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The Urban Spectator: American Concept-Cities from Kodak to Google (Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture) Paperback – February 9, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In his new book, Eric Gordon adds an important new perspective to our understanding of the relationship between visual illustrations and urban landscapes. In The Urban Spectator: American Concept-Cities from Kodak to Google, Gordon argues American cities have produced a new way of seeing, and catalogs the subtle ways visual illustrations mold our perceptions of the urban landscape, our expectations of the city, and ultimately the urban form itself. Gordon’s book successfully provides a historical and conceptual framework . . . to visualize the city and engage its residents to shaping its future."—Planning and Technology Today


“Gordon contributes to an understanding of how over the last century people have distanced themselves from the actual city and their fellow citizens. As his book points out, one sees this in ever-changing ways through the mediation of screens . . .The author handles this form of seeing, called possessive spectatorship, with authority. Recommended.”—Choice


“The premise of Gordon’s The Urban Spectator is that people have ‘a cultural impulse to possess, control, and assemble the experience of the city.’ The handheld camera of the late nineteenth century provided a powerful technology for satisfying this urge. Subsequent visual technologies (e.g., film and television) reinforced and extended a possessive spectatorship. Gordon further claims that once we began to represent the city cinematically or as a series of snapshots, the city itself is transformed. Technology mediates the city and, then, the city is brought into correspondence with its representations. [Gordon makes] it clear that electronic technology does not simply mediate, it also senses our presence; creates reactive, nonhuman worlds; and changes how cities are perceived, represented, and reimagined.”—Winterthur Portfolio

Review

“This imaginative revisionist history of American urbanism starts from early traces of a city-dweller’s ‘possessive spectatorship,’ made possible by the hand-held camera, to the ‘digital possessive’ of our information age. Gordon’s quicksilver account moves easily though multi-city examples of architecture, film, advertising, world fairs, radio, and urban planning, eventually arriving at the Database City―a city with no content but which grants access to content. This may sound uninviting, but you can trust Gordon to take theorists and practitioners where they need to go.” (Michael Dear, Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley)

“In this brilliant cultural analysis of urbanism, Eric Gordon shows that one of the distinctive qualities of American cities is the way they have been shaped as ‘concept cities’ by the emergent media practices of their times. The persuasive power of Gordon’s innovative analysis lies in the way he reads these mediated urban spaces as texts: from the ‘White City’ at Chicago’s 1893 World’s Fair and the handheld Kodak camera that was ideally suited to capture it, to Times Square and the cinematic spectacle that helped create an audience for its sensorial excesses, to Hollywood Boulevard’s modular redevelopment guided by the contemporary logic of database narratives found on mobile phones, electronic games, and Google maps. Through such examples, Gordon demonstrates not only how media practices give urban spectators a sense of mastery over the city, but also how the city as sensorium has been such a pivotal force in shaping mass media.” (Marsha Kinder, Director of The Labyrinth Project and Professor of Critical Studies, USC School of Cinematic Arts)
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Product Details

  • Series: Interfaces: Studies in Visual Culture
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Dartmouth; 1 edition (February 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1584658037
  • ISBN-13: 978-1584658030
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 0.7 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,058,636 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By Mark Leccese on June 11, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I'm born, raised and have lived all my life in the City of Boston, and Gordon's book got me thinking about how we "construct" or conceptualize cities through the use of visual media. It is not something that had ever occurred to me, and as I read his book I found myself nodding and thinking, "yes, yes, that's so true." I particularly like the chapter on "Nostalgia and the Urban Narrative." It talks about a major historic renovation in Boston in the 1970s (Quincy Market) that I watched and, again, this book got me to think about historic preservation in a different way.

For an academic book, this is nicely written and it is handsomely designed, too -- with lots of photos. Great book for anyone interested in cities or in visual media, especially photography.
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Format: Paperback
"The Urban Spectator" is on the ROROTOKO list of cutting-edge intellectual nonfiction. Professor Gordon's book interview ran here as the cover feature on March 8, 2010.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
great
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