Virtual Space and the Contention over Representations of the City
Lähdesmäki, T. (2015). Virtual Space and the Contention over Representations of the City. In H. Breslow, & A. Ziethen (Eds.), Beyond the Postmodern: Space and Place for the Early 21st Century (pp. 93-118). Oxford: Inter-Disciplinary Press.
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© 2015 Inter-Disciplinary Press. This is a final draft version of an article whose final and definitive form has been published by Inter-Disciplinary Press. Published in this repository with the kind permission of the publisher.
The European Capital of Culture (ECOC) is one of the longest running cultural initiatives of the European Union (EU). The EU annually designates one or more cities with this much-competed-for city brand. In various cities the ECOC designation has caused tensions and disagreements over the decision-making process, funding of cultural events, and the use of urban space. These disputes have also generated urban activism that uses various platforms to contest ECOC policies: public discussions in the local media, Internet sites and blogs, as well as alternative events and activities organised by the citizens themselves. This chapter investigates the conflict related to the ECOC designation of Turku (Finland) in 2011, which ultimately produced alternative meanings and representations of the city. The study focuses on a local group of urban activists and their project, ‘Turku—European Capital of Subculture 2011.’ The opposition on the part of these activists to the official ECOC designation was expressed through an appropriation and alternative interpretation of urban space using online texts, images, and videos. The Internet in general, and social media in particular, enabled the project to create critical communalities. Drawing on virtual ethnography and a ‘close reading’ of textual and visual material, I will analyse the urban polyphony and explore how these activists challenged official meanings of the city and its public spaces. ...