Lightspace and the city of perpetual moonlight
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Anthropological research discusses the potential of light to act as a social agent, influence culture and substantially effect the ways that people interact. To enrich this scholarship with ethnographic engagement the following analysis applies and expands upon these concepts while discussing a database documentary about the moonlight towers of Austin, Texas. Moonlight towers are historic street lights dating from the late 19th century that are no longer necessary to light the city and yet they remain as fine engineered sentinels, shedding mercury vapor luminance over the city. This is a meditative inquiry into the types of agency light has in particular spaces referred to in this work as the ruminating concept of lightspace. As a concept, lightspace refers to the experience of light in space and is concerned with how light illuminates and shapes the everyday, tracing fissures between inclusion and exclusion. This work acknowledges the existence of lightspace in order to show there are ways that light shapes our experiences of which we are only partially aware. In the midst of this attunement to the experience of light are valid ideas about how people in Austin, Texas relate to space and to each other. The work of Henri Lefebvre is used as a point of departure to develop the concept of lightspace. In The Production of Space, Lefebvre arrives at the conclusion that the experience of geographical space is fundamentally social by making connections between perceived space and conceived space to create lived space of the imagination (1978: 70). In this philosophy, perceived space as constitutes our lived, everyday experience of space, while conceived space is a translation of perceived space using knowledge, signs, and codes, such as a map. Lived space then is our own unique, individual negotiation of perceived space using conceived space. This introduction to lightspace shows how connecting perceived and conceived lightspace in Austin reveals a lived experience of light in the imagination.