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[French flâner ‘to stroll’]

1. For the French poet Charles Baudelaire (1821–67), an idle stroller who is in their element as one of the crowd; a dashing young gentleman whose wealth and education allows him to explore the new urban arcades of 19th-century Paris. A passionate observer who is at the centre of his world and yet remains inconspicuous.

2. For Benjamin, not so much a hero but a tourist in commodity culture, who roams the city, becoming affected by its architecture and nurturing an enduring passion for things seen only in passing.

3. The street photographer, attracted to ‘dark seamy corners’ (Sontag).

4. Either the cinema spectator who enjoys the voyeuristic pleasures of seeing everything while remaining hidden or one who resists being sutured into the film. See also suture; voyeurism.

5. The TV channel-hopper or surfer; a detached indifferent observer.

6. (cyber, digital, or virtual flâneur) A surfer of the internet, exploring cyberspace in search of virtual pleasures. The anonymity of the flâneur is especially embodied in the figure of the lurker.

Subjects: Media studies

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