Thursday, February 17, 2011

Watching Paint Dry: Two Kinds of Thrill

After a few days of inspiration brought about by writers who tag my office door (a sincere thanks to you guys),  coffee with a local photographer/advocate of urban art (thanks Mike) and discussions with colleagues about the bi-law enforcement in Ottawa,  I got to thinking about about risk (again).

Graffiti is just one of the many aesthetics of urban space that are highly regulated by the municipality of Ottawa. This is not unique to Ottawa, but Ottawa certainly takes its aesthetics management seriously.

Security is apparently best communicated in the color of boring.

A colleague of mine reminded me this morning (thanks Mike Mopas): most individual police officers do not worry too much about graffiti. Nevertheless they must respond to calls made by some citizens who DO get 'worked up' about graffiti. It is telling when our police officers are 'kept busy' answering calls about words on a wall (most writers do not write on private residential property). Must be a slow crime day, eh?

Most days are (Crime is down, folks!)

Channeling the spirit of Hunter S. Thompson, Stephen Lyng suggests that the relationship between institutions and the stuff we humans DO has brought about the performance of 'edgework' ; folks looking to make the everyday less boring (escape or resistance); further, risk-taking (here, bonds trading and graffiti writing are similarly risky acts) demonstrates the development of skills in a culture consumed with specialization and risk management.

Edgework addresses the emotionality of human action, but not in a psychological "lets strap you to a table a dissect your grey matter" kind of way. It is a theory that considers commonality among many many people in our culture - how do we collectively 'experience' this desire for edges given our 'current 9 - 5' is boring as hell.

Social order as edgework? Not quite, but maybe...

Is being involved in 'getting the bad guys' not a form of excitement? What do we do in a culture so active in consuming the thrill of law enforcement (the spectacle of crime and its enforcement) when there is little crime to enforce? I suspect ONE thing that people CAN do is create crime dramas for themselves about that lawn next door being unsightly, or in managing that broken window across the street before it invites 'bad guys' out of retirement....

OR perhaps we can think about boredom as one common experience from which we can build a less adversarial relationship between citizens (including those consumed with enforcing laws about aesthetics and writers) and institutions in the City of Ottawa.

Hey, that's kind of exciting!

1 comment:

  1. rethinking that last paragraph....

    Perhaps there is community in aligning strange bedfellows against institutions of social control... still mulling...