materials. Even the workers were from Ireland, Germany and the US. This creates a sense of loss of British history. The place also feels uncomfortable due to the way that it is constructed. Each building is strongly guarded and security checks are rigorous only those who have specific purpose for being around and within these buildings are allowed, or what we perceive to be as allowed. A sense of fear is instilled throughout these checks and tight security. However this also allows a sense of freedom. Those who pass through the bag checks, have their identification approved and are allowed into the central point of the building feel free to go about their business without a care.

However, even though this cold hard perhaps non-british feel surrounds the streets within Canary Wharf it also attracts and amazes huge amounts of visitors. The grand scale of the buildings attracts, the cleanliness and organisation creates a sense of wonder. When here you feel a million miles away from the rest of London. Even though visitors have no where to particularly stay within the concrete giants they still feel welcome and leave feeling fulfilled.

The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction

Benjamin, W. (1936), The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.

When using reproduction we lose the authneticity of the original. The original is more valuable in terms of historical context and authenticity. When a mechanical reproduction is made it loses it’s history and social context. However, when looking at photography what we see with the naked eye cannot be captured, it is seen and then lost. By capturing the moment we are allowed to analyse in detail each detail.

‘Evidently a different nature opens itself to the camera than opens to the naked eye – if only because an unconsciously penetrated space is substituted for a space consciously explored by man. Even if one has a general knowledge of the way people walk, one knows nothing of a person’s posture during the fractional second of a stride. The act of reaching for a lighter or a spoon is familiar routine, yet we hardly know what really goes on between hand and metal, not to mention how this fluctuates with our moods. Here the camera intervenes with the resources of its lowerings and liftings, its interruptions and isolations, it extensions and accelerations,its enlargements and reductions. The camera introduces us to unconscious optics as does psychoanalysis to unconscious impulses.’ (Benjamin, 1936).

Mobile Dreams

Christersdotter, M. (2005) ‘Mobile Dreams’ in O’Dell, T. And Billing, P. eds., Experiencescapes: Tourism, culture and economy. Copenhagen: Copenhagen Business School Press. ‘Mobile Dreams’

In the chapter mobile dreams we discover at a conceptual level the things that need to be realised in this case to make a hotel. We look at the project and plans and the uncertainty of will the project be realised. In this case it is especially interesting to see the construction of the hotel as it is being constructed as the town in which it is situated is being constructed. Based on the success of the Guggenheim, and the branding it brought to Bilbao, the new hotel wanted to also be part of the city’s branding and bring in tourism and spending. This could be achieved through the hotels art, having exclusive art within a hotel is a sign of the hotel’s status and therefore makes it desirable.

‘According to Christer Persson, it is evident from both the trade and the city scape that an increasing number of residents work in the IT and academic sectors, which changes the atmosphere of the city. Design – projects, such has the hotel, mark this change and fit into the city’s new pattern of a different kind of cultural life with its new cafés, theatres, restaurants and a university. As such, design – hotels can be regarded as fantasies that have been put in to social practice. The planned hotel at Lernackenisa hotel – fantasy, as design – hotels tend to be: fantasies in form and design that are none the less real and concrete, allowing you to move inside them.’ (Christersdotter, 2005.)
‘The case of the Gehry -hotel shows how symbols can be as strong as the real thing.’ (Christersdotter, 2005.)
Places not only are, they happen.

Shopping for Dreams

Miles, S. (2010), ‘Shopping for Dreams’, in Spaces for Consumption: pleasure and placelessness in the post-industrial city, London: Sage. 98-120

Rem Koolhaas (2001) argues that shopping has come to colonise, even replace, almost every aspect of urban life; even more so in an era of place marketing. The shopping mall is a living testament to the consumerism of our urban environment. Our contemporary consumer society is playing a fundamental role in our altering society and city which is ‘consumed’ with a consumer ethic. One of the greatest challenges in retail is the need for reinventing to keep up with our ever more visually orientated world.
We find clear links between the evolution of shopping malls, department stores and arcades in the way that they all allow us to engage in a ‘dream world’ of the consumer.

