Playing the modern, accelerated city

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Playing the modern, accelerated city In the activity of parkour, the practitioners’ use benches, stairs and rails for expressive movement and thereby challenges the spatiality, mobility and corporality in urban environment. Parkour has academically been interpreted as a discursive phenomenon related to social and cultural critique, where practitioners with their transversal movements corrupt the original uses of spatial structures and architecture in urban spaces (Aggerholm & Larsen 2015). Geyh (2012) and Mould (2009), for example, draw on Deleuze and Guattari's (2009) theorization of capitalistic, grid-like urban space to describe how the practitioners reappropriate the urban environment from a striated space to a more fluid smooth space. When the practitioners move in irregular patterns they reveal and oppose the capitalistic urban space of modern cities and establish a dialectic relationship with even the most mono-dimensional, alienating environments. As Daskalaki et al argues: This ‘free-flowing’ activity is a socially symbolic act, a form of resistance to cityscapes that alienate, restrict and subjugate (Daskalaki et al, 2008, p.57). The spatial dimension of alienation is however, not the only one. In my paper I want to argue that parkour is not only offering a spatial opposition to alienation in metropolitan living, but also a temporal. The philosophical awareness and writings about modern alienation - or entfremdung – has a discontinuous historical journey (Eichberg, 2016, p.225). Since the dawn of industrial modernity, the critical attention to alienation has corresponded to boarder societal changes. In the second half of the eighteenth-century modernity artist and intellectuals like Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Friedrich Schiller, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe described the feeling of estrangement and encounter with something strange or alien (fremd). Later Karl Marx connected the concept of alienation to social and economic critique and characterized alienation as an effect of capitalistic economy (1953). On the basis on Marx writings Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno later delivered a sharp analysis of the quantitative reduction of the human being to alienation. Alienation was further connected to the modern, industrial city. In his essay about the modern city the sociologist Simmel described this alienation as a ´Blasé attitude´(Simmel, 1992). This attitude of boredom and lack of concern is necessary for the metropolitan individual to stay sane because he or she is constantly being bombarded with so much stimuli occurring at one time. In 2005 the German sociologist Hartmut Rosa connected the philosophical concept of alienation with acceleration. Rosa thereby enabled a new understanding of alienation as countering human depth, direction and meaning (Eichberg, 2016, p.230). According to Rosa our contemporary society is characterized by social acceleration (Rosa, 2005, 2010) and this dramatically alter the ways in which we think, act and relates to one another as well as the physical environment. Modernity has accelerated the pace of life and resulted in faster and more frenetic cities. The argument that parkour offers a temporal opposition to alienation in metropolitan living can at first seem paradoxical. Parkour has original been described as “moving as fast as possible from A to B” and the practitioners airborne and streamlined bodies have been sold as an attractive aesthetic product on the market. With his critical studies in sport Eichberg has argued that since the eighteenth century a new pattern of speed, suspense, and acceleration developed inside popular games and colonized them, thus creating the modern phenomenon of sport (Eichberg, 1978). Temporal discipline and acceleration transformed the player of modern folk culture into a streamlined athlete and the stop watch became the icon of modern sport.In an article from 2009 Ortuzar also describes how parkour embodies “a contemporary perceptual state of emergency” (p.58). While experiences of acceleration and speed is undoubtedly important in parkour, there is also important experiences of slowness, repetition and rhythm. These experiences of contemplation in urban spaces are significant to the practitioners and offers a temporal opposition to everyday metropolitan living. In the practitioners’ contemplation in the urban environment they adopt an attitude very different to Simmel’s ´Blasé attitude´ (1992). To describe and understand the spatial and temporal experiences in parkour I will draw Rosa’s theory of social acceleration (2005, 2010), Edward Casey’s phenomenological study of place and space, and Sennett’s theory of craftsmanship (2008).
Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - 2018
BegivenhedThe 46th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS) - The Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NIH), Oslo, Norge
Varighed: 5. sep. 20188. sep. 2018


KonferenceThe 46th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS)
LokationThe Norwegian School of Sport Sciences (NIH)


  • play
  • urban sociology
  • philosophy
  • parkour


Højbjerre Larsen, S. (2018). Playing the modern, accelerated city. 43-44. Abstract fra The 46th Annual Conference of the International Association for the Philosophy of Sport (IAPS), Oslo, Norge.