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Placing Words: Symbols, Space, and the City
The meaning of a message, says William Mitchell, depends on the context of its reception. "Shouting 'fire' in a crowded theater produces a dramatically different effect from barking the same word to a squad of soldiers with guns," he observes. In Placing Words, Mitchell looks at the ways in which urban spaces and places provide settings for communication and at how they co ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 26th 2005 by Mit Press
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I picked up Mitchell's book purely for the title - "Placing Words: Symbols, Space and the City". The title, blurb, even the intro, sounded fascinating - how cities provide the canvas and the context for words and symbols to (re)create, convey and change meaning. I didn't realise that the book was really just a collection of Mitchell's monthly columns for the Royal Institute of British Architects Journal from Feb 2003 to May 2005 (with one article originally published in the Scientific American). ...more
A collection of short essays, mostly written as monthly columns for the RIBA Journal, Mitchell here seems to emulate the prose of the late Stephen Jay Gould. His weaving of popular culture and current political references to enhance (or construct) certain observations about architectural/urbanist culture is, ultimately, less convincing than much of Gould's evolutionary-science-for-the-lay-person contributions to Nature magazine (though, as one with a propensity to listen to rap music, I was surp ...more
Some strong hits and a few stray misses in this collection of essays about urbanism, network technology, fashion, and architecture. I enjoyed the variety in the essay styles - the perverse satire of Architectural Principals of the Torture Chamber to the comparative essay of the prison experiences of Marquis de Sade and Martha Stewart in Camp Cupcake Blues. The collection reminds me of the cultural analysis of Roland Barthes in Mythologies mixed with the techne society criticism of Marshal McLuha ...more
in theory, i should love this stuff, but as it's a series of essays, it merely touches on a lot of interesting ideas without really exploring them. there are some solid insights, but it never goes beyond casual observer, and i expect more from the dean of mit's architecture school. i'd still like to go and study there though...