Why do ‘Visual/Cultural Media’ move us through Paris? | Case Study Collection

Within a Media Feast | A.Montgomery | Paris 2011

“The flaneur and the urban writers who style themselves after [Benjamin are] merely part of the urban landscape, and hardly the most attractive one.” – Susan Buck Morss

Paris, France. Historically and in present day, the city serves as an iconic patron to literature, architecture, music, technology, dance, theatre, gastronomy, art, urbanization, etc. Collectively these elements weave into an intricate tapestry which sets the city apart from the well-known list of world capitals frequented annually by professionals and tourists alike.

But in the midst of Summer 2011 while taking a summer school course through New York University it became apparent that in order to truly understand why ‘visual and cultural media’ moves one through Paris, either consciously or subconsciously, I would need to move any preconceptions I had about the city into the recess of my experience portfolio. Only then would I truly be able to walk amongst the city free to observe, interpret and evaluate how today’s media landscape is interacting and following up with the everyday consumer. As research accumulated with each new visit to a memorial site and walk around town (sans direction), pointed evidence revealed exactly why Paris will always remain a Moveable Media Feast.

The Process
The organization influence related to this project stems from analytically reading two distinct authors and their respective works: Walter Benjamin’s The Arcades Project and The Flaneur, the Sandwichman and the Whore: The Politics of Loitering by Susan Buck-Morss.  While both titles attempt to apply a navigation system to the cultural, urban and social contexts surrounding Paris, the projects each writer began to clarify still remain unfinished to this day.  As Benjamin notes in his work appropriately, “It is highly characteristic that technical work on Paris should be inspired by classical history” so with this mentality, the challenge to dissect Paris through its core and to study her nuances stands as an eternal Herculean labor.  At the ultimate best, any individual pursuing this academic discipline can only hope to strike out, and begin to embrace this life long pursuit of knowledge.

Benjamin’s anthropological study and material collection process was a 13 year labor that involved countless hours of categorizing, cataloging, and notating different thematic elements all indicative to 19th century Parisian life.  In the same vein but almost four decades later, Buck-Morr revisits the “Flâneur concept (i.e., strolling in a locale to experience it)” identified in the Arcades Project and reopens a whole new investigation as to what elements weave together and meld into the urban Parisian landscape?  What has changed, what remains the same, and how will we look at Paris through a modern lens?

In referencing Benjamin’s and Buck-Morr’s models, finalizing this Case Study Collection eventually required an extensive comparison and review of all collected images.  The diverse pool represents infinite media examples and contexts surrounding the question – Why does ‘visual and cultural media’ in Paris consistently influence, direct, and shift participants within the city and more often than not give little regard to their personal inclinations? As a result, five individual convolutes – Consumption, Transport Screens, Urban Spaces, Art and Analog – outline distinct research sub categories. Separated, each grouping reflects upon a nuance quintessential to French culture, but collaboratively they address a larger concept that ‘visual and cultural media’ are a powerful force affecting consumer behaviors.

Move Amongst the Channels…
Transport Screens
Urban Spaces

The ‘Mobile’ Device (no pun intended)
All pictures within this Case Study Collection were taken using a Blackberry Bold 9650 made by RIM for Verizon Wireless

SlideShare Presentation Link – SlideShare.net/SocialMediaDelivered/moveable-mediafeast-am


Consumption | Case Study Collection

David Lebovitz’s blog domain, The Sweet Life in Paris, is a visually-enhanced, internationally-acclaimed media resource which discusses French culture from an expatriate perspective. Using his digital guide, travelers and even local Parisians can discover new and surprising areas, restaurants and activities around town. Current Twitter Followers – 76,381.

Courtesy of DavidLebovitz.com

Restaurant Recommendations via the Business Card.  When one returns from Paris, acquaintances of the traveler will almost always ask about restaurants, where they are located, did the prices seem fair, was the wait staff rude to Americans, etc.  However the modern restaurant business card, like the one from Le Bistrot Des Comperes, saves a weary individual time and hassle.  References to TripAdvisor, Maps, and Facebook URLS are commonplace, so making a decision to visit that ‘famed French cafe’ your brother-in-law told you about is all the easier.

Bottle Collection Points.  Even though annual French wine consumption has reportedly dropped by 75% in the last three years (according to a report from www.mediapart.fr); the amount of tourists coming through Paris to drink wine has steadily increased.  Restauranteurs throughout Paris must comply with specific laws and move all bottles (wine and otherwise) from their establishment to a collection point where they will then be picked up and moved to recycling sites.

Les Halles Neighborhood Cafe uses a ‘catching’ green and white Entrance sign to help people understand where the proper door is, thus securing business entry as opposed to loosing customers who cannot locate the restaurant’s logo sign.

