The Social Construction of a Cultural Spectacle: Floatzilla concentrates on the tourist element of the Mississippi River with a focus on the media construction of an annual floating event that occurs on the river. Michael O. Johnston shows that the canoeing and kayaking event itself is void of meaning; it is the news media that brings these events to life through real world accounts about a kayaker who nearly collided with a fifty-five-foot yacht, a person dressed up as a pirate with a live parrot as a prop, a guy with a Floatzilla logo tattooed on his hand, and the death of a longtime friend and cornerstone of the event. Johnston draws from research across multiple disciplines to explain how the media constructs the natural and bodily experiences canoers and kayakers say they have while attending Floatzilla. He discusses the importance of meaning and sense of place in maintaining a connectedness between the built environment, nature, and the people who attend this event. Ultimately, the author contends that social meaning is essential for humans to make sense of their surroundings.
Michael O. Johnston is assistant professor of sociology at William Penn University, the author of Community Media Representations of Place and Identity at Tug Fest, and a host for New Books in Sociology (a channel on New Books Network).
Chapter 1. The Importance of Community Media in Shaping Festival City
Chapter 2. The Making of an Occasion
Chapter 3. The Road to the Float
Chapter 4. The Arrival, Performance, and Departure
Appendix: Sources and Methods, Cities and Their Festival
About the Author
"Just like people, places have identities and personas. Also, just like people, those identities and personas can change over time either by force or by fiat. Michael O. Johnston takes us into a world of the Floatzilla festival where we see how news media facilitate such changes in both people and places. He opens our eyes to some of the ways that contemporary identities are both stabilized and rearranged, and sometimes rearranged again, and how people can act and react to the social forces often out of their control."
"How can cities reimagine themselves by drawing from their heritage to attract tourists, new settlers, and retain their residents? As Michael O. Johnston argues, in experiential economies, authenticity and active participation in shaping one´s community supports belonging and the flourishing of local economies. This fascinating book on the making of the Flotzilla festival on the Mississippi river—a ritual of forming a temporal community in nature, will appeal to urban sociologists, cultural geographers, and students of creativity and media.”