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.
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!
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.