The Participatory Culture of Architecture – Heritage, Media & the Socio-Visual Life of the Sydney Opera House

The social value of the Sydney Opera House is investigated through a visual analysis of its online participatory cultures and representations on Pinterest, Flickr and the Utzon Memorial website.

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’. Yet methods to evidence and understand its social value for global audiences remained largely unaddressed. Using the concept of participatory culture, the thesis explores the building’s social value; through visual analysis of a collection of online representations gathered on Pinterest.com; an observation of two photosharing groups on Flickr.com, and textual analysis of the tributes posted to the Utzon Memorial website.

The thesis argues that such representations and practices, enabled and made visible by online participatory media, evidence and maintain the social value of the Sydney Opera House. Engagements such as visiting, collecting souvenirs, posting photographs or making opera-house-shaped cakes are revealed as significant social negotiations of memory and identity. Located at the intersection of architecture, heritage studies and media studies, and drawing on the scholarship of Terry Smith, Leslie Sklair, Jose van Dijck and Henry Jenkins as well as on the discourses on World Heritage, Intangible Heritage and Digital Heritage the thesis posits that social value is a cultural process; one that is co-constituted between tangible, intangible and digital forms of culture.

This thesis cannot be published online due to copyright restrictions. Please email cristina_gf@iinet.net.au if you would like access to the entire document.

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    Reality changes; in order to represent it, modes of representation must change.

    Bertolt Brecht

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    For any picture, ask yourself what question or questions it might be answering. Since the picture could answer many, questions, we can decide what question we are interested in.

    Howard Becker

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    Salman Rushdie

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    The function of sociology, as of every science, is to reveal that which is hidden.

    Pierre Bourdieu

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    Every photograph promises more than it delivers and delivers more than it intended.

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    Henry Rollins

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    Sometimes one picture is equal to 30 pages of discourse, just as there are things images are completely incapable of communicating.

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    Werner Herzog

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    Visual culture is now the study of how to understand change in a world too enormous to see but vital to imagine.

    Nicholas Mirzoeff

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