One of the regularly cited problems with modern cities is the constant feeling of displacement that can occur in the repetitive landscape of supermarkets, airports or office blocks. A restoration for this is often found in cultural movements and architectural developments that adjust a population’s sense of place.
Maria Lewicka describes home as ‘a symbol of continuity and order, rootedness, self-identity, attachment, privacy, comfort, security and refuge’. This importance of the idea of home is continuously repeated in studies on the concept of place, and also in literature and art. But most profoundly, it finds its way into our daily lives. Order is the key point, but in consistently displaced circumstances people cannot find this sense of order.
In Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News, the pathetically pitiable protagonist Quoyle meanders back from New Jersey to the home-land of his family, Newfoundland. Quoyle is a clod, unable to help himself or his family, and he seemingly does not fit into any public society. His work and life are in as much disarray as one another. But when he returns to his family’s home-place something happens that makes everything fit into place. There is not one event, just a coming together of place and person, and a type of normality is restored. The place does not create the identity, the journey does. But the home-place creates stability, order and sanctuary. Continue reading “Home is Where the Hearth is III – Return”
Displacement from home is an uncomfortable feeling. It breeds suspicion and a feeling of nervousness, and rightly so. If, as previously discussed, home is a refuge, then displacement from home must create an opposing effect.
During displacement there is a chaotic element. People find it hard to settle; rules can change regularly if moving from
You go to a place, you go to another place. You return home.
You don’t return for 5 minutes to the bank. So what is the difference between home and another place? Why do we separate these two entities, and how do we create this separation?
Home is safety and privacy. It is outside of public norms; we do not have to behave with the same social rigour at home that we do in public places. A home allows us to dance on the kitchen table wearing our favourite Speedos if we should so choose; it does not conform to public rules and order, but to our own system. Continue reading “Home is Where the Hearth is I – Departure”
“Sure, cried the tenant men, but it’s our land. We measured it and broke it up. We were born on it, and we killed on it, died on it…That’s what makes it ours – being born on it, working it, dying on it. That makes ownership, not a paper with numbers on it.” – from John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939, p38
People move. In the 20th Century, with the invention of the aeroplane, people began to move faster and further than they ever could before. But moving place is something that people have always done. From nomadic cultures and tribes to those who have moved out of necessity (due to famine or crisis), people have always crossed borders and scrambled into unexplored areas in search of a place that they can be born in, work in, and eventually die in.
inter |inˈtər| verb ( -terred , -terring ) [ trans. ] (usu. be interred) place (a corpse) in a grave or tomb, typically with funeral rites
active |ˈaktiv| adjective (of a person) engaging or ready to engage in physically energetic pursuits
(The above definitions are from the Oxford English Dictionary)
A touch of housekeeping again. Just wanted to say a very quick congratulations to Built Dublin, winners of the Best Arts/Culture blog at the 2012 Blog Awards Ireland. Moon Under Water picked up a beautiful certificate for the blog’s listing as a finalist, and I enjoyed a terrific night at the awards ceremony. A new page of recommended blogs is under development – watch this space.
The term ‘interactive’ has become synonymous with technology that allows for user engagement. This includes video games, websites, mobile phone applications and other digitally-based media. However, it is becoming increasingly clear that “interactivity” is perhaps more than it seems (see the definition above), that it is the undead media-manipulated masses of dancing a morose merengue.
Consider for a moment the interactivity of the daily commute. Most people who will be reading this will have used trains, trams, subways and buses as modes of transport in recent times. However, what the average reader may not have noticed is the growing tendency for the undead to meander among them on a daily basis. Every morning coffee-deprived, bleary-eyed commuters board their local public transport contraptions, staring down into their hands at hidden devices that keep them pacified. Continue reading “Inter Active – Zombies in the machine”
every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
– John Donne, Meditations XVII
In Georges Perec’s novel “Life: A User’s Manual“, the author describes a sect that one of the book’s characters is involved in. This fictional group, named “The Three Free Men” and formed in 1960, began with three members. In the following three years from the group’s formation, each of the three members recruited three more members, making twelve by 1963. The nine new members initiated a further three members each (twenty-seven members) in the following three years, and so on until 1975, when there were seven hundred and twenty-nine members. Continue reading “The One, The Few, The Many – Social network bridges”
Each year coyotes, somehow, make their way through the sprawling mass of the five burroughs and find their way into Central Park on the island of Manhattan. Island or not, dangerous or not, life seems to find a way to squeeze through the gaps to insulated sanctuaries even in the most unpredictable circumstances.
Islands have an impenetrable feel to them. They are locked away from access except by sea or by sky, and yet there always seems to be a travelling presence of something. There are uncountable records of remote islands ceding to populations from insect, animal, bird and even human. And as unlikely as it seems, and no matter how remote the destination, somehow life finds a way to expand and populate.
Carrowkeel (stone circles, centre) is an ancient artificial structure that causes little disruption to the natural landscape surrounding it.
What is the difference between artificial and naturally occurring?
The simple definition is that artificial objects are made by humans, naturally occurring objects are in nature already (i.e. not man-made). The idea of artificial is often regarded as sub-par – when we see man-made lakes for example.
At the end of last year I wrote a piece called Nostalgia for New York, which essentially looked at the idea of nostalgia that I was able to associate with a place that I had never been to. While writing that piece I was unaware that I would be in New York four months afterward, but circumstance and chance conspired and I found myself spending some time in the grand metropolis of the east coast of the USA recently, and this gave me the opportunity to rethink some of the topics I had originally looked at regarding New York.
It’s not that I had tried to write about New York specifically when writing the original piece – I was more tinkering with a popular culture model of the city; looking at how New York was portrayed and how this portrayal changed as I grew up. So one of the striking things I then found about actually hitting New York City was recognising all of these places that I had seen before in movies, TV shows or video games. Everything seemed bizarrely familiar – it wasn’t quite deja-vu, but more like borrowing another person’s memory to make sense of something that I was seeing Continue reading “Nostalgia for New York 2: Referencing reality”
Apologies to readers for the 2-week hiatus – I have been mid-adventure and things have been too hectic to write. This piece and the next few will follow up on this. Posts will be back to regularity from this week.
In Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, the protagonist Bernard Marx finds himself on a holiday visiting a rural reservation. The visit is an insightful event showing a strange community that live outside of the “social norm” of this urban-centred world. This journey marks a decisive moment in the novel, where Bernard’s story is turned on its head by the people that he encounters and the adventure that he has with the “savages” in the wilderness.
This separation of urban and rural in Brave New World was part of Huxley’s tongue-in-cheek mockery of the society that he believed he was watching develop. The greatest threat brandished to citizens in Huxley’s dystopia is being forced to move to Iceland – a desolate and unpopulated island. This relocation was the deepest fear for Bernard, who was pleasantly settled in the urban landscape of central London.