The semester at the University of Edinburgh is winding up so I will be returning here to post more regularly. I am finishing the last of my projects for the semester, a (hopefully) multimodal construction on augmented reality applications used in urban cultural heritage studies. I have been quite influenced here by Walter Benjamin, specifically his Arcades Project. Fantastic work if you ever get the chance.
Basically, I want to make the case that learning in this realm of ubiquitous technology and mobility, especially in regards to the analysis of the urban environment, requires a recasting of the role of the learner as meandering, wandering type. Sort of strolling through the bowels of the city, observing discrepancies, constructs, power, inequalities. There is a lot of academic work on this role, which generally borrows the term “flaneur” from the French of Baudelaire.
Saunter, stroll, dally, dawdle; loiter, linger
Those verbs speak to a purposeful walk, and Baudelaire referred to the flaneur as “gentleman stroller of city streets”. Augmented reality lends itself to this as it allows for a reconstruction of urban cultural heritage in novel ways; essentially the architecture is mediated by the individual who is in turn mediated by the experience. Either way, when it is finished, I will put a copy here. I am hoping to use some locations in Manhattan as a backdrop for the conversation (the Brooklyn Bridge has to be a part of any discussion of the flaneur in NYC).
Speaking of which, I stumbled across this video recorded by Thomas Edison of crossing the Brooklyn Bridge in 1899. Structure hasn’t changed all that much.
I love this quote from Benjamin from the Arcades Project.
“Couldn’t an exciting film be made from the map of Paris? From the unfolding of its various aspects in temporal succession? From the compression of a centuries-long movement of streets, boulevards, arcades, and squares into the space of half an hour? And does the flâneur do anything different?” Benjamin, Walter The Arcades Project, p. 83.
Mobile Augmented Reality offers unprecedented educational opportunity for cultural heritage studies, opportunity that is a mix of presence, liminality, and representation. A cultural heritage practitioner mediates the cultural heritage itself, the technology used to experience it, and in turn is mediated by both the heritage and the technology. To fully maximize this mediation towards educational effect requires a recasting of the role of learner in this field of cultural heritage, a learner as mischievous urban flaneur, a learner playfully pursuing affect as a vehicle for learning transformation. This essay will explore this notion of the urban flaneur in cultural heritage studies with mobile augmented reality using select locations in New York City as the environment to be mediated and mediate.