Eric Gordon


On his book The Urban Spectator: American Concept Cities from Kodak to Google

Cover Interview of March 07, 2010


My book makes an argument about the influence of media on urban design and culture.  Too often, cities are designed without considering how people actually experience them.  The nature of spectatorship, how it is constructed through media practices, is absolutely essential for designing good cities.

Digital media is already altering the urban landscape.  GPS-enabled smart phones, for instance, are making it possible for one’s physical location to factor into their web searches.  So whether or not architects and planners are paying attention, the digital possessive will be formative of American urbanism in the foreseeable future.

The real challenge will be in the more subtle changes that the digital possessive implies. Spectatorship is not only the result of direct interaction with technology. In most cases, technology has served primarily as a structuring metaphor for urban looking. The digital possessive will begin to alter how spectators interact with each other, with or without network connection. It will begin to alter how they interact with the built environment, with or without technology. It is imperative for designers, planners, and architects not to mistake spectatorship for the technology that helps shape it.  Spectatorship is culture; and the way we design and inhabit cities is a direct reflection of that culture.

The Urban Spectator is about the 20th Century American city.  But as more and more people move into cities throughout the 21st century, the experiences born of them will be even more influential on the way we live and on shaping the values that guide our lives.

© 2010 Eric Gordon