Wednesday, March 3, 2010

WS The Flâneur and the Cowboy

In Lev Manovich’s text, “Navigable Spaces,” Manovich discusses the aesthetics and implications of navigation through virtual space and what it might be for devices such as narrative, visualization, and in terms of subjectivity. For me, this can be seen in the two figures of navigation/exploration that Manovich posits: the flâneur and the cowboy.
For the flâneur, space is something that allows for navigation for a creation of place through movement and new trajectories. For the cowboy, however, space seems to be treated and interacted with differently. As Ellen succinctly phrased in her blog post this week, “ ‘With its metaphors of navigation and homesteading,’ the internet is a lot like the frontier of the American west. The idea of being able to conquer the internet, this endless abyss, requires that the web be spatialized into a map, or outlined once someone discovers new places.”
         Thinking of the internet in terms of mastery of place through space versus exploration through experiences of new trajectories, Manovich points to the different subject position that each occupies. For the cowboy,“subjectivity is constructed through conflicts between the subject and nature, and between the subject and his enemies, rather than through interpersonal relations within a group.” For the flâneur, subjectivity is one of intersubjectivity, “an exchange of glances between him and other human beings.” Both of these subject positions seem to need more pressure put on them. The tension that seems to exist between these two conceptions, the cowboy and the flâneur, is something that I would like to further explore in section.  
Also, the discussion of the flâneur is filled with 19th century Romanticism and although De Certeau’s ideas of the flâneur are provocative when thinking of them in terms of navigability of new media, what is at stake in De Certeau’s appropriation for new media theorists?

Monica Garcia

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