Perception of where we are

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Architecture can mediate place representation through manifesting ordinary as an aesthetic. Technology development has altered our relationship to places and their representation. While our capability to directly experience places are still constrained by physical mobilities, immediacy and transportability of place representation is making it a more dominant source for our perception of places. Driven by our fascination of the extraordinary, place representation often saturates the spectacles and omits the ordinary in its narrative. As what is considered ordinary is contingent on time and space, the non-places defined by Marc Augé is now part of the ordinary as we enter the age of supermodernity.

However, a closer look at mementos from the Grand Tour and contemporary souvenirs reveals that architecture is capable of mediating place representation through manifestation of the ordinary. Ordinary has been approached as an aesthetic by contemporary aestheticians and designers through multiple approaches, such as everyday aesthetic, supernormal and normcore. It has also been a significant source of inspiration for modern and post-modern architecture theory, recently gained more interests from the discipline of architecture.

By examining the challenges and approaches employed to address the ordinary, the thesis proposes potentials for architecture to mediate place representation through manifesting ordinary, particularly the non-places.

Place Representation in the Age of Technological Reproductivity Walter Benjamin argues that technological reproduction alters viewers’ relationship with the artwork in his writing The Work of Art in the Age of Its Technological Reproducibility. Technological replication is more independent of the original compared to manual reproduction, capable of revealing certain qualities of objects that are inaccessible to human sensibilities. Moreover, technological reproduction can “place the copy of the original in situations which the original itself cannot attain”, thus gain more relevance to the spectators than the original.

Likewise, technology development has changed the relationship between people and place. Our perception of place is informed by place representation and physical experience.

Moving into the twenty-first century, the balance between the two has shifted towards a predominance of the latter due to its immediacy. Technology reproduction makes place representation available to a large population, through both two-dimensional and three-dimensional mediums such as photographs, film and souvenirs. In contrast, our physical mobility remains relatively limited compared to the transportability and immediacy of image-based information. As our accessibility to place representation exceeds physical accessibility to the places, our perception of places become largely dependent on representation. The relative scarcity of direct experience of our era is followed by an obsession for authenticity.

However, as Bruno Latour points out, such obsession paradoxically “increases proportionally with the availability and accessibility of more and more copies of better and better quality.”

Our desire for “authentic” physical experience is, in many cases, generated by the amount of place representation available, whether it is Instagram posts or well-produced travel advertisements. To some extent, place representation has substituted physical experience in terms of relevance to our daily life.

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Perception of Where We Are. (2021, Oct 13). Retrieved June 23, 2024 , from

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