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Lighting as infrastructure and as atmosphere: designs and disorder in Cartagena, Colombia

Lighting as infrastructure and as atmosphere: designs and disorder in Cartagena, Colombia
Hosted by: Sociology # University of Edinburgh; Speaker: Don Slater # The London School of Economics and Political Science
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Date and Time
4th Nov 2015 11:00 - 4th Nov 2015 13:00
CMB - 6th floor common room


This paper draws on research by the Configuring Light research group at LSE Sociology. We draw on science and technology studies and material culture studies to investigate light as a material that is both practically consequential and analytically useful in understanding how social life is materially staged. The specific focus of this paper is public realm lighting design, which generally aims to provide a technical infrastructure that simultaneously produces an identity or atmosphere. This paper will explore the relationship between infrastructure and atmosphere through a case study in which the two were in intense contradiction and conflict with each other: Getsemani is a district of Cartagena, a UNESCO world heritage site, subject to intensive gentrification yet valued by residents and visitors for its edgy, vibrant, multicultural atmosphere. This atmosphere is supported by chaotic lighting that both emerges from and mirrors diverse patterns of socialising in the nighttime. In a social scape in which it is the *undesigned* ambience that is socially central, what would it mean to design lighting, and how could or should  design as a profession interact with emergent and vernacular lighting infrastructures? Finally, the paper argues that this is simply an extreme case of a normal problem: light is a material that spills, that is produced as a by-product of everyday practices (like driving a car or switching on domestic lights), and that is configured unpredictably through its interactions with other materials. How can lighting designers deal with the fact that light seems to confound design?

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