Communicating in the local: digital communications technology use in Brighton's gay pub scene
This thesis is an analysis of the use and impact of digital communication technology (DCT) in the Gay pub scene in the Kemptown neighborhood of Brighton, East Sussex, UK. The purpose of this work is twofold: to create a snapshot record of the everyday activities in pub spaces at a particular point in the neighborhood’s history from the point of view of an American gay man, and to develop an understanding of the impact of digital communications technology (DCT) on the activities in these spaces by investigating the impact of DCT on the idea of 'gay space'. This analysis is broken down into three distinct areas of enquiry: the implementation of DCT in pub spaces by the landlords/owners of the space, the use of DCT by the patrons of these spaces, and an analysis of those spaces that have not directly engaged DCT, neither implementing DCT as a feature of the location, nor limiting its use within the space.\ud \ud This thesis utilizes participant observations, auto ethnographic observations, and interviews made over a period of two years and engages with the theoretical arguments around gay space: its history both within the broad context of UK history, and also with Brighton’s special historical status as a gay centre within the UK; its current uses; and the potential for its evolution. This investigation of hof DCT is impacting on gay space also questions to what extent 'gay space' is maintaining a sense of physicality and to what extent an extension of DCT-enabled virtual spaces is altering our relationship to these spaces. The work examines the notion of nostalgia, ownership, and control of space and attempts through its focus on several locations in Kemptown to catalogue the many changes in structure, clientele, locale, and business success that these spaces have gone through in a fairly short time and to determine to what extent the use and influences of DCT has driven these changes.\ud \ud The project includes interviews with landlords and patrons of eight current and former venues in Kemptown and encompasses a group of three key participants in detail through a series of scheduled interviews and group discussions conducted during the duration of the project, and details their particular relationships to the spaces in Kemptown as well as their uses of DCT in these spaces. These participants act as a focal point for the research by helping to create a frame of reference within the work balancing the author’s auto ethnographic analysis with the point of view of a local Brighton gay male, as well as contribute to and support the broader narrative of the vicissitudes of smaller pub venues by helping to highlight the historical changes in the pubs being looked at. The specific questions that this research sets out to answer are:\ud \ud • How is digital communicative technology (DCT) affecting self defined gay spaces in Kemptown, Brighton?\ud • How is DCT affecting the behaviours of the patrons and owners/operators in these spaces?\ud • How are the owners/operators of these spaces adapting to DCT? Is there evidence of owners/operators conforming to Winston’s theory on the suppression of disruptive potential of new and emerging media technology (1995)?\ud • What are the implications, challenges and opportunities presented to those spaces which are not engaging with DCT in their spaces?\ud • Are “gay spaces” in Kemptown still relevant with the intersection of digital and physical spaces? Do these spaces meet the same requirements as they have in the past? Does DCT have the ability on its own to maintain the relevance of a venue on its own when faced off against other pressures (such as commercial or demographic pressure)?\ud \ud The conclusions reached in this thesis draw attention to the potential for DCT:\ud \ud • Acting as a form of disruptive potential of new communication technologies (Winston, 1995).\ud • The concerns that DCT is suppressing interpersonal communications in favor of mediated discourse (Turkle, 2011, 2012, 2015).\ud • That automobility is creating a privatization of pub spaces, along with the creation of ‘non-places’ (Bull, 2004)\ud \ud However, in the author’s analysis, there is evidence of cohabitation, and adaptation towards DCT which is reminiscent of Winston’s theory of the suppression of disruptive potential of emerging communication technology, as well as a resistance response with nostalgic overtones. The conclusions are also grounded in the larger narratives of pub culture within the UK and note the challenging culture that smaller, brewer-tied and non-tied gay venues have within these changing demographics and cultural acceptance of homosexuality in general.\ud \ud This research adds to the broader field of research into the adaptation of communications technology by drawing attention to the effects of DCT on both spaces and their users and also highlights their effects on a subculture.
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