Transport Screens | Case Study Collection

Interactive GPS at the ‘Franklin D. Roosevelt’ Metro Stop.  New technologies such as the automatic gate doors, and the below screens are being introduced to help commuters move amongst the vast Paris metro network.  Coincidentally, as metro engineers take out various make shift walls that were built in the 1960s at certain stops, old poster materials are gaining visibility for the 1st time in forty years.

Televising from the Basilique Saint-Denis.  Located just outside the Paris city limits, this legendary religious site has been used by countless French monarchs since its establishment in 1136; During the visit with our class, modern camera equipment was being set up to broadcast a live concert.  Thus, this technology is remediating and spreading the media associated with this church to household computer and television screens around the world.

Live from the Bourse Financial Building.  Regardless as to what financiers working in Paris economics would prefer, on May 16th the French Parliamentary Channel organized a taping which allowed audience participants to ask visiting ministers from the European Union, and present French officials questions about student issues and concerns.  The event was free, open to the public, and then streamed virally through YouTube.  Again, visual media are moving content through different transport screens (in this case Computers and Televisions).

The Portable Screen from DigitalTag.  Now featuring your newest avant-garde art film.  Its also been said that this is ‘the hottest Spring 2011 Suit accessory’ you can buy.  White 4G iPhones are so Fall 2010.  Of course, one would only see a ‘transport screen’ in this capacity while attending a Vernissage De L’Ete at the famed Fondation d’Entreprise Ricard.

Urban Spaces | Case Study Collection

La ville de Saint-Denis – Université.  Any Paris Metro commuter usually says a quick prayer of thanks because signage and color codes really does make things easier to navigate.  Light Blue Line 13, connects with the 1, 3, 4, 9, 12, 14, etc. but more importantly this direction also carries you out to the metro stop Saint-Denis – Université.  Upon exiting into the streets, one might check out the Stad de France which was built in 1998 for the World Cup Finals (for the record – France won despite lingering rumors about certain player backgrounds and hometowns).  At the Plaza de Saint-Denis another type of moveable media is color coded to help one learn about the area.  This prominent building signage piece communicates that the website – www.Ville-Saint-Denis.Fr – is available to help you learn more about the latest community news and when digitally accessed breaks out everything by coded, topical interest as an efficient online guide.

Musée du quai Branly.  Commissioned in 1995, this urban space is unusual in that it moves you through a extensive object mix from Africa, Asia, Oceania, and the Americas – and that’s not even the temporary exhibitions (right now they’re also highlighting Ancient Mayan Civilization).  Understandably that’s a lot of ground to cover, and big surprise but there isn’t really one specific place you should start. However, during a walk through this space, a plan didn’t really seem to matter because every visitor circulated to personal interest areas.  Moreover, the museum’s standard map, the lighting, and architectural design all contribute to a mobile setting which creates a unique organization pattern which pairs perfectly with displayed collections.

Les Halles Métropole.  During the 1960s, economic, social and cultural changes revamped this historic 1st Arrondissement, restaurant/marketplace atmosphere to pave way for more commercialized, technically updated spaces.  The masked glass/iron architecture display remnants from the last major overhaul of this neighborhood, and now forty years later after the last revinention of this neighborhood, Les Halles will move into yet another new era that is being developed by organizers representing different sects of French government including – Mairie de Paris and Ile de France – to name a few.  Renderings about what the space will eventually look like include elements surrounding open-air pavilions, waterways, park landscape and other private commerce spaces.  Given the grandiose construction layout, mobilizing this space into its new personality will not happen quickly.  The Construction camps alone are scheduled to be set up by late 2011.

Centre Pompidou.  Art Critics, Historians, Conservationists salivate over many things when in Paris – Macarons, a good Bordeaux, and of course classic architecture.  To a voyeur around town it might seem as if nearly every Parisian street corner, facade or door way contains some sort of significance, as to the original building’s story.  So in comparison, the Pompidou is a mere toddler when compared to the Eiffel Tower, Arc De Triumph, Notre Dame, etc.  But if a certain guild of architects were to set out and build a brand-new destination within Paris, like Edmund Happold, Peter Rice, Renzo Piano, and Gianfranco Franchini decided to do, then of course their design should naturally reflect the ability to mobilize and shift around the global art exhibitions that the Centre would eventually host.  Hence, various walls and wings of the Pompidou are actually designed to move and come out.  Not bad for a building that’s in its 40s.

