RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2014

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106 Lighting Conflicts (1)
Convenor(s) Dietrich Henckel (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
Josiane Meier (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
Chair(s) Dietrich Henckel (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
Timetable Wednesday 27 August 2014, Session 3 (14:40 - 16:20)
Room Sherfield Building, Room 9
Session abstract Artificial outdoor illumination – from street lights to brightly lit buildings and billboards – has become a commonplace feature in many regions of the world. As such, it is often taken for granted and has been met with little regard by the public, policy-makers and researchers outside the humanities for a number of decades. This has begun to change significantly with a confluence of developments that are changing lighting itself and that affect the way it is viewed: among others, technological innovations, such as the LED and ‘smart’ technologies, come with new qualities and intensities of lighting; many municipalities are dimming or switching off lights to cut costs while many cities are staging lighting festivals to attract visitors; a growing number of countries is establishing lighting regulations; and the term ‘light pollution’ is increasingly used to describe adverse effects of light at night. While conflicts pertaining to artificial lighting are nothing new, current developments such as those outlined above are likely leading to an increase in and a diversification of types of lighting conflicts.
This session seeks to bring together researchers with an interest in the ‘dark’ sides of artificial illumination, in order to discuss the state of knowledge and ways forward in research on lighting conflicts. We aim for a broad and explorative understanding of what ‘lighting conflicts’ might be. This is reflected in the topics of the session’s papers which cover conflicts relating to the interpretation of urban lighting interventions, conflicts arising from the application of new technologies as well as from the implementation and shaping of lighting as such. The explorative approach is also reflected in the session’s format: a split session with one timeslot for presentations followed by one for discussions in a round-table setting.
Linked Sessions Lighting Conflicts (2)
Contact the conference organisers to request a change to session or paper details: AC2014@rgs.org
Critiquing Light Festivals: empty spectacles or place-enhancing occasions
Tim Edensor (Manchester Metropolitan University, UK)
In recent years, there has been a proliferation of light festivals around the world. For some, such festivals seem to embody the commercialisation of forms of creativity in pursuing neo-liberal urban regeneration strategies, and others critically point to the homogenising light designs distributed by hypermobile members of the 'creative class' who share similar tastes and dispositions. Accordingly, such events might be conceived as empty spectacles that lack depth and commodify place, emptying it out of meaning. While acknowledging the salience of such critiques, this presentation will argue that the potential of lighting techniques to defamiliarise the meaning and sensing of place, and foster forms of conviviality and atmosphere should also be taken into account. In addition, I will consider the effects of festive events that draw on more vernacular forms of creativity and expand the potentialities of using light in deepening a sense of place.
Rethinking the politics of illumination: The potential of popular culture and the spectacle
Casper Laing Ebbensgaard (Queen Mary University of London, UK / Roskilde University, Denmark)
Recent examples of urban redevelopment projects in London have targeted lighting as a means of creating social change. Particularly Light Night Canning Town--a one night festive light event--invited light artists and designers to create site-specific installations, that would engage the local residents into actively remaking spaces, transforming their own experience and the site specific practice. This paper will question such an interventionist approach, contesting the claims made to transforming lived life through light installations. Inclusion of local residents into such an alteration of public space, presents us with a way of using light to create what Allen (2006) labels a seductive logic; a spectacle that immediately appeals to people's senses, functioning through an ambient power. This is, however, not a new insight, and the interesting question is, therefore, what light specifically contributes with. This paper will question and discuss the ways that artificial lighting and illumination is being used to orchestrate such an ambient power through the paradoxical appeal to fear and fascination. This will be done by comparing experiences gathered through ethnographic fieldwork undertaken during the Light Night event in Canning Town with examples from other cities. The aim is to challenge how nocturnal space and urban illumination can be conceptualised, proposing a radically different approach to understanding the luminous spectacle of night time illumination that draws on lessons from popular cultural studies. The paper will argue that in order to comprehend the inherent potential of using light, and the luminous spectacle as a means of creating social change and fostering a degree of empowerment, new vocabularies for describing and understanding lighting must be developed.
