Architecture in the Age of Social Media
Architecture and media have always been deeply entangled: at least as far back as Piranesi’s drawings, many people have experienced architecture through representations circulated through media rather than the built works themselves. It has already been three decades since Beatriz Colomina posited that journals and magazines have displaced buildings as the sites of discourse through which architecture as a discipline is constituted; for Colomina, modern architecture can only really be understood through its relationality with modern media. Similarly, for Kester Rattenbury, buildings only become architecture when they are mediated. Following Colomina and Rattenbury, a substantial body of literature in the 2000s started to connect the joint phenomena of star and iconic architecture to the emergence of digital media.
Architecture now firmly operates in an age of social media. The contemporary moment is marked by the ubiquity of internet-ready handheld devices and the social networks they connect to. It is through these platforms and technologies that images of architecture are routinely created, manipulated, and shared online. The mediatisation of contemporary society – the organisation of social life according to the logic of media – raises crucial social and political issues, especially as media power concentrates in the hands of a few large corporations. But social media has radically changed the scope and rules of the game, affecting who participates in what Couldry and Hepp call the “mediated construction of reality”. This raises questions of whether social media contributes to more democratic, participatory cultures, pushing back against elitism in architecture, and the cultural hegemony of the Global North.
Architecture is expected to perform simultaneously in these digital spaces of online media and in the geographical locales of landscape and city, yet architecture scholarship is still in search of methods and theories that will help make sense of this situation. There is much to learn from cognate disciplines already working in this field. In tourism studies, both quantitative and qualitative methods are being used to generate knowledge about how content is “prodused” by social media users and how this affects tourist places. The possibilities and problematics of "big data" are being explored and questioned, and as platforms restrict access to data, scholars are calling for new methods to understand social media. Scholars in media studies have applied social theory to help empirically study how practices of media users provide insights into issues such as place branding.
Systematic research into the repercussions of architecture’s engagement with new media is overdue if we are to develop methodologies and theories to critically examine and understand contemporary architecture media practices. Social media – and indeed the complex interconnection of contemporary media practices – is clearly doing something to architecture as a profession, practice, and discipline. This special issue asks for research into what, exactly, is happening.
List of topic areas
We invite papers addressing the following questions:
- If architecture has always been co-constituted in and through media, what, if anything, is new about the engagement with social media?
- What theories and concepts from media studies are useful to study architecture’s engagement with social media?
- What new methods and data do scholars need to empirically investigate the phenomenon of architecture’s engagement with contemporary media practices?
- What case studies of built or unbuilt architecture illustrate this entanglement of architecture and contemporary media particularly well?
- How does the mediation of architecture obscure or override concerns of place and location? If architecture is developed to occupy space in media, does it matter where it comes from, in the design process?
Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.
Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to "Please select the issue you are submitting to".
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.
Submissions open now!
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 1st May, 2024