Faculty of Arts, Humanities and Cultures

School of Media and Communication

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Giorgia Aiello to give keynote at University of Bern

November 29th, 2017

On 11 December 2017, Dr Giorgia Aiello will give the opening keynote for City Talk: Urban Identities, Mobilities and Textualities at the University of Bern.

This interdisciplinary conference brings together internationally renowned scholars and early career researchers working in the fields of sociolinguistics, critical discourse studies and linguistic anthropology/ethnography.


Communicating the City – keynote speaker abstract by Giorgia Aiello, University of Leeds.

In the face of economic and cultural globalization, many have argued that we live an increasingly placeless world. However, as a growing number of cities compete for global attention, the spectacle of the city is more than ever a significant medium of communication in its own right. This talk focuses on how the urban built environment is visually represented and materially fashioned to communicate the city as worldclass—for
example, through the adoption of globalizing urban regeneration formats like that of the ‘urban village’, and the selection of particular combinations of styles and textures in the (re)design of urban environments. With examples from Leeds, Seattle (USA), Bologna (Italy), and a number of second-tier cities competing for the title of European Capital of Culture, I discuss some of the ways in which these aesthetic agendas applied to urban form may ultimately exclude less profitable yet vital versions and visions of urban life.

In doing so, this work focuses specifically on the visual and broadly multimodal dimensions of cities to highlight the importance of the urban built environment as a major form/force of mediation and mediatization in advanced capitalism. On the one hand, the urban built environment communicates specific discourses and ideologies, and therefore also quite literally mediates the performances of our everyday life. On the other hand, it is also often mobilized as mediatized and aestheticized currency for the remote publics found across powerful global marketplaces such as tourism, public communication, real estate, and commerce. Through a conceptualization of this kind, this work offers a critical approach that contributes not only to centring the urban built environment as a key dimension of communication studies, but also to making communication scholarship into a more prominent field for the study of the city.

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