The participatory culture of architecture : heritage, media and the socio-visual life of the Sydney Opera House

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NO FULL TEXT AVAILABLE. This thesis contains 3rd party copyright material. ----- In 2007 the Sydney Opera House was inscribed onto UNESCO’s World Heritage List as a masterpiece of 20th century architecture and engineering, and for its value as a ‘world-famous iconic-building’. The inscription serves to establish the building’s international significance, yet methods to evidence and better understand its social value for global audiences remains largely unaddressed. The thesis investigates and evidences the building’s social value through practices in popular culture enabled and made visible by the recent growth of online participatory media, arguing that such representations of the building and the online interactions around these are cultural practices through which people engage with the Sydney Opera House. Further, these practices are significant because they offer individuals and groups a means to negotiate their collective and individual senses of identity. Using the concept of participatory culture the thesis explores the anecdotal attachment people have for this work of iconic architecture. Through visual analysis of a collection of online representations gathered on the social value of this place is evidenced in the everyday engagements of people that are inspired by the building, such as visiting it, collecting souvenirs, posting photographs or making opera-house-shaped cakes. Closer observations of participation in photosharing groups on and tributes posted to the Sydney Opera House Utzon Memorial website demonstrate that such popular activities are complex social negotiations of memory and identity. The investigation concludes that social value is a cultural process; one that is co-constituted between tangible, intangible and digital forms of culture. The thesis is located at the intersection of architecture, heritage studies and media studies. The argument builds on the scholarly contributions of Terry Smith, Leslie Sklair, Jose van Dijck and Henry Jenkins as well as the discourses on World Heritage, Intangible Heritage and Digital Heritage to demonstrate that although at present participatory culture of architecture is unable to be recognised by UNESCO’s suite of heritage instruments, the everyday social engagements around the Sydney Opera House contribute to its broader cultural significance.
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