“The shopping mall offers a sense of individualised freedom alongside an aura of communal well-being. Dovey goes on to discuss the way in which department stores offer the consumer a world of apparently endless possibility, where the experience becomes more important than the purchase.” (Dovey, 1999).The shop is far more than selling the shop play a particular role in the ambiance. The shopping mall allows a social and cultural center for people to enjoy.
McMorrough (2001) therefore describes shopping as a ‘prerequisite to urbanity’. shopping does not take place within the city; the city takes place within shopping.

The World in a Shopping Mall

Crawford, M. (1992), ‘The World in a Shopping Mall’ in Sorkin, M. ed., Variations on a Theme Park: the new American city and the end of public space, New York: Hill and Wang.

The utopia of consumption: Consumption has penetrated every corner of our lives, culture, leisure, politics and even death are being turned into commodities and therefore causing consumption to construct the way we see our world. As shopping malls continuously restructure and intrigue consumers they penetrate deeper into our world. However, “rigid and financial and merchandising formulas that guarantee and maximise its profits restrict the range and variety of goods it can offer” (Crawford, 1992). We find ourselves justifying consumption by the amount of money it costs.

Shopping malls extend the period of ‘just looking’ and this allows the customer to familiarise them self with the item, they mental try it on and consider their status with the item, this teaches the shopper about what they don’t have and in tern then what they want and what they ‘need’.

Retail Magic: Malls achieve success through indirect com-modification, by placing what may seem to be standard items in a new and interesting setting this encourages the consumer to see them as mysterious and desirable and in turn promotes and encourage more shopping.

Hyper consumption: After 1970 the system of regional malls continued to flourish however, it was clear that now the ‘generic-forumla’ mix was no longer guaranteed profits. Instead a new wave of malls fragmented into as many different fragments as the markets do. This allowed a great number of commodities to be merchandised than ever before. These new smaller malls allow more efficient shopping.

“If commodities no longer dominate this is because the product no longer carries the same importance” (Crawford, 1992). This is because almost everything is becoming commodified.

The Modern Las Vegas Casino-Hotel

Ritzer, G. and Stillman, T. (2001), ‘The Modern Las Vegas Casino-Hotel: The paradigmatic new means of consumption’, M@n@gement, 4 (3): 83-99.

The new means of consumption emerged with the consumer boom after
the end of WWII. (Ritzer. 2001). How dot he means of consumption control the consumer, by saying that there are two main means rationalisation and enchantment we follow the Werbian theory, By saying this we follow the ideas that these routes lead people to find the most efficient path to the end they are seeking. The means of consumption are controlled in a way that allows consumers to consume more than they intended for example jeans are located in the back of the shop so that the customers who want to buy them have to navigate around the shop and are more likely to purchase other items as well.
Simulations allow rationalised setting to become re-enchanted and more popular to the consumer. The visitors to Las Vegas in order to maximise consumption require both re-enchantment and spectacles through simulation. Each of these factors rely on each other and visitors to Las Vegas casinos require spectacles and reenchantment and one way of providing them is through elaborate simulations. In order for customers of Las Vegas to be thoroughly serviced they much have both re-enchantment and spectacle.

Implosion: Implosion refers to the erosion of boundaries between two seemingly distant aspects. These boundaries disappear and we see them merge and become available anywhere at any time. For example the butcher, baker and pharmacy they were once separate and now are available all together at anytime within the supermarket. “These imploded worlds of consumption create a kind of spectacle thatcan lead people to consume and at ever-higher levels.” (Ritzer, 2001).


Ritzer, G. (1999), ‘Reenchantment: creating spectacle through extravaganzas and simulations’ in Enchanting a Disenchanted World: Revolutionising the means of consumption, California: Pine Forge Press, 104-130.

in order for consumers to continue to be attracted to a particular thing it must be re-enchanted. Updated, renewed or something done in order for it to remain attractive and keep it’s large number of consumers coming back.

