Thursday, July 17, 2014

An interesting take on attachment to place: not just sets!

Image above: The West 81st Street address that was home to Jerry, Kramer, and Newman can still be found on a quiet block between Amsterdam and Columbus avenues.

Related links to Spatialworlds  
Spatialworlds website

Australian Geography Teachers' Association website    

Where am I??  

Adelaide, Australia: S: 34º 55' E: 138º 36'

The Geographic Legacy of 'Seinfeld'

Although focussing on the Seinfeld comedy series, the example profiled in this posting provides the opportunity to explore the concept of place and peoples attachment to place from afar - that is attachment to place, even though an individual has never been to that place, but only experienced it through their TV screens. In fact, there is an industry across the world built around an individuals attachment to place through paintings, plays, books, movies and television. When visiting a place a person wants to see it 'in the flesh', to feel and sense the actual place that they had lived and experienced through the art form. Although attached to a place through their imagination, a person can often be disappointed that although the place looks physically the same, it no longer exists as they imagined because the human component that was an integral part of their attachment to the place from afar is no longer there. The human component that gave the individual their attachment and sense of place no longer exists. Even so the person still wants to visit the place to let their imagination make what it can of the place as it is. 
If this sounds all rather indulgent and somewhat abstract, I feel that the example of the Seinfeld places in New York and peoples fascination with seeing these places is a great chance to elucidate the richness of the place concept in the Australian Curriculum: Geography - to draw out the aspect of the concept which is very much a human construct. If nothing else, if you were/are still a fan of Seinfeld, why not let your geographical imagination about place run wild by flicking through the 'real' locations out of "the series about nothing". As the site says, "why not make maps about nothing?" ... but is it about nothing? It really is about our attachment to the place Seinfeld and his friends occupied!

  Taking the discussion one step  further, why not get students to do a virtual study of the locations in their favourite television show (or whatever art form they wish) and draw a map of the sites and embed images for each of the places identified. There certainly are tours of the Seinfeld sites (the one conducted by the real Kramer certainly would play with your mind!), Sex in the City tour, The Lord of the Rings Middle Earth sites in New Zealand, the bar from Cheers and the sites in New York from Friends - I am sure there are many more such place based tours. The difference with these tours compared to a tour of famous iconic places is that with these sites we feel a very strong attachment to (rather than just fascination with) because we feel that we have actually visited the place through the characters we enjoyed and in many cases identified with - the characters and the places they inhabited became part of our lives and geography.

 The Seinfeld locations: Maps about nothing! 

* The attached site is a digital reality tour of five classic New York locations still existing, and five since gone. 

* Part of the site provides a spatial guide to New York and scenes from the series.

As much as Seinfeld is a show about nothing, it's also essentially a show about New York. No other series integrated Manhattan life into its story lines to a greater degree. As Jerry Seinfeld says: 
"It wasn't clear at the beginning that the city itself would be such a big character in the show."

The city supplied the "excruciating minutia" that kept the narrative motor running for a group of self-obsessed, over-analytical, otherwise-unoccupied characters (think about it: only Elaine had a steady job). Given the close connection between city and show, it seemed fitting to check on Seinfeld's geographic legacy as a place. The site profiles five classic Seinfeld spots still in New York to be visited, and five since gone.

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