Las vegas: “City of Entertainment”

Las Vegas: Low Budget Amusement and the Urban

Martina Heßler

Las Vegas as a city of mass amusement, casinos and prostitution, appears at first glance to be a symbol of wastefulness and consumption rather than that of saving. Nevertheless, Las Vegas is representative of a typical phenomenon of the second half of the 20th century: cheap wastefulness, the abundance of all that which manifests itself in cheap, standardised mass consumption. Consumption and amusement in its low budget variant, whether it be as discounter, cheap retail chain store, amusement park or entertainment district, shape cities in manifold ways: the urban topography and spatial structure, the social structure, the urban lifestyle.

This project intends to examine these special urban conditions under the premises of “low budget amusement”. On the one side the city is subject to a high level of fluctuation (tourists as well as the employees of the consumer industry), on the other, the infrastructure of consumption is of great significance for the city’s spatial and social structure. Consequently, ANT with its idea of networks, with its emphasis on the interplay between material, non-human ensembles and human actors, its focus on practices (here those of consumption and amusement) and its sensitivity to the fleeting (short term consumption) is especially suited as a conceptual approach.

Furthermore, Las Vegas as a test case for the relationship between low budget practices and urbanity is of special interest due to the presence of a range of different tensions: the tension between the permanent, spatial-material structure of the Strip and the fleeting character of the amusement practices and visitors; the tension between different levels of the city, the Strip, that shapes its image, and further parts of the city; the tension between wastefulness and consumption and economizing, as is typical for low budget consumption