There is a Starbucks over Broadway Avenue, between the W. 43rd and the W. 44th Street that reminds open 24-7. The advertising on its facade is made by circular light bulbs, and the shape of the ceiling outside reminds the standard design of the entrance of an old theatre or cinema.
Few blocks up, there is a McDonald’s. The front of this branch is also decorated using bright signals and a big “M” made by incandescent lights. The same situation is happening to the main entrance of the Times Square Subway Station. Even the Police Station that is located in the southern part of Times Square is a tourist attraction. From time to time, some officers are outside the edification for being seen and let the tourists take selfies with them.
This is the only place in the whole New York City that one can find a so colorful Subway Station and a police station that looks like a 1960s’ diner. Why is everything so bright and ornate? Well, it seems like Times Square has a tendency, a sort of habitus one can say, for hyperbolizing the elements that are making it up. This sort of amplification is tied to one of the main features of this place: the spectacle.
Costumed people, lights, tourists, vacations, stores, screens, sporadical performances, skyscrapers, advertisements, theaters, restaurants, hotels, and cinemas… all of those elements help to create an atmosphere of excitement and disarticulation with the rest of the area that basically we can talk about the creation of a specific kind of reality.
But, who builds this reality? Is everything here part of a plan for either manipulating and controlling us? Well, both questions are not so easy to solve. A quick answer to the first one would be that “everyone involved there is helping to build that reality.” In the same way, a quick response to the second one will be a simple and ambiguous “yes and no.” But don’t worry, we will decompose those questions soon.
The part number four of this piece of research offers a discussion that could help to clarify the first question, and the number six the second one. Doing (urban) research using ANT will not make our life easier. Instead of taking some stabilization’s or concepts for granted we are decomposing them, testing them and validating them. Concepts like “capitalism,” “manipulation” or “urbanization” are not the answers. Those are our starting point.
Located in the middle of “The capital of the world,” “The city that never sleeps,” Times Square, “The center of the universe,” “The crossroads of the world,” is an unstable conglomerate of things that are in a continuous movement surrounded by a bright halo of a contagious technological-corporative-artificial happiness.
When I was doing the first exploratory fieldwork, in 2017, I used to send some pictures of what I was watching to some friends with the intention of showing them what was happening in the Square, live. I remember one of them that was so fascinated with the general environment of the place. “It’s like a festival city,” she wrote to me after watching a set of different pictures of my around: A Hare Krishna parade, topples women painted on red, white, and blue, tons of tourists taking selfies, walking Disney characters everywhere… all surrounded by big screens full of products and advertisements. In general terms, a spectacularization of life. A hyperbolized and magnetic reality.