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Beyond the visual

Rogerson, R.J. and Rice, Gareth (2008) Beyond the visual. In: Sensory Urbanism Proceedings 2008. Flâneur Press, London, pp. 186-193. ISBN 978-0-9559906-0-1

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Abstract

The relationship between moralities and geography can be traced back to the late 1980s when ideology and imagination were used to engage with particular social groups as 'outsiders' from mainstream society (Philo 1987; Sibley 1991; Valentine 1997; Craddock 2000). Increasingly, however, the specific term 'moral geographies' has become aligned with a more general 'moral turn' (Smith 1997; Lee and Smith 2004) across the social sciences to raise a number of questions about the relationship between Urban Renaissance and the design of public (and semi-public) spaces. In examining this relationship, scholars with an interest in 'sensory urbanism' have made some headway in acknowledging the non-visual aspects of the built environment. Previous work includes research on 'soundscapes' (Smith 1994; Raimbault and Dubois 2005; Zhang and Kang 2007), semiotics' (Gottdiener 2003) and 'atmospherics' (Wakefield and Baker 1998; Smith and Burns 2001). In this positional paper, we contribute to the field of 'sensory urbanism' in two main ways: exploring the connections between whose representation of space, and whose modalities are 'desirable' as part of the design process of public spaces. Firstly, drawing on the theoretical apparatus of Henri Lefebvre (1991) we reiterate the importance of 'spatial practice' as a key tenet running right through the urban 'design control' process. Secondly, we put forward ways in which subsequent multi-modal representations of urban space might act as a rejoinder to questions raised by the 'moral geographies' literature. In conclusion, we build upon our observations to argue that a consideration of 'moral geographies' offers one way to unlock the multimodal qualities associated with a progressive sensory urbanism.