“Ever wanted something more?” – Mass Media Representation and Housing Futures
“Ever wanted something more? Ever thought there could be a better way to live free from the shackles of the old tired world?” Here, Dr Bilge Serin talks us through the new world of commodified housing developments.
The above slogan is from an advertisement for a fictional housing development in the recent movie High-Rise. The movie is an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s novel written in the 1970s. This fictional advertisement has many similarities with actual ones for so-called luxury housing developments, and presents a trend in the representation of housing futures in mass media – in the UK and in many other contexts.
Representation of housing futures in mass media is an interesting issue. First of all, it is an intricate one involving various layers – from the representation of everyday life and future residents, to the construction of the housing project itself. Understanding this mass media discourse is critical in understanding the production of ‘idealised’ housing futures. To do this for my PhD research, I therefore employed a critical case study of housing enclaves in Istanbul which provided some vital insights.
Housing enclaves are a version of these so-called ‘luxury housing developments,’ providing private services and facilities within their confines exclusively for residents. Here, housing enclaves are produced under certain brands and advertised extensively through mass media using various branding techniques and strategies. This is far from being unique and Latin American Countries, Singapore, India, and Nigeria provide further examples. However, the analysis of mass media discourse for this case study exemplifies the role of mass media in shaping housing futures across many contemporary contexts.
My analysis reveals that, firstly, mass media discourse presents branded housing projects as superior to the rest of the city, which contributes to the idealisation of so-called luxury housing developments. The discourse presents these developments through superlatives (e.g. ‘the best development in Europe’ or having ‘the largest sport centre in the country’) and affirmation that living in these places gives the resident rights to access world class facilities.
Secondly, the discourse presents these developments as places creating opportunities and advantages for a variety of groups such as individuals, society and the city as a whole. To illustrate, for individuals, these developments are presented as investment tools, as well as homeownership opportunities. On the other hand, for society the projects are presented as developments that create economic value to the benefit of all. This discourse, as a result, veils the high profits that the developers gain from these projects – the raison d’être for these developments. In addition, the discourse claims that the projects will support the economy by attracting foreign capital to the country. A news article excerpt published just before the 2008 economic crash (below) shows an ironic example considering the known effects of the crash on the Spanish economy and abandoned construction projects in this period:
“Let’s look at Spain and France, and sell the foreigners 1 million houses” (Quoted from Hurriyet newspaper, translated from Turkish by author)
The discourse thus presents these housing projects as assets contributing to the city through improving the quality of the environment and urban life.
Thirdly, the projects are presented in the media as a provision of something more than housing. This content is conveyed through the promise of a better life and living area, providing key urban infrastructure privately, and supporting welfare and well-being of the residents by the projects. The discourse propagates that these developments contribute to welfare and well-being through better provision of urban infrastructure, solving urban problems and meeting the residents’ everyday needs. It is also claimed that the projects contribute to people’s physical health and mental well-being as places where the residents find happiness and peace, with access to open-green spaces and sports facilities not available elsewhere.
To conclude, mass media surrounding the so-called ‘luxury housing developments’ creates a discourse framing the projects as ideal places to live, and an ideal way of producing housing. It propagates that production of projects is a win-win situation for individuals, society and the economy. Therefore, the discourse contributes to shaping housing futures around this particular way of development, as well as producing social consent for these controversial developments.
You can check and follow the research website for more information and further details.