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Visibility of events, places and things (1917-present)

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

With the rise of modernity in the early twentieth century and the growth of popular culture since the 1950s people have looked increasingly to their favorite sports teams, musicians, films, TV series, books, comics, games and celebrities to build a sense of identity and form social relationships with others. At the same time, the visibility and importance of events, places and things has grown as global media networks and transportation allowed people from all over the world to witness historic moments, visit unfamiliar locations and collect new objects. Media events have captivated audiences, brought people together and created indelible memories that pass from generation to generation. Media events are part of a global network of communication, where culture moves across national borders carried through news outlets, television broadcasters and social media platforms. From Orson Welles’ War of the Worlds live radio performance in 1938 that brought New York City to a standstill to the real life horrors of 9/11 that shocked the world, the visual attraction of media events reminds us we are all connected and that connection is often made through the association of place. Famous cities such New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris regularly provide the physical backdrop to global events but culture exists in some of the most unusual or mundane places.
Through the mid to late twentieth century, increases in the standard of living and leisure time have meant the tourist industry has changed; growing exponentially as new technologies and methods of travel open up every corner of the globe at relatively low cost. While tourism based on sun, sea and the exotic is neither surprising nor new, traveling to parts of the world associated with texts and icons of popular culture has become an important part of what it means to be a fan. From visiting the fictional home of Sherlock Holmes at 221b Baker Street to finding the final resting place of Elvis at Graceland in Memphis enthusiastic media audiences have been able to make connections to texts, places and people through travel. Similarly, sports stadia and concert venues have gathered fans together in the ritualistic and passionate celebration of popular culture; shared moments in a shared space that increases the significance and poignancy of a moment in time witnessed live. What has become apparent in popular culture tourism is that fans of music, film, television and celebrities are more visible, willing to spend the money, and able to travel further in order to get close to and interact with their objects of affection.
Audiences replicate the ephemeral and emotional experience of watching and reading by immersing themselves into familiar spaces and places they have only previously encountered through page or screen. Fandom is physical just as much as places are mediated. The physicality of media events and venerated places of popular culture is brought to the fore thanks to the popularity of objects; either souvenirs from trips taken or merchandise purchased to prove you were there. These objects become collectible and highly prized amongst audiences who recognise and value the personal and emotional connections they represent. From to a copy of the first issue of Action Comics (featuring Superman’s debut) sold at auction for $2.16 million in 2011 to the baseball dropped in the stands by Chicago Cubs fan Steve Bartman (ruining the team’s chances at advancing to the World Series) famous and one-of-a-kind objects attract attention and are deemed worthy of celebration and even condemnation. Owning valued objects represents an attempt to acquire more economic capital (the rarer the item, the more money it costs to purchase) but it is also about the display of cultural capital (where having a fan identity is reliant on establishing status in a hierarchical community).
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationA Cultural History of Fame in the Modern Age
EditorsKatja Lee
PublisherBloomsbury Publishing Company
Volume6
Publication statusAccepted for publication - 2020

Publication series

NameThe Cultural History of Fame
PublisherBloomsbury

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