I was thinking to myself, just in case it comes up in conversation (e.g. i’m not so secretly hoping that someone will ask), how do I explain my specific interest in reading – this unholy mix of cultural studies, academic nonfiction, soft infrastructure/soft power, urban studies?
Someone told me about this movie where the narrator is given glasses that allow him to see the ‘truth’ behind advertisements - e.g. he looks at a billboard and immediately sees the ‘message’ that they’re trying to get across to him. I think of cultural studies as a very similar lens (semi-literally): it’s a way of seeing the world in which you try to understand the larger forces at work in explaining the physical realities in front of you, of acknowledging the social construction of most things and how that affects the built environment/cultural forces of today.
There’s this essay that I still think about from time to time - Heidegger’s The Age of the World Picture, which I love so much because it shifts focus from ‘technology’ to the world-picture or world-frames its development changes or enables. It’s this emphasis on the world-picture in particular that I find really compelling, but also rewarding; to be able to turn this interpretative lens on whatever you wish. There’s this Kenya Hara quote about how design is about being able to drill down into the realities of something, just as there are infinites between successive integers on the real line.
In a similar way, I find that these kind of cultural studies recover some richness of everyday experience through its study.
And then there are a host of new questions, I think: what is the cultural study of operations research? How has shopping as a cultural institution changed in response to, e.g. economic pressures from Amazon’s 2-day shipping? What are the new social institutions and landscapes surrounding the rise of autonomous vehicles – or conversely, what social/cultural shifts are the conditions of possibility for these technologies to take root at large? What are the identity politics of modern supply chain logistics – identity politics in the age of Zara, H&M and trends straight off the runway for consumption?