No unseated crowd is liable to be orderly’: The Technological Control of Cultural Audiences

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Twentieth-century U.S. manufacturers of crowd control equipment, including turnstiles, stanchions, and seats, framed their products as devices able to generate tame audiences by channeling bodies through venue spaces and arranging them into neatly seated lines. Whether audiences gathered to witness sport, music, theater, or some other genre of performance, crowd control technology was promoted as the key to ensuring they were calm and compliant. Venue designers and operators conceived of the buildings in these terms as well. In this presentation, Kushner draws on trade literature, technical books, and existing scholarship to show how equipment manufacturers, venue designers, and facility operators portrayed venues and the furnishings that filled them as instrumental in promoting orderly audiences—and ultimately a civilized society. This work is part of a larger project entitled “Enclosing Performance: Crowds, Control, and the Commodification of Culture”, which shows how event venues convert chaotic crowds into calm, cooperative consumers.