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Urban exploration and the American culture Essay

Urban exploration is a common phenomenon in American culture. Urban exploration has been commonly defined as the examination of the normally unseen or off-limits parts of human civilization. It is likewise generally referred to as infiltration. In this sense, some people consider infiltration to be more closely connected with the exploration of active or inhabited sites. In the United States of America, urban exploration may also be referred to as draining or urban spelunking.

Over the past years some activities that have jointly become identified as urban exploration have seen a dramatic rise in recognition and expansion. While before only individuals or small groups of people would explore the inner secrets of the cities, urban explorations has already gone beyond that with organized exploration groups. These groups are testament to the fact that urban exploration has already come a long, long way. Now, even rules have been set to make the exploration safe and systematic. However, the definition of urban exploration in the strictest sense is still debatable.

For one, urban exploration really is a blanket term for several activities, such as draining, tunnelling, infiltration and industrial archaeology. In some cases, it has also become closely associated with photography of derelict places that once hold significance to mankind. For other people, urban exploration is simply an adventurous sport that develops strength and discipline. Indeed, urban exploration as we understand it today seems to be a kind of fusion of sport, history, art and the raw fulfillment of innate snooping.

While this definition of Urban Exploration seems tremendously debatable, one would notice that the prevailing pattern in the circle these days is the idea that the bigger the place to be explored, the better for the explorer. In many ways, urban exploration has in many ways become the pursuit of the biggest and the best: the biggest drain or the most impressive building. Apparently, urban exploration has become an underground movement that websites of organized urban explorers encourage secrecy among themselves and their explorations.

Some of these groups do not even acknowledge achievements made without personal risk or stealth. For example, the Institute for Urban Exploration insists that its member — unless otherwise acquainted — communicate strictly on a codename basis. This allows them to form a close-knit operation with a comforting level of anonymity. To preserve ethical considerations that the group deems as highly important, it also states that: “Potential members will be evaluated based on many variables.

The ideal candidate should veiled a good combination of the following qualities: past experience, artistic creativity, resourcefulness, agility, communication skills, trustworthiness, ability to perform in stressful and/or potentially fatal situations, charisma, survival tactics, social engineering skills, good humor, climbing skills, ability to work within a group, logical thought process, problem solving skills, and the social edge needed to be the member of a highly elite underground organization (iue. org).

” Indeed, history will tell us that through the years, urban exploration has been a common and prevalent practice not only among adults but the youth as well – most especially the youth. However, the literature on this phenomenon is also among the less explored among many anthropological studies. It is probably because of its regular occurrence that everybody seems to overlook it as something natural and one that merits less attention. Those who have finally studied this kind of activity have often been ignored.

Admittedly, urban exploration is a topic that could often be less interesting than other issues in anthropological studies, but it is nevertheless important since even — and most especially — the American youth nowadays is deeply into it. Basically, as explained earlier urban exploration has been ethically questionable. However, many urban explorers know the risks that they face when authorities catch them trespassing an off-limits place, or even an abandoned building. Yet, for these adventurers, the crime attributed to their hobby is generally seen as a means to an end. It never is their main point.

Of course, there are some urban explorers who care very strict with their so-called “ethical practices. ” This is respect for the location they visit, its history, and the other urban explorers who may wish to also visit the place. Still, in spite of its growing popularity, urban exploration remains an unstructured hobby, and one can never find two explorers sharing exactly the same views on the ethics of the hobby. Many urban explorers adhere to the tenet that it is ethical to leave explored places and buildings to leave buildings intact and in the same condition that they were in before they were explored.

The common — albeit not always entirely accurate — catchphrase for this is the Sierra Club’s slogan which says, “Take nothing but pictures, leave nothing but footprints. ” Of course, many urban explorers adhere to this dictum, which scowls heavily upon vandalism, theft, graffitti, and any other crime except for trespassing. For the group called Ninjalicious, vandalism is highly deplorable aspect of urdban exploration. “Genuine urban explorers never vandalize, steal or damage anything — we don’t even litter.

We’re in it for the thrill of discovery and a few nice pictures, and probably have more respect for and appreciation of our cities’ hidden spaces than most of the people who think we’re naughty. We don’t harm the places we explore. We love the places we explore (ninjalicious. org). ” Some social scientists insist that while it is true that some facets of the hobby happen to be illegal, like trespassing, it is vital not to muddle up the illegal and immoral. In fact, laws against trespassing are like laws against being out after curfew.

It means that people get into trouble with law not because they have done something injurious to anybody, but because authorities are worried that they might. The danger that is coupled with urban exploration does not also make the act illegal. People who are liability-conscious may disagree, but the hobby is no less of a personally assessed risk. This can also be dealt with in seemingly non-criminal activities, such as smoking, driving or even riding a bike. In some cases, graffiti in drains could be tolerable for as long as the physical features of the establishment are not affected damaged.