Art | Case Study Collection

L’Art De L’Automobile.  When Ralph Lauren’s private collection of luxury and vintage racing cars were revealed at the Les Arts Decoratifs, suddenly the phrase ‘Art in Motion’ took on a whole new meaning.  Any credible, fine car enthusiast will inform you that to truly take in and enjoy the exquisite craftsmanship embodied in a say a 1938 Alfa Romeo 8C 2900 Millie Miglia, you’ll need to make a complete 360-degree circle around the circumference of the display stand, because only then can you admire each and every angle, curve, and detail as the original designer intended you to do.  After encircling premium automotive engineering feats such as the 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder and the 1958 Ferrari 250 Testa Rossa I grew enlightened as to why auto shows put each vehicle on a spinning circular stand.

‘Guns & Rituels’ @ Fondation d’entreprise Ricard.  When an artist puts antique rifles on circulating disc tables (that could be borrowed from Will.I.Am – we don’t know….) and exhibits their work at a swanky, hip art gallery over in the 8th – you’d naturally do a double take and walk around the piece and debate about what the artist is contemplating related to death, life’s natural progression, and metal.  We also discussed that brownie points would have been awarded if Billy Idol’s classic hit ‘You Spin Me Right Round‘ had been playing at the same time.

Cite Nationale de l’Historie de l’Immigration.  Museums are to Paris as Delis are to New York, you’ll see one approximately every ten minutes when walking around.  But off the beaten art history path (think the Louve, Orsay, de l’Orangerie), this aquarium/social museum, which was launched in 2002, by former French President Jacques Chirac.  Each space discusses the colonial history of immigration patterns, ethnic migration trends throughout the country over the last 100+ years, and of course what ideas surround French Imperialism.  Although these themes make up the bulk of one’s visit to this site, there is also an extensive modern art gallery with various multi-media art objects.  For example a visitor can interact with the below touch screen and here french words make up a sentence depending on how one moves the words around and arrange a phrase.  It is also one of the first museums that started using the word médiathèque (meaning a multi media center where vistors can look at extensive resource collections) instead of the traditional word for library – bibliotechnique.

‘Peacocks & Rituels’ @ Fondation d’entreprise Ricard.  3D art is cool.  I dig eccentric sculptural motifs, jarring angles, dismembered branches hanging on by a thread, etc.  But don’t assume that all 2D art is flat, meant to be looked at face forward, and square.  The, let’s call it a peacock rug’ of sorts on display at the opening of ‘Rituels‘ addresseeshow a viewer must encompass the entire piece from various angles, and more importantly, the work shows how as humans we’re constantly moving between ‘rituals’ in our personal myth and nature.  Now that’s a different type of media mobility altogether.

Analog | Case Study Collection

Arrows.  Signs that move one through Paris can appear at any time of the day or night.  One might hear electric guitar emerge from the shadows over in a garden by the Canal or you should be looking down to pick up a euro and see the indication about what direction you should take right there on the ground, dirty, torn, weathered, clear.  Catching the Bastille metro stop, I bent over to pick up my metro ticket and on the pavement in day-glo orange … the below arrow lay carelessly forgotten.  The writing communicated that should I feel so inclined to learn about free ‘Hammock access’ all I needed to do was visit http://hamac.fr.  Regrettably, this French based website did not tell me how much it would be to order a hammock stateside.

Museum Manuals.  Sometimes those extra reading materials your professor, colleague or friendly Museum Docent recommend looking at – can actually be somewhat enlightening.  When checking out the temporary ‘Ancient Mayan Civilization‘ exhibit at the Musée du Quai Branly – the organizing staff at some point decided to leave out several copies of a review guide for those interested in digging deeper beyond the art display fact card.  The learning journey moved from the cases with jewelry, pottery and statues to a little black, round reading table by a window. However to avoid moving these manuals from exhibit to exhibit within the museum (aka shop lifting), each book at the table was tethered securely with a thick cord.

FUSAC.  I’m sure you’ve heard the rumors… another iPad or some other new tablet is coming out, print publications are dying, everything is shifting to digital, we’re slowly but surely loosing are need for paper media.  Ridiculous.  Case in Point – FUSAC magazine – the English version magazine that alerts expats in Paris about job openings, where the cool underground art galleries will be opening, and what restaurants you absolutley must avoid at all possible costs.  It’s a powerful publication that’s been around since 1988.  Dare I say that it might even be responsible for encouraging a decent percentage of Americans to move abroad and settle home in the City of Lights.

Book Car Carting.  When you ask someone how to make it from point A to B in Paris, they are most likely to say use the Metro, Bus, Train, or Walk.  Cars never come into the conversation when discussing moving amongst media within the city.  Cars might not be the first suggestion for taking care of every day household errands but over in the Arcades, cargo trucks manage to move analog objects like a pallet of books from one destination to the next and require an entire vehicle operation to achieve the end goal.  However the ultimate mobility arises at the journey’s end when a shopkeeper must unpack the car.