Although we can consider media experiences, in the most basic sense, as a compilation of image and sound, characteristics of space and place prove to be equally integral aspects of media culture. Whether we watch a film, view a television program, play a video game, or stream content online, we must interface with mediated space—and the designed, architectural structures that constitute and compose these media—in significant ways. As Lev Manovich writes, the experiences offered by moving images and sounds provide less an audiovisual culture and more an “audio-visual-spatial culture” in which space itself is a media type to be constructed and navigated through the combination and juxtaposition of images and sounds (157). Furthermore, the experiences of space offered by media culture must themselves be considered as situated in space: the construction, navigation, and representation of media space incorporate places structured by specific architectures. It matters where media space is made, where it is experienced, and how the architectures of that location shape those practices. From the spaces of production, to the representative spaces of the diegesis, to the everyday spaces of consumption and reception, media culture is thus inexorably tied to considerations of space and architecture.
The images and sounds we see on-screen must first propagate in the production spaces of soundstages, specially constructed sets, or real-life locations to be captured by recording devices. Before space can be created on the screen, therefore, it must be constructed, negotiated, or managed before cameras and microphones. The work of scholars like Juan Antonio Ramírez, Tim Bergfelder, Sue Harris, and Sarah Street has explored issues of production design and mise-en-scène and prove particularly important to concerns of space, examining how such architectures are created and used in craft practice. Simultaneously, the spaces and architectures of production extend outside of the studio soundstage to the more macro cultural and geographic concerns of locale and region. The spaces in which production occurs—and the specific social, economic, and cultural conditions it supports—will all have material impact upon the look and sound of media texts, as demonstrated by scholars like Serra Tinic, Allen J. Scott, Andrew Ross, and Michael Curtin. Was a film produced on a carefully constructed soundstage in Hollywood? Was it produced in Vancouver? Or was it produced in an amateur’s basement in Boise, Idaho? The production of media, therefore, is an inherently spatial question in which architectures and locales shape the construction of media culture.
The spatiality of media culture can also be explored at the level of the text. Captured by recording devices maneuvering through space, images and sounds can be juxtaposed to one another sequentially to create three-dimensional spaces. Through depth cues, camera movement, and analytical editing, for example, cinematographers and editors can re-create the space of production, allowing it to be experienced at a distance in a mediated way through the finished cinematographic work. Even imaginary spaces and places that we might never walk through or dwell in at all may come to be intimately known through their image. The spatial quality of media culture is thus a representational one in which executives and creative personnel have the ability to construct space. This dimensional depth of media images is compounded when texts are united in series and in systemic ways. As Jeff Sconce and Henry Jenkins have argued, the ongoing narratives of television and transmedia storytelling lend themselves to world-building projects in which the accumulation of narrative detail over time supports and maintains fully realized universes, coordinated across episodes and across media. Space—the shared story world—is [End Page 1] what is common across all iterations of such texts and binds them together. Nevertheless, considerations of space are not unique to narrative. The real-life spaces we inhabit are often augmented and perhaps better understood when read in conjunction with their on-screen representations. Images of the buildings, cities, and landscapes we interact with every day, once incorporated into a mediated narrative, might begin to hold new possibilities or dangers when we walk through them again. In short, cinematic, televisual, and new media representations necessarily construct and alter place and space in exciting...