The Citizen Flâneur

Just a quick follow-up post from Shawn Micallef’s talk at the Urbanspace Gallery (a great space that hosts shows specifically about cities). Both Berlin on the Go and the remounting of their exhibit Walkability were great (the Walkability show is all online and I suggest going to check it out).

In that post, I’d mentioned briefly the notion of the flâneur – a wanderer and observer of city life. I noted in my last post that Shawn is seen as Toronto’s resident flâneur and that his twitter feed is fun to follow – partially because he often attaches photos of what he’s observing. But, he isn’t the only one who does this. Lots of people snap photos and share them, occasionally with commentary, on facebook, twitter, tumblr….. and it has lead me to wonder if handheld technology allows, and maybe even promotes, all citizens to be flâneurs in some way.


I know people complain that smartphones, instagram, and tweeting remove us from real life (and don’t get me wrong – that is very possible :), but I think this technology may be inadvertently encouraging people to pay attention to the small and understated moments of city life. Bits of graffiti scrawled in an alley, a dog waiting for their owner outside a coffee shop, a couple sharing a funny joke on a park bench, and garbage overflowing from city bins may not seem like things needing documentation. But it is the act of noticing, thinking about, and hopefully discussing these small moments and patterns around us that is important. Maybe by sharing our observations we can actually contribute to a greater awareness, appreciation, and interaction with our local landscapes.

So, what do you think – do you think that our techie devices and social media (smart phones, digital camera, twitter, facebook) have the potential to make people more (instead of less) aware and thoughtful of their surroundings? Has it changed the way you look at your surroundings?

Coincidentally, I just noticed this post on Atlantic Cities about how smart phones and technology may also encourage people to walk more… interesting read.

The Citizen Flâneur

2 thoughts on “The Citizen Flâneur

  1. I’ve always loved the idea/concept of the flaneur! And it’s a really interesting point that “looking for that great image” is making people take more notice of their surroundings!

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