The bunting’s up, the streets are swept and the roads are set to be closed. Le Tour’s arriving and all the world’s in Leeds.
Media types set up their equipment and chat, hands free, with colleagues hundreds of miles away. Phones are swiped anxiously for the latest weather reports, text messages call for coffees and umbrellas. Tourists who have booked their hotels online find their way through unfamiliar streets with geomapping software, while tiny pulsing dots assure them that they’re close and able to FindMyFriends. Phones are held in the air, pictures are taken and immediately make their way to Sydney, Singapore, and Saigon. By Sunday, the cyclists (and the camera crews) have bid adieu. How will our snapshots, taken on smartphones among jostling crowds, compare to the ‘official’ photographs in the papers? How does our visit to Leeds compare with the Yorkshire we’ve seen on film? How does our use of social media alter our experiences of the cities we encounter? Which offers a more real version of this unique sporting event – being there, or watching it on TV?
These questions are some of many to be addressed at the forthcoming Media and Place conference that Leeds Met are hosting on 11 and 12 July. The two-day conference brings together academics, artists and practitioners from all around the world to present their research, discuss their findings and be stimulated by other work, both contradictory and complimentary. It promises to be a fantastic weekend and it’s open to all.