Handbook of Emerging 21st-Century Cities
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Handbook of Emerging 21st-Century Cities

Edited by Kris Bezdecny and Kevin Archer

The majority of the world's population now live in cities, nearly a quarter of which boast populations of one million or more. The rise of globalisation has granted cities unprecedented significance, both politically and economically, leading to benefits and problems at national and international levels. The Handbook of Emerging 21st-Century Cities explores the changes that are occurring in cities, and the impacts that they are having, at the local, national and global scale.
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Chapter 21: The spreadable city: Urban exploration and connective media

André Jansson and Maja Klausen


Cities are shaped by a plethora of competing interests and interventions of various groups. What should a city look like? Who should have access to particular urban places? Such questions raise continuous public debates. Since the mid-1990s, urban exploration has emerged as an alternative form of organized action that actively problematizes spatial power and control in contemporary cities. Urban explorers try to find, access, explore and document places that are abandoned, secret and/or located on the fringes of the city. Their practices can be seen as place-political in a dual sense: partly because they challenge existing regulations and norms, partly because they engage in the circulation of alternative images of the city. Urban explorers thus intervene in the production of space on representational as well as material levels. However, as the current chapter shows, urban exploration is not a homogeneous community. Rather, it is made up of a relatively diverse set of approaches, not least when it comes to attitudes towards various connective media. While certain agents see themselves as urban entrepreneurs, ultimately as brands, and promote their urban imageries according to the logics of spreadability, others operate in greater secrecy and try to maintain the exclusivity and authenticity of their experiences. It is thus possible to conceive of urban exploration as a cultural sub-field where different place-political and cultural attitudes compete, not just in terms of what urban exploration should be, but also in relation to the symbolic construction of cities in times of extended mediatization and commercialization. The analysis is based on 12 interviews and go-alongs among urban explorers in Sweden and Denmark.

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