An important element in the discussion of urban readings is the presence of traces which have been defining and shaping the city as they are formed throughout centuries. The urban phenomena and codes which can be accepted as the physical, historical and cultural reflections of these traces also form another aspect of this element. Deciphering these codes helps us define the chain of relatable operability between the various layers.
Language is an essential factor in the formation of urban image in the public mind. As a matter of fact, it would not be wrong to say that urban discourses are linguistic expressions of the urban image formed in the public mind. Urban codes sustain their presence through the language used in living areas (physical environment, buildings, media, and maps) which produce their own characteristic texts.
In the relation of the city to the language which recreates it as a discourse setter, social knowledge and social memory gain importance as the source and support of life. The city is the consolidator of cultural production. Some of the sources to be consulted in the understanding of society, in decoding the public point of view are the written and visual tools of popular culture. Popular culture is something that helps us survive in this gloomy and depressing atmosphere where commodification and heaviness penetrates all aspects of our lives, making it impossible to hope for freedom.
Although a popular culture product cannot defy sovereign forces or deactivate them entirely, it contains opportunities to shake off the position of being dependent on these forces. In this context, popular culture is a process of combat. It is a struggle of the significance of public experience, a conflict between the personality of the individual and social order carried out through the texts and commodities of this order. Popular culture texts are ambiguous, open-ended and require productive interpretation. They shape our cultural life, thoughts, judgments and discourses.
For a long time, popular culture studies were not taken seriously by many academic circles in Turkey. Popular culture studies, which play an important role in our lives, can cover many fields. They can bring us closer to the world of socializing youngsters or be useful in getting to know groups which are ethnically or socio-economically different.
The eighties are the years when popular culture became legitimate, and with the widening and diversification of urban life and its perception by much larger groups (the improvement of communication channels being an important factor here), began to be consumed as a commodity.
The eighties are worth studying because the potential of economic and social policies to create a new environment and a fresh situation affected Turkey just as it did the rest of the world. That which was called “a new era” in academic approach, became the much-used expression, “an era of change” in Turkey. The physical changes of the city during the eighties that affected our everyday life and the way we perceived and related to the city, as well as the contribution of these changes to the formation of urban discourse according to how they took place in the popular media are subjects that also deserve special attention.
Istanbul is a stage for events that carry marks of culture. It is the central venue of cultural activities, the center of all the mechanisms that shape, direct and motivate cultural life. The music sector, the film industry and the headquarters of newspapers are all based in Istanbul. The finance sector and the financial power that runs these culture mechanisms are in Istanbul. All these factors make Istanbul the cultural capital of Turkey.
At no time have the symbols of everyday life and those of the large city overlapped as much as they did in the years 1980-1990. Change, consumption, diversification and assimilation are concepts that define the course of everyday life from the ‘80s to the ‘90s. The notions of “commoditation”, “placelessness”, centralization, “historicality”, “narrativeness”, alienation, offers of social belonging, urban cleavage/ghetto forming, speed and action make it difficult to come up with an integrated definition of the city and “sloganize” the city with new dynamics. Behind all this lies the changing significance of the city.
The textual stage of popular media catches the agenda of the day and forms a discourse. Then, with its newspaper articles, cartoons, magazine covers, advertisements, article series and faded pages, it is bound and enclosed into stack rooms of libraries, to be reopened one day, or maybe never, on the call of a researcher. However, certain texts that have found themselves a small place on this stage have been taken from the pages of newspapers and magazines by their authors and converted into books. Some of these works that form important references for understanding architecture and the city through popular culture are “Cilalı İmaj Devri (Age of the Polished Image)” by Cem Kozanoğlu, “Vitrinde Yaşamak (Living in the Show Window)” by Nurdan Gürbilek, “Tarz-ı Hayat’tan Life Style’a (From Way of Living to Life Style)” by Rıfat Bali, compilations of cartoons published in various papers and magazines in the eighties such as “Güle Güle Istanbul” by Semih Balcıoğlu, “Nostaljisi Kandilli” by Latif Demirci, “Cırcır Böceği Muhlis Bey ve Yavlum Mithat” by Latif Demirci and Behiç Pek, Gırgır humor magazine, the widely circulated Nokta magazine.