Sometimes, this could even be useful for drainers to indicate how far down the drain explorers have been. Unfortunately, in spite of self-imposed regulations, some explorers do remove important items from abandoned sites to preserve them or to keep as souvenirs. In rare cases, these urban explorers think that they are saving these items or artifacts from further decay or destruction especially when a location has become a target of vandalism by other entities, or is being demolished by authorities.

Many places that have already been explored contain a small area reserved for leaving tags, otherwise known as a guest book. These vary from actual books to blackboards to pieces of scrap metal or wood, or even the dust on an old piece of machinery (wikipedia. org). In the end, the ethical issues confronting urban exploration basically rest on the shoulders of individual explorer. On the other hand, urban exploration is highly prevalent mostly in the USA and the West, such as Canada and the European countries. This probably reflects some kind of cultural phenomenon that has not been truly explored by social scientists.

Of course, urban exploration could be attributed to people who have nothing better to do with their time than to go underneath city streets or explore old and abandoned buildings that have seen better days. In developing countries people are often busy to earn a living and even children are sent off to work in order to help the parents, hence the phenomenons of urban exploration has not yet catch fever. However, in industrialized countries, most especially the USA, people have got so much time in their hands that they have begun to find ways and means to amuse themselves.

Apparently, urban exploration started like this. Young people visit old sites and underground tunnels to satisfy their curiosity. It is only through the years that it has become a veritable hobby and that even professionals are already into it, basically for the fun and thrill. Of course, this hobby could lead to important finds but since no law has been formulated to protect the hobbyists and this practice, some people still consider it illegal and invasion of human’s basic privacy.

Yet, in spite the controversy that surrounds urban exploration, its popularity among young people have steadily risen. This could actually be attributed to the increasing media attention it has been getting recently. In fact, even the Discovery Channel, MTV’s Fear, and the Atlantic Paranormal Society have already devised ways and means to package the hobby for a popular audience. In the advent of all these, there has been mounting discussion on whether the additional attention has been advantageous to the world of urban exploration.

The question actually stems from the fact that the growing popularity of urban exploration has attracted a lot of vandals who are not really into the hobby, and even authorities who are growing more alert on the possibility of explorers hiding within their areas of responsibility. The trespassing and breaking and entering, which are aspects of urban exploring, have also been exposed through internet websites which posts pictures of underground activities, thus exposing urban explorers to the danger of being caught by law enforcers.

In other words, these explorers and their hobby are being needlessly exposed to the public through internet and mainstream newspapers. Because of this intermittent danger of being trapped, many explorers have already avoided posting information and photographs in the internet. Some urban explorer websites have already been locked, accessible only to their members, by using passwords. In spite of these safety nets, the meteoric rise of this hobby’s popularity can also be attributed to numerous events related to this that have been hosted throughout the world.

These organized events include, among others, campouts, barbeques, day-long explorations, and tours of active and abandoned sites. While most of these events are illegal simply because they involve trespassing or breaking and entering, a handful of meets are really tours. Though urban exploration takes us deep into the forgotten history of many cities, there are still so many issues to be resolved. How does one really define urban exploration? Are there laws that may be formulated to protect urban explorers? On the other hand, if laws are formulated, will this lessen the popularity and thrill of the sport?

How can explorers be exposed to the ethical considerations of the hobby? Ultimately, the question really is: how can urban exploration enrich the world that we now live in? In the strictest sense, urban exploration involves more than bursting manholes, climbing through broken windows, or sneaking past security guards. It is also about walking a different path between home and work or school. It is about peeking through the window on the subway trying to figure out what all those buttons in the driver’s booth can perform.

In some instances, it is about sitting on a bench in a park one night and watching the bag lady sifting through the garbage for bottles and cans. These may sound boring to ordinary people, but for urban explorers who see beyond the obvious, these events are only clues to more exciting days and nights. Indeed, it has been said that between the towers in the sky and the drains below the ground are countless other sights, sounds and smells to be experienced. Each city breathes, lives, and changes on many levels.It is worthwhile to explore it from every angle. Curiosity then becomes a full time chase. That is urban exploration in its strictest sense.

Works cited:

The Action Squad retrived August 11, 2006 from www. actionsquad. org/index. html The Labyrinth retrieved August 11, 2006 from www. actionsquad. org/labyrinth. htm Hamms Brewery retrieved August 10, 2006 from www. actionsquad. org/hammsoverview. htm Netherworld, NYCw retrieved August 9, 2006 from www. netherworldonline. net/index2. php Ninjalicious. pdf www. wikipedia. org

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