Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Media Practices and Urban Politics: Conceptualizing the Powers of the Media-Urban Nexus

Academic journal article Environment and Planning D: Society and Space

Media Practices and Urban Politics: Conceptualizing the Powers of the Media-Urban Nexus

Article excerpt

Abstract. The spatial imaginations of media studies and urban studies are increasingly aligned, illustrated by a growing literature on what can be identified as the media-urban nexus. This nexus has attracted scholarly interest not only as a cultural phenomenon, but also as a site of emergent political dynamics. We suggest that literature on the media-urban nexus points to the always-already present conditions of possibility for a translocal, relational urban politics. Current conceptualizations of the politics of urbanized media, however, tend to fall into one of two registers: conflicts over the access to and regulation of urban media spaces; or the silent politics that media inscribe into the affective textures of urban life. Both tend to envision media as instrumental supplements to politics, overestimating the powers of 'media' within urban living. Drawing on recent uses of practice theory in media studies, we highlight how thinking of media-in-practices provides a basis for more nuanced conceptualizations of the powers of the media-urban nexus. Fully realizing this conceptualization requires that the restriction of the insights of practice theory to everyday life be lifted. An expanded view of media practices is required, one which emphasizes the coordination between organized fields of communication and everyday urbanized media practices.

Keywords: communication, media, phenomenology, practice theory, space, urban politics

1 Introduction

Recent work in urban studies and media studies shares a set of concerns focused on how best to think about the relations between spatiality, practice, and politics. We seek to draw out what connects these two interdisciplinary fields, and what continues to distinguish them, in order to develop a more nuanced understanding of the political implications of urbanized media practices. The two fields are characterized by well-developed, but contrasting, spatial imaginations. In urban studies the focus has been on the localized copresence or gathering together of processes, practices, actors, and technologies. In media studies the guiding concern has been for distanciated spaces of communicative interaction. However, both fields display a chronic and recurring difficulty in clearly defining their object of study: both 'the urban' and 'the media' have a slipperiness that belies simple conceptual delimitation. In this respect, it is notable that as both urban studies and media studies seek to further refine and define their objects of study, a shared set of concerns between the two fields has become apparent, not least around approaches to spatial concepts. Questions of place, space, and scale have taken on heightened importance in media studies (eg, Couldry and McCarthy, 2004; Falkheimer and Jansson, 2006; Moores, 2012), while in urban studies concern has increasingly focused on concepts of relationality, connectivity, and mobility which emphasize the mediated qualities of spatial objects such as places, cities, or regions (eg, Amin and Thrift, 2002; Cochrane and Ward 2012, McCann and Ward, 2011; McFarlane, 2011; Magnusson, 2011; Massey, 2007).

This conceptual shift has in turn led to a move away from understandings of 'urban politics' as politics in the city, involving the contestation of specifically urban spaces or urban issues, towards a view in which political claims are articulated in, through, and in relation to urban spaces without necessarily being contained therein (eg, Coward, 2012; Magnusson, 2011; Rodgers et al, 2014; Ward et al, 2011). In short, urban politics is increasingly conceptualized in terms of a more general politics of the city and urbanization. Urban politics is no longer necessarily thought of as restricted to a single spatial 'scale', but as the articulation of multiple spatialities of scale, place, networks, and flows.

This growing alignment between media and urban theory is also evident in recent research exploring what we will call 'the media-urban nexus' (eg, Aurigi and De Cindo, 2008; Georgiou, 2013; McQuire, 2008). …

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