Affect Through the Lens of an Independent Bookstore

Once books are read they no longer just tell stories; they carry them. Once a book finds itself to an owner, it exists outside of the confines of its former home: the bookstore. At that point, the book itself carries a story of where it has been, whom it belongs to, and where it will find itself once its last page is turned. This experience, if you will, cannot be said of an e-book or an online article. The tactility of a book is unique, although the Digital Age might not appreciate that as much as I do. Due to my love of the physicality of books, I chose the Strand as my media ecology site. I am interested in how an independent bookstore of 85 years has managed to overcome the challenge of this retail sector. Moreover, I want to explore the affect this bookstore has on a city environment.

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In The Transmission of Affect, Teresa Brennan describes affect as the atmosphere one feels or perceives. As Brennan writes, the transmission of affect, therefore, captures the process by which “the emotions or affects of one person, and the enhancing or depressing energies these affects entail, can enter into another (Brennan 3). I understand the transmission of affect as the way in which a shared atmosphere inspires similar or contrasting emotions in a group of individuals. When applied to my media ecology, this concept suggests that the atmosphere of the Strand evokes different passions or emotions in each individual and that those feelings could be carried forward to another individual, thereby reinforcing Brennan’s point that “we are not self-contained in terms of our energies” (Brennan 6). In other words, we feel each other’s energies. Bookstores typically evoke calmness for me; however, if I walk into the Strand and it is crowded with tourists and New Yorkers alike, as it often is, I feel their sense of urgency and impatience. Thus, their energy affects mine.

Jane Bennett perfectly describes these opposing feelings in Vibrant Matter: A Political Ecology of Things. As she writes, human affect is “the mood of enchantment, or that strange combination of delight and disturbance” (Bennett xi). The juxtaposition of “delight and disturbance” encapsulates my feelings toward the Strand during those busy hours. I look forward to examining the atmosphere of the Strand and how it affects my personal experience as I pursue my study of the Strand as a media ecology in New York City.

Stephanie Tweel


~ by Stephanie Tweel on September 21, 2015.

5 Responses to “Affect Through the Lens of an Independent Bookstore”

  1. I think that this post about the Strand was the best blog post overall as well as the one I learned the most from. I love the introduction–the description of the life of a book and how it changes in different environments and different owners. This is something that I can personally relate to, as I love the feel and tangibility of a book. I think the imagery of this blog post along with the description of the readings makes understanding the concepts a bit easier. This post stuck with me throughout the week and I was happy to re-read it today in class.

  2. Hi Stephanie! I find your first blog post to be the best in terms of styling and composition. Your writing was animated and the included photograph helps to illustrate your points.

  3. Stephanie – I learned the most from this blog post. The way in which you included quotes helped strengthen the argument for looking at this site, and helped remind me of the important concepts from those readings.

  4. Hey Stephanie- I think your blog was one of the best in terms of styling. You’ve a very descriptive writer! I also think this topic is really interesting and… rather ironic, being that you’re writing about your love for the physicality of books, online.

  5. I think your blog post is one of the best ones. I really liked the imagery of the books opposed to e-books, and especially how the presence of books change in a city like New York. The readings you use are also very well linked to your ecology and the way you explain them makes the concepts more clear to me.

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