In Debord’s work The Society of the spectacle, he argues that one of the functions of the spectacle is to obscure and conceal “the rationality of the system.” Debord also suggests that spectacle is used to cover up the disenchantment of objects and also to cover up dissatisfaction. Re-enchantment is also achieved using extravaganzas. By putting on an elaborate shows such as those at the hotels and casinos in Las Vegas, we as the consumer become enchanted by the extravagant and elaborate setting so much so that we become satisfied with what we are consuming.

“The spectacular new means of consumption are, in turn, forcing other attractions to become more of an extravaganza.” (Ritzer, 1999)
Simulation is an integral part of re-enchantment it allows us to see something which appears to be real which is in fact not. Simulation begins to erode the distinction between reality and the imaginary. The people who work in these simulated places such as Disney land (which is a prime example of the imaginary being brought into our reality) are them themselves simulated. The people who dress up as Disney characters are simulated people. Even those who do not dress up but are still part of what we are consuming are simulated in terms of they are told how to dress, speak and behave.
This consumption of simulation is also leading into simulated communities. Moving away from tourism and into the realm of communities we can see that these too are becoming simulated. For example gated communities, the people who live there may have imported trees, have their gardens made up a certain way, expensive car in the drive way, but this too is a simulation of how they want to be perceived as a community.
“The chapter has documented the fact that the new means of consumption have become ever more spectacular by increasing the number and size of the extravaganzas and simulations (and even simulations of simulations) they offer. Such spectacles serve to: enchant the cathedrals of consumption so that they will be a continuing attraction to increasingly jaded consumers.” (Ritzer, 1999).

Hybrid Consumption: The Disneynisation of Society.

Bryman, A. (2004), ‘Hybrid consumption’ in The Disneyization of Society, London: Sage, 57-77

The key idea of hybrid consumption is getting people to stay for longer and therefore spend more. If you feel good where you are, then people want to stay longer. ‘The goal of hybrid consumption sites is to give people as many reasons as possible for staying at the sites. The more needs that can be met, the longer visitors will stay and the more money they will spend. Also, there are more reasons for visiting them in the first place so that they become destinations in their own right’ (Bryman, 2004). Hybrid Consumption combines a range of commodities for example in Disney world a popular holiday destination, the park provides a holiday with hotel, restaurants, shopping and entertainment. These elements together create a Hybrid of consumption.

‘Hybrid consumption is not new: what Is new is the systematic way in which different forms of consumption are being tied together with the goal of turning places into destinations where visitors will stay longer.’ (Bryman, 2004).

Hybrid theory of consumption can be seen in all areas around the world such as Cruise ships, Airport terminals, Museums, Zoos, Sports grounds and many more. The hybrid theory is presented to us as a way of being able to experience and see more than just a way of getting people to consume.

The McDonaldisation of Society

Ritzer, G. (1993), ‘The McDonaldisation of Society: an introduction’ in The McDonaldisation of Society:an investigation into the changing character of contemporary social life, California: Pine Forge Press, 1-17.

This text highlights Mcdonaldisation as a process by which the the principles of fast food industries are becoming a global domination. McDonalds, is a global business starting within the United States and expanding over seas. Reaping profits of $800 million dollars. Other chains around the world in all areas of retail want to follow this success and come under the ‘Mcdonaldisation’. “McDonald’s has come to occupy a central place in popular culture.” (1993, Ritzer, G.) The fast food restaurant has branded itself and is instantly recognisable and other companies want to follow suit.

The fast food model is followed by many different aspects in our lives. McDonalds quickly moves us from hunger to feeling full, this has been adapted and applied to a range of aspects throughout our lives such as filling cars with petrol, completing prescriptions and many other services. Our lives follow the fast food model of we want it here and now.