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Putting the ‘I’ in Icon: An Autophotographic Study Of Iconicity

Pötschulat, M (2022) Putting the ‘I’ in Icon: An Autophotographic Study Of Iconicity. Area. ISSN 0004-0894

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Open Access URL: https://doi.org/10.1111/area.12841 (Published version)


This article addresses the potential of autophotography to generate new insights into the meanings of iconic sites. It draws on photographic and interview data collected as part of a broader study exploring the everyday urban sense-making of university students in Liverpool, UK. Iconic sites featured prominently in participants’ images of meaningful city spaces as well as the spoken accounts in the photo-elicitation interviews. Visual depictions of urban iconicity are central to place marketing strategies attempting to attract visitors and investment. Yet on a local level, these icons and images have been criticised for alienating local populations and foregrounding lifestyles and cultures that are inaccessible to many urban residents. While we need to study icons critically, this article argues that we should not think of them reductively. The data generated here challenges understandings of icons as predominantly representational and establishes iconic sites as lived spaces that form part of everyday practices. Iconic structures are constitutive of ‘geographies of memory’ that are central to the development of a sense of place for university students. The autophotography method revealed that icons become symbols of elective belonging via which students highlight their connection to their university city beyond the more generic student infrastructure.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: Geography; 0406 Physical Geography and Environmental Geoscience; 1604 Human Geography
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
T Technology > TR Photography
Divisions: Humanities & Social Science
Publisher: Wiley
SWORD Depositor: A Symplectic
Date Deposited: 25 Oct 2022 08:47
Last Modified: 08 Nov 2022 10:30
DOI or ID number: 10.1111/area.12841
URI: https://researchonline.ljmu.ac.uk/id/eprint/17925
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