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  • Introduction

At the outset of his seminal study, space and place: the perspective of experience, geographer Yi-Fu Tuan observes, "Space and place are basic components of the lived world; we take them for granted. When we think about them, however, they may assume unexpected meanings and raise questions we have not thought to ask."1 Power relations are often negotiated through space and embedded in place, and these dynamics resonate through and within media. As such, media studies stands to offer a significant contribution to the critical study of space and place, just as this important area of study may help us to reorient and reimagine foundational premises and concerns within our field.

To some degree, questions of space and place have always been with us. Outside our field, influential work by Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, Henri Lefebvre, Doreen Massey, and Yi-Fu Tuan, among many others, initiated critical studies of spatiality across the humanities and social sciences. Studies of national cinemas within film studies and the more recent turn toward transnationalism and global perspectives ground place as a key organizing principle for categorizing and analyzing culture. Additionally, scholars have challenged the study of national cinemas and television by shifting attention toward the local and regional media that developed alongside or against nationally sponsored and bound industries. Genre studies, particularly of the musical, the western, and the sitcom, quite often analyze the use and function of space in staging and storytelling. Similarly, studies of reception, moviegoing, and even theater architecture often have emphasized the spatial dynamics necessary for the media technologies and viewing audiences. In recent years, fascinating studies expand beyond the movie theater to consider living rooms, video stores, classrooms, airplanes, and video game arcades as spaces for media consumption. By extension, mediated places such as museums, theme parks, and spaces augmented by locative media technologies provide rich avenues for current and future scholarship.

A critical focus on space and place alternately can enrich traditional humanist studies of identity or decenter human agents as the primary focus. Studies of the American South and media, for example, provide opportunities for situating region within intersectional analysis of personal and cultural identities and histories. On the other hand, scholarly studies of the ocean and outer space as subjects, settings, or archives potentially can shift attention away from anthropocentric analyses. As discussions of cities, suburbs, and rural spaces in media have revealed, place is often as richly developed and embedded with meaning as character.

Renewed interest in space and place also has opened up or revitalized inquiry into a range of issues beyond the text. Infrastructural studies, for example, encourages us to examine the material nature of media distribution, while production studies may consider sets, writers' rooms, professional conferences, and fan conventions as spaces where power is articulated and negotiated. Furthermore, these scholarly endeavors provide generative opportunities for cross-disciplinary [End Page 1] collaboration with researchers working in geography, urban studies, architecture, and sociology, to name a few.

This special issue of the Velvet Light Trap on the politics of space and place presents five new essays covering a variety of topics and concerns representative of what may be termed the "spatial turn" in the humanities in general and media studies specifically. The contributions are arranged historically, offering traditional and innovative approaches to space/place, power, and media. Offering historical, aesthetic, narrative, and industrial analyses, these articles taken together hope to provide an introduction to the study of space, place, and media, as well as possible avenues for further investigation.

The opening article by John Paul Taylor considers how the construction of the Interstate Highway System in the 1950s challenged not only how Americans accessed different areas of the country but also how they perceived those regions. This shift, in turn, can be seen within the horror genre, where rural settings increasingly became mysterious, dangerous, and fatal. The development of highways in the United States and the representation of these highways on film reflect changing perceptions of the rural as idyllic and wholesome. Therefore, attention to geographical history offers new models for interpreting film genres and style.

In the next essay, Joshua Gleich offers a production history of The Killer...


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