Seeing the Sensible Side: Multi-Sensory Methods and the City

Earl Harper

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)


In 1967, Guy Debord published his seminal text: The Society of the Spectacle, providing still one of the most complete and influential pieces of writing on the ways in which visual and multisensory representation and material reality interact to produce ‘spectacles.’ The study of these spectacles demands innovative methods as the researcher allows themselves to be consumed by (and analyse from within) the multi-various forms of social and human interaction in contemporary urban arenas. According to scholars such as Swyngedouw, Lefebvre, Žižek and Barthes, the urban arena and life in general is an ever-accelerating collection and flow of spectacles, making the study of them even more important in today’s post-truth, emotion mediated society.
Building on research currently being undertaken for my doctoral thesis, this paper will explore the ways in which multisensory and visual research methodologies, specifically semiology, can be applied to better understand the urban environment. Using examples of ecologically gentrified developments in London and the UK more broadly, the paper will demonstrate the utility of visual semiotic deconstruction to explore ideologies present in the urban landscape. The paper will explore the work of Gillian Rose and Marcus Banks to develop a more ‘seeing’ methodology, drawing on John Prosser.
The paper will conclude with general statements about the benefits and limitations of using this methodological approach and the possible situations it could be applied to for future research. As the nature of visual research is extremely similar to multi-sensory research, connections and similarities will also be drawn out explicitly.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRoyal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference
Place of PublicationLondon
Publication statusPublished - 29 Aug 2017
EventRoyal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference - Kensington Gore, London, United Kingdom
Duration: 29 Aug 20171 Sep 2017


ConferenceRoyal Geographical Society (with IBG) Annual Conference
CountryUnited Kingdom


  • Visual Methods
  • spectacle
  • ideology

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