Who Owns the Light?
Leni Schwendinger (ARUP, UK)
From one perspective, the trends of energy savings, automated city infrastructure and codes/liability coalesce into restrictive, autocratic anti-design and anti-social nighttime city environments.
Instead, from the opposite -- an opportunity point of view -- the notion of energy saving through telemetrics, safety through welcoming inclusive design and setting into motion a methodology that encourages or permits flexible lighting strategies could be realized.
I am developing public lighting theories of figure/mediator/ground, public/private/found, and “shades of night” which attempt to grapple with these conflicts. Using two recent projects; Reconstruction of Times Square and "82nd Street Partnership Lighting Strategy: A Roadmap for Illumination and Community Building" as case studies, my talk will define the controversies and theories grounding them in actual practice.
Blaming the Light, Claiming the Night: Actors, Issues and Effects of Lighting Conflicts
Samuel Challéat (University of Toulouse, France)
Danny Lapostolle (University of Burgundy, France)
Thomas Poméon (INRA Toulouse, France)
Regarding environmental issues, conflictuality is a privileged way to reach the political arena. “Naming, Blaming, Claiming”: three steps that make the controversy emerge, constitute the public issue, then bring it to the political agenda. These three stages are clearly identifiable in the history of night protection associative movements. These movements emerged in the 1970's in the United States of America, quickly disseminated enjoying a broader context of environmental thinking.
Conflicts related to artificial lighting are structurally akin to conflicts of contradictory uses of a single resource: the night. For some - the technicists -, the night is the “good-support” for a specific economic activity and its technologies: urban lighting. For others - the environmentalists -, the “dark night” constitutes an ecosystemic service, which notably allows access to a specific resource: the starry sky. The study of the regimes of justification of the actors of conflicts shows that strong territorial disjunctions and cognitive dissonances make the dialogue difficult between the different “worlds” involved.
The night is a pure collective good, a total public good, irreducible, non-rival, non-excludable, non-appropriable and unbargainable. It therefore falls to the public authority and its “legitimate violence” to support its protection. In France, the State initiative named “Grenelle de l'Environnement” has enabled consideration of controversies related to artificial lighting by the positive law. Various laws and planning tools encourage territories to reconsider their public lighting, or to promote the darkness of the night as a new territorial and/or touristic resource.
We place our paper at the intersection between economics, geography and sociology of public territorial action. It aims to analyse 30 years of conflictualities, in France, around artificial lighting, overlapping three entries. (i) The various causes from the coming into dispute and the different types of conflicts. (ii) The actors, their “worlds" and regimes of justification. (iii) These effects of these conflicts on and in the territories (geographical, organizational or institutional proximities, consideration of the night and reconfigurations of public policy, etc.).
Lighting Conflicts – On the Rise or Much Ado About Nothing?
Josiane Meier (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
Dietrich Henckel (Technical University of Berlin, Germany)
The profound and multifaceted changes currently affecting artificial outdoor illumination certainly offer many possible points of contention. New technologies allow for ever-brighter animated signs and illuminations at minimal costs. Familiar night-time atmospheres are changing as streetlights are replaced at a large scale. While lighting levels overall continue to rise, negative impacts of artificial light are gaining recognition and policies are beginning to curb long-standing liberties in the planning, usage and availability of light. Such developments are likely leading to an increase in and a diversification of conflicts relating to light, all the more as they follow a several-decade long period of relative stability.

This contribution will present a first, theoretically informed approach for how lighting conflicts could be classified and contrast this with the results of an initial analysis of media reports, showing that lighting conflicts are currently easier to classify than to identify. Given the thin empirical base, an alternative approach to understanding lighting conflicts will then be outlined by exploring analogies between artificial light and sound/noise – another sensory stimulus that has already undergone developments similar to those encountered by lighting today.