Urban Communication| Being Through There Matters: Materiality, Bodies, and Movement in Urban Communication Research

Greg Dickinson, Giorgia Aiello


Increasingly, scholars have turned to the urban built environment as a medium of communication in its own right. The bricks and mortar of cities are communicative insofar as they shape, constrain, and ultimately also mediate the everyday lives of individuals and communities. We draw on our own and others’ work in the broader field of rhetorical studies to state that “being through there” matters as a methodological approach to examining the urban built environment as a key form of mediation. Looking both backward and forward, we argue that this approach to studying the city is centered on three key concepts: materiality, bodies, and movement. This means that we must directly engage as fully embodied communication scholars with the built landscape, with temporality, and in movement. We therefore offer a number of examples to show communication scholars how to bring their own material possibilities into experiencing contact with the urban built environment, how to reconstruct urban landscapes’ histories and ongoing changes, and how to integrate considerations about both direction and speed into the study of urban communication.


materiality, movement, embodiment, cities, rhetorical studies, urban communication, research methods

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