CSG.Final blog


In this final blog, I will include three different elements: my view on the course in general, my opinion about the I-pads and how I look back at the presentations, including my own.

In relation to my view on the course in general, I think have to agree with Ali, in her idea that what was most interesting and valuable about this class, was the change it has realised in the way I look at cities. I have lived in Amsterdam for almost 5 years and I have learnt so much about its actual space in the last few weeks of this class, that I almost feel ashamed that I didn’t know it before. When you live in a city it is so easy to neglect it: its beauty becomes normal, its unicity and quirkiness become annoying, the actual manual construction of the city in order to make it more liveable, are mainly a time consuming hazard. With the help of this course I have come to appreciate the city more.

I find it hard to fully ‘grade’ the use of the I-pads. Because I wasn’t able to attend the Kogeto-clip lecture, I only used them during (the preparation of) the presentations. Logically, it’s quite cool to use an I-Pad; I’m not that much of a new media master mind, so it was a new experience for me. On the first tour, the sun made it quite hard to see what was on the screens. I think none of us really had thought about that possibility, but it wasn’t too disturbing. It went a lot better on the second tour. Everybody was prepared and the sun didn’t shine, which also helped of course. All in all, I must say that I really did not do as much with the I-Pads as I had hoped. It would have been a lot easier it there had been Wifi on every location so that clips off the internet could have been shared more easily.

Most presentations I really liked. It’s alway interesting to see how everybody tackles a similar subject in a completely different way. I was quite happy about my own. I think (and hope) that I had an original angle in combining the different ways in which a film can use famous architecture with ideological (or if I use Steyn’s preference discursive) layers and meanings. It is always difficult to estimate how good or how bad it went, but I think I did quite okay. I enjoyed presenting it, so I guess that’s at least one good sign.

Overall, I think this was, together with my elective, the best class this year. I liked the link with cinema and the outdoors-dimension. I also have the idea that everybody got to know each other a little better, which is also nice of course.


Presentations Week Two and Final Review

Robyn: Once again, there was a great variety of interesting presentations, each exploring their own take on the city space and everything we’ve covered on the course. I was very happy with my presentation and I actually found putting it together really interesting. There were so many angles and layers I wanted to explore and everytime I watched Inception I could think of even more I wanted to say. I think I managed to condense it nicely though and cut my points down to the ones I found most relevant to the course – I had to keep stopping myself from just performing a film student analysis.

My conclusion was that the city walker in fact takes prominence when considering representations of the city in Inception. Stemming from the same roots as De Certeau, I argued that the it is the personal experience of the walker that creates their narrative and not the physical, constructed environment in which they find themselves. In retrospect, one point I forgot to emphasise was the fickle nature of the city walker regarding their relationship to the city. Although the walker uses the city to create their own grand narrative, construct their lives, their hopes, their dreams. The walker is also able to ‘re-monumentalize’ a new city if and when required. As Groys notes, “today, when we cease to be satisfied with the life that is offered to us in our own cities, we no longer strive to change, revolutionize or rebuild this city; instead, we simply move to a new city – for a short period or forever – in search of what we miss in our home city”. Again suggesting that the city has this superficial and interchangable layer. Despite the prominent role the city has in the narrative of our lives, it is the personal experience of the spectator that takes prominence, the city walker is the architect of their own journey and the setting for that journey is far from limited to the city space we find ourselves in at any one time.

With regards to the course as a whole, I feel like I have achieved a handful of new insights into the representation and analysis of the city space. Although sometimes it was difficult to make links from the literature to cinematic examples, I certainly think the course has influenced the way I now experience the city as a city walker. Being a foreign student, the city of Amsterdam is playing huge part in constructing my overall experience here and I think that gave me an interesting perspective to consider some of the literature from, particularly Bass and his insiders and outsiders and of course De Certeau. We tried some new approaches to learning with the ipads and kotego cameras which was a different experience from all other classes so far, and although we have already spoken about the pros and cons of these, they were certainly a welcome addition to the class. Looking back at content, I did find that in both classes and presentations, we often dwelled a lot on context where analysis could have been deepened. Maybe one or two big case studies (one fiction, one non-fiction?) in the first couple of weeks where we really explored and applied literature to cinematic representations of the city could have been helpful, especially to help make the expectations of our presentations clearer? But other than that, a very enjoyable and unique course that has certainly opened my eyes and a great way to end the year!

