Visual Communication and the Mediatized City: From Billboards to Offices of Urban Planning in Cairo

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Abstract Summary
Visual communication in urban planning and design disciplines is the main form of creating as well as exchanging their ideas and interpretations about the urban environment, not only among planners/architects, but also between them and the general public. Many urban scholars in Egypt also addressed the role of visualizations and graphics in planning as well as its communication (i.e. Selim (2015) and Abotera & Ashoub (2017)). Today, by simply walking in the streets of Cairo or opening one of the national TV channels, one get captured by hundreds of real estate ads that share certain characteristics that can be summarized in two points; promoting moving out of Cairo and buying a new apartment or villa in a new city or a nearby compound, and the use of almost the same visual symbols (i.e. 3d models of the apartments overlooking a big green area, swimming pools, shopping centers....etc,) that resembles how the future city looks like. The above introduction exposes the significant role visualizations play in planning and designating cities, however, to what extent these dominant narratives and visuals impact/construct the professional planning practice, is still under-researched. This is interrogated in this paper through adapting an assemblage ontology and using Actor- Network-Theory (ANT) starting from the street urban-visual experience and going backward to one of the micro publics that creates it (planners and planning offices). This paper adapts a reverse/backward process trying to unravel the layers behind the construction of street billboard. Using ANT, urban visualizations and media are perceived as both the method for research and the method for understanding planning practice and planners' role accordingly. This study shows a first scratch in the communicative network of urban projects in Cairo written from the perspective of assemblages and human-non-human actants - using ANT, telling the story of how media co-construct the urban in Egypt. In general, different actants are formed between human and non-human actors (media) in relation to different communicative situations. The planning knowledge that is communicated to the general public in Cairo's streets showed to be mostly consisting of 3d rendered urban images with English or French slogans promising a greener and bluer future. Meanwhile, the contact between planners and the general public doesn’t go beyond these images. Planners are constantly met with the images they produce in the streets (which is emancipated by their education and the omnipresence of similar images all over the streets). This makes planners themselves get caught in reproducing what they produce (market). The study does not show how planners influence the public by their 3d images, but rather how planners are embedded and enrolled and impacted by what they produce. So in a way, planners visualize plans and after that these images recreates planners. In the end, media as an important tool in communicating planning and the city to the general public, urban planners become one of the influenced micro public who does not only create it also but also get affected by it. In a mediatized city like Cairo, planning is media
Abstract ID :
ISO47
Submission Type
Draft presentation :
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Associated Sessions

Research associate and Phd Student
,
TU Berlin

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