Times Square: Lights and Atmosphere

Times Square is one of the most visited in New York City by people around the world. Aside from the socially constructed fame of Times Square why else is it capable of attracting so many visitors? I am not a huge fan of Times Square because it is constantly crowded. Yet there must be something unique about this place that makes it capable of attracting visitors year after year. In order gain a better understanding of its mystical allure I decided to take a visit to Times Square.

I arrived at Times Square Sunday evening. Wandering through the crowd aimlessly my attention suddenly gravitated to the advertisements on the buildings that surrounded the square. Everything was lit up and the bright lights flashed at my eyes. I realized that everything around me was in motion: the lights, the commercials on the big screens were all breathing and through their brightness were generating a type of energy on their own. Perhaps the dancing of light, their perpetual motion, is what makes Times Square so unique. This element is able to influence the individuals in this environment and produce within them certain kinds of emotions through affect.


In The Transmission of Affect, Brennan suggests that the process of affect is a complicated one that involves both the individual as well as the environment. The transmission of affect produces emotions and feelings, amongst other effects, within the individual. Feelings are triggered by an external stimuli and this is what produces an effect within the individual. She says “Standard definitions concentrate on how what is received by way of stimuli originates within an organism, although stimuli, of course, also originate from without. ‘Feelings’ refers to the sensation that register these stimuli and thence to the senses”(Brennan, 5). In the case of Times-Square, the evident external stimuli are the lights. The lights engage the visual sense of the individual to create a feeling of awe within him or her. The feelings that the individual experience is a response to the visual stimuli and this is one of the ways in which times square transmits its affect.

Lights are certainly not the only stimuli that exist within this environment. Another external factor that is involved in the process of affect transmission is energy. Although light is itself a form or energy, the energy here means organic, human energy. Brennan mentions in the introduction that energy is mutually exchangeable. For example, if someone is fun and energetic, individuals who interacts with that person are likely to pick up some their energy and become more active themselves. She writes, “At this level, the energetic affects of others enter the person, and the person’s affects, in turn, are transmitted to the environment. Here lies the key to why it is that people in groups, crowds, and gatherings can often be ‘of one mind.’ Moreover, once the physical and organic levels are taken into account, one can begin to appreciate that other environmental factors are at work in the transmission of energy and affect”(Brennan, 8). This idea would further explain the affective nature of Times Square. Individuals that enter this environment pick up the external stimuli, the positive energies of awe and feelings of enchantment. In turn, this feeling is internalized. Thus, the combined power of the visible array of light as well as the collective atmospheric are the ways in which Times Square Produces so much affect.

Brennan, Teresa. The Transmission of Affect. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2004. Print.

 – Hang

~ by hy521 on September 25, 2013.