Course Review

AP: On reflection, I think the most valuable element of this course has been how it has changed the way that I now view actual city experiences. The literature and examples we have presented have given me a practical, real viewpoint of the cities I experience rather than a merely theoretical standpoint. The literature was all relevant (although I don’t remember discussing the very first piece?). I think the popular texts (De Certeau and Bass predominantly) were the most interesting in this aspect as they provided frameworks that really related the city to its experience – De Certeau through the act of walking and Bass through the different ‘types’ of viewpoints that can be established. I do think however that this was too simply linked in some presentations as to whether the Director was an insider or outsider to the city in question, which is a relevant contextual question to ask, but Bass’ points were perhaps more complex in relation to constructing representations than the origins of the film maker themselves. More questions could be posed in relation to the intended audience and the constructions presented in the films. I think also De Certeau was a challenging piece, so some extra support in the literature sessions in terms of helping us extrapolate the key points within his writing could have helped. We seemed to all agree that it was difficult to fully comprehend rather than have time to delve into what the core points actually were.

From my perspective as a Film Studies student, I felt fairly at home with some of the literature, such as Sanders, Clarke and Chapt5 Schwarzer, however when we had to choose the literature to read for week 2’s discussion, I don’t think there was time to read through them all to select the most appropriate choices for me, so I tended to choose ones that interested me in my field of study rather than pushing my boundaries. Perhaps on blackboard each could have a small abstract to aid our choices for discussions and make them more fruitful for each individual. I think the Kogeto camera discussions were great, but perhaps moreso for assessment purposes at this stage rather than our individual learning – they are of course accessible to us, but with the workload of weekly presentations it was difficult to find time to rewind to the conversations of a few weeks ago and watch through each groups presentations. I did watch some of them and although interesting, rarely pushed my understanding much further. As our presentations were based upon the application of literature to film examples, I wonder if a clear case study could have been presented after the discussions (perhaps cut down the second round of group swapping  as I think too many texts were used in this session to truly get to grips with them, which is why we ended up spending time explaining them to each other, especially in the 2nd round). I realise this is a masters level course, thus we are expected to conduct our own research but at the end of the literature session an example of a theory such as De Certeau’s in application to a film would have illustrated it more clearly, perhaps helping with general understanding of the concepts and closed the session nicely.

I have to admit I was a little lost at the beginning of the course in finding the relevance between the in depth (although interesting) geographical history and development of the city and aim of the course in terms of cinematic representation. This became clearer as we got into the city presentations but I feel that the information presented at the start was not easily applicable, although that might have been just down to the locations that we selected in our group. I enjoyed discussing the Tuschinski and Cinetone as they are both closely related to film production and exhibition, but this did limit the information we needed in terms of the surrounding area/architecture that may have been presented in this first week. Due to this we also didn’t use the Geoplaza site, but we did make use of the other archive sites for information and photographs which were useful, but hard to present on the ipads.

The final presentations worked well to show differing applications of the literature and I think everyone worked hard to present examples that would add something to the group’s understanding. I mostly enjoyed those that extended the theories with examples rather than merely illustrating the existing  literature. Robyn’s selection of Inception as a case study was great in this respect as the film lent itself to several different points being drawn from it. Monica’s presentation was also interesting, I liked being able to learn more about the lived experience of the city by hearing her viewpoint of it as a resident, then seeing the film examples that approached these issues in different ways. Unfortunately my home town is a little small and not much happens/films are not made there so this was not an option for me! But I think that as this is an international masters, one of the benefits is that we learn about other people’s home cities as well as the one we are temporarily inhabiting. Working in groups was useful in terms of sharing out research, but I do think that individual blogs would have been more useful rather than sharing posts/cluttering a single blog page. Overall I know much more about Amsterdam (and was able to give some great tour guide advice to a recent visitor!!) and the course has extended my previous studies on representations of city spaces in film.

Final Presentation review (Ali)

AP: As Robyn mentioned the first week of presentations were certainly interesting and the range of results demonstrate the interconnecting points from the literature of weeks 1-3. It was also interesting to see how the same literature could be drawn upon to illustrate different approaches to cinematic city representations. On reflection of my presentation, I (once again) had too much information to convey in the time limit, although I think my case study approach allowed for this – the core aim could still be conveyed in the material I was able to use in 15minutes. It was a shame to skim over the points I had collected from To Rome With Love, as this extended some of De Certeau’s points to an interesting level. I wanted to explain how the opening and closing sequences illustrated not just an attention to the figure of the ‘City Walker’ in the main characters of the piece but in the use of the traffic conductor and the resident Italian introducing and closing the film, arguing over who saw the most of the city’s stories, really emphasised the narratological element – the ‘telling’ of the unheard stories that occur within in the City on ground level on a daily basis. Allen is giving both author and spectator to the ‘chorus of footsteps’ that is usually a silent song. This film also had another interesting reflexive element in the 2 storylines that were based upon Italian citizens not tourists, that hinted at Bass’ ‘Insiders View – Rome as the City of Films (the parody of celebrity culture and the ‘film within a film’ elements).

