Worth the Wait and Hype? Gentrification, anxiety, and the hipster geographies of boutique ice cream

Authors: Bryan Mark*, York University
Topics: Urban Geography, Cultural Geography, Qualitative Methods
Keywords: gentrification, social media, anxiety
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 1:30 PM / 2:45 PM
Room: Virtual 12
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In Toronto's 'trendy' Lower Ossington neighbourhood, mysterious and unprecedented retail lineups govern sidewalk space as queues of middle-class consumers, smartphones in-hand, wait for 'house-made' ice cream hyped as 'the best' in the city. Tracing the hipster retail gentrification of Ossington Avenue and drawing from methodologies of retail-based ethnography, semi-structured interviews, and Instagram netnography, this presentation explores the technogenesis of hype as a social media object interfacing the symbolic image of the urban middle-class good life with the cultural anxiety of being left behind. In this virtual paper, I explore how the emergence of hype reflects the spatial role of new hipster retail as agents of moral entrepreneurship remaking ice cream into a material artifact of social distinction and an ‘authentic’ good of middle-class truth. Additionally, I investigate the real-virtual dialectic of locational retail queuing and locative visual social media images as hipster geographies of boutique ice cream that co-