Nonetheless, I am confident of my conclusion and enjoyed discussing Allen’s movies with the class. I just had too much to say! Such a rich topic. As much as I enjoyed the Amsterdam based comparisons as they extended the city presentations well, I also really liked hearing about cinematic representations in different countries, revealing  differing issues depending on geographical, social, political and economic contexts of the productions. I think the peer assessment forms could be revised slightly to be more course specific – some of the categories overlap also so could be simplified to make the feedback more useful for the presenter.

Week one presentations reflection

Robyn: I found the first round of presentations very interesting and I enjoyed that most people chose to approach their subjects from a different angle – although Bass was a reoccurring appearance. Christopher’s presentation about the city’s ability to reflect an ideology within a film is one that could particularly relate to my own presentation, as I will be drawing upon the way the themes of dreams, illusion and human experience in Inception are reflected onto the cityscape and architecture.

I also found Steyn’s introduction of Boris Groys’ work very interesting, particularly the idea that it is the tourist that creates the monumentalising gaze and not the object itself, as well as the resulting repetition effect this is having on cities. Groys notes, “today, when we cease to be satisfied with the life that is offered to us in our own cities, we no longer strive to change, revolutionize or rebuild this city; instead, we simply move to a new city – for a short period or forever – in search of what we miss in our home city. Mobility between cities – in all shades of tourism and migration – has radically altered our relationship to the city as well as the cities themselves.” This presents an interchangeable nature of the city. Groys also argues how easily places and spaces can be re-monumentalized, suggesting the nature of human’s relationship to the city space is a fickle one. He continues, claiming we now live in a time of post-romantic tourism where, “rather than the individual romantic tourist, it is instead all manner of people, things, signs and images drawn from all kinds of local cultures that are now leaving their places of origin and undertaking journeys around the world”. As a result, “present-day urban architecture has now begun to move faster than its viewers. This architecture is almost always already there before the tourists arrive. In the time race between tourists and architecture it is now the tourist who loses. Although the tourist is annoyed to encounter the same architecture everywhere he goes, he is also amazed to see how successful a certain type of architecture has proved to be in a wide range of disparate cultural settings. We are now prepared to be attracted and persuaded particularly by artistic strategies capable of producing art that achieves the same degree of success regardless of the cultural context and conditions in which it is viewed.” Therefore suggesting that city spaces have indeed become interchangable, almost false and superficial where they were once romanticised. However, it is as a result of progressive society and the spectator that this has happened. Thus tying perfectly in with my research questions for my presentation:

– In what way does the city become a superficial and movable construction in Nolan’s film, particularly through the metaphor of dream and blurring of boundaries between reality and representation?
– To what extent is human experience solely responsible for the presentation and manipulation of the city space?

My presentation will follow the trajectory that the city in Inception is a construct, a tool. An ambiguous space that often has no need to be defined, as long as it’s there – much like a dream. I will argue that the city is constructed by the walker, and it is the walker’s emotional need and perspective that is of the utmost importance, not the space in which they find themselves. The city walker is the architect of their own journey, just like the team require a dream architect in  the film.
Of course I will be expanding on this on Tuesday so until then, here’s a short clip to hopefully draw some parallels with my explanation of Groys:


Use of the iPads

RC: The ipads were certainly a novel aspect of the city tours and being able to watch clips at each location in order to analyse and compare any changes or prominant aspects in each setting was particularly useful. However, with regards to our first presentation at Tuschinski we were somewhat limited by the material available to us on the ipad. With only one clip uploaded for us to discuss we therefore did our own research to gather more film sequences set in our space. However, the major issue here was the inability to upload these clips onto the ipad. I’m unaware of how the technology functions and whether this is even possible but it would have been useful if we’d been able to upload our own clips onto our ipad and then share this with the others, maybe create a link or something in blackboard so the others could then download the same clip and we could all watch it together on location. We did try to tackle this issue with Christopher kindly bringing his laptop to the Tuschinski so we could watch a clip from that, but that was still only one screen between all of us and it seemed a shame when we had so many ipads between us at that moment but no use for them.

In terms of the usefulness of the ipad out of presentation time, I was not in charge of looking after it and therefore didn’t really get to explore its potential. Other than that, they were light, easy to carry around, and, although the weather interfered from time to time, provdided us with a unique collection of portable film clips to screen at each location!

AP: As I was the ipad holder I can comment on its use (or lack of) out of class. I have to admit this was minimal, partly as the ipad we had did not have a camera in use, thus playing with the Vistory app as I had planned couldn’t happen -I also had trouble in terms of the ipad being set on another Itunes log in and when trying to download the app itself the ipad asked for updates in software (I could have investigated fixes for this but to be honest had collected lots of information from other sources and did not have time). So perhaps to get the most out of this I could have asked more questions or there could have been a small amount of time given to explaining the ‘set up’ of apps/software etc. I was grateful for the ability to upload images and websites etc to the ipad pre-presentation, but again this was not  that useful across multiple ipads or relied upon wifi which the ipads seemed reluctant to connect to. They were useful on the whole as Robyn noted above – watching and comparing the clips on location was very valuable to the city walk presentations (even with the slight weather issues). I suppose the only solution would be to set up the presentation topics earlier in order to get any clips we wanted on all of the ipads, however this may not be time efficient with such a short course. 

Review on second presentation at the Cinetone Studio

I think I (and we as a group) did a much better job the second week of presentations. We knew better what was expected of us and therefore were better prepared. I really liked the way in which we worked as a team and divided up the work.

I was responsible for a brief introduction and the very important task of translating the Dutch texts. Ali and Robyn elaborated on my introduction with a broad theoretical framework, links to films that were made at Cinetone and an overall academical context. I think (and hope) I also helped with that and together I think we were able to lift our presentation to an academic, master’s degree worthy, level.

The only that could have been better, is the length of our presentation. It was quite long. Of course this also had to do with everybody ordering a drink and enjoying the fact that they could sit for a moment, but everything could have a been a little bit shorter. But, there was just so much to say about this particular location 🙂


Second City Presentation and Kogeto Films


City Presentation

Despite the weather, I think the second city walk was much more successful than the previous week. Namely, because people had a better idea of what to do and what to expect and offered a more in depth analysis of the spaces. Cinetone studios was a lot easier to research than Tuschinski last week as there was a much wider range of research materials available as well as many more films relating to the location – as opposed to the 2 we were limited to with Tuschinski. However, this did mean we had a lot to say and I think we ran over time quite significantly! What I found particularly interesting was a return to this relationship between reality and representation, or representation within representation – a studio space within a film – and the effect this has on spectators. With the Holland’s Hollywood clip, the superficiality of the film industry and built/movable aspect of the studio was highlighted yet the lyrics of the song discussed the romanticised aspect of film that everybody craves to be a part of regardless of this falsness. I also find interesting a studios ability to create scenes not possible in the external, ‘real’ space, almost a claim that scenes shot outside the studio are ‘reality’ when in actual fact all film can do is present representation. All adding to the illusion of cinema – another thing we can link to Baudrillard and simulacra (something I will expand on in my final presentation).

Kogeto films

Unfortunately our video discussion of the Penz/Tati text failed to work so I was not able to reflect upon it. However the text was not too theoretical but more a case study of Tati’s work, so there was not too much to pick apart. Although we did find a great similarity between Tati and De Certeau’s attitude towards the city and the tension they both see between this idealized, romanticized city concept and the reality of the expanding, planned, modern city. With regards to the functioning of the films, I personally am not convinced by this particular app. I think it’s a great idea to record class discussions to have material to return to when performing research as often it’s too difficult or fast paced to take clear notes at the time. The 360 degree is also useful to decipher who is doing the talking. However, I think the fact that the app is able to record videos for 8 minutes is a definite limitation – big parts of our discussion were lost and thus it was not clear who contributed what. I agree that large part of the discussion were more summaries but I think that’s inevitable when each member of the group has read a different text, in the groups where we had read mutual texts, things were able to get more in depth and comparative. However, this summarising did come in useful when watching the videos discussing texts I hadn’t read, as it enabled me to get a clearer grasp of their concepts.

Cinetone reflection/Kogeto discussions AP


I thought that our presentation this week (along with the other groups) was much stronger in terms of finding the cinematic relevance and comparison with the locations and embedding some of the literature that we are now familiar with from class. I found this much harder to do at our Tuschinski location as there didn’t appear to be much change over time (renovation to original obviously important though), but also due to it being more of a exhibition venue rather than shooting venue material was harder to find. It also did not appear on many of the archive sites apart from promotional footage of premieres/events etc. The Cinetone location countered this and I think we provided a detailed presentation of its background, use and how it represented itself and areas of Amsterdam through film. Hollands Hollywood – the ‘film within a film’ –  was a useful clip to show how the new studio was sold, and the juxtaposition of glamourous Hollywood with the countryside of Duivendrecht as discussed in our presentation.

I had much more luck on a range of research sources to discover information in this area as the Cinetone marked a particular high in Dutch feature film making from the arrival of sound technology. Film in Nederlands was particularly useful for contextual information on the development of sound and the Jordaan film genre.  The photographs on the Stadsarcheif archive showed the studio interior which was useful as we could only enter the converted cafe area. I was glad that I loaded these up on the Ipad beforehand as the wifi connection did not work on the others for some reason. This was also a shame as I had the opening sequences to De Jantjes and Bleeke Bet to show to demonstrate the sets in action, but to be fair we did also use up our time slot so this perhaps would have been too long. The opening to De Jantjes is interesting though and I forgot to mention how well received the authentic ‘on location’ shots of the opening sequence that show the canals and streets of Amsterdam were, demonstrating that a blend between studio and location footage was successful, mixing the best of both worlds – the construction of the studio to your desired appearance and the authenticity lent by shots of the beauty of the ‘actual’ city.

The short lived boom of the ‘Jordaan films’ provided particularly interesting comparison, and demonstrated the capabilities of the truly ‘built’ environment the studio can offer- the city within a city. We discussed this fairly thoroughly in our presentation thus I will not repeat it here, but I found it interesting how romanticised the community was made to appear in contrast to the social antagonism of the time in the very same area (mass unemployment and benefit cuts – riots etc). This is clearly idealist and promotional – selling a ‘vision’ of the Jordaan that did not quite exist, but appealed to ‘the Dutch heart’.

The set photographs and postcard/powerpoint slides also illustrated our points nicely (although perhaps overwhelmed our audience in terms of volume, maybe less would have been more in this short presentation). I think booking the table in the Cinetone was a nice touch, and the mint tea was nice 🙂

Kogeto discussions:

The kogeto cameras are great tools for this 360 view of a discussion – as a teacher I am considering getting my College to invest in them also to record group discussions. It is useful to see them now for reflection but perhaps this would have been good to see a little earlier in the course, so that we could apply the results of other discussions in our presentations along the way if relevant. The discussions do involve descriptions of the works rather than full analysis at all times, but when in the discussion this is a necessary phase -it is hard to condense a 30 page academic article into quick terms for a group, but this is a skill to develop.  I did try as much as possible to make links between the works and on reflection, perhaps need to pose questions to others more in order to draw out further points from their texts rather than talking over my texts. The mix of texts in the second discussion was interesting, but some harder to link than others – I did not get a good grasp of Shiel’s text, Ada noting that it applied a very different approach in analysing theoretical frameworks rather than illustrative examples of films that represent the city in certain ways. I would have liked to have understood this text in more detail in the discussion.

In response to some of the questions posed on the comments to my discussions – in relation to De Certeau and Sanders, we certainly identified that the Sanders text was easier to digest as the writing style is more straightforward and the content less challenging. To me, it was more of an illustrated comparative account rather than a proposal of a new theoretical approach, which is I think what De Certeau was aiming for – a new way of comprehending the experience of the city. A text that is less challenging is not necessarily better, as it may not be offering as sophisticated or interesting analysis however a text that loses its readers is also not effective. I think we all got lost around the same area – the underlying points were clear in places i.e. the subjective experience of the city can only be gained from the ground, this is where subversive practices to the uniformity of the city structure and organisation occur. Only then do the stories and meanings of the city truly be constructed – to the individual walking the city streets. I can only speak for myself, but perhaps did not have the literary theoretical luggage to comment upon whether his links to the structure of language etc apply to the city walker experience. I thought that this was strained but as I have noted before, showed De Certeau perhaps trying to reflect the poetics of walking through the poetics of his writing (medium is the message).

The other discussions in the group were fruitful and although descriptive as noted by Ivo, were helpful post-class to get an overview of the texts that I had not read/did not appear in my discussion groups. Links to the reading of the  Intermedialities course were also interesting, and not something that popped up in my discussions.


City of Memory

City of Memory

RC: When researching the city as a space of memory for next weeks presentation, I found this adorable little website about New York. Users can explore a map of the city and zoom into pin-pointed areas where they can read stories either curated by city lore or uploaded by other users. Stories can be historical facts about the city, quirky little did-you-knows, or stories of places people met, experienced good fortune, fell in love, got married etc.

Such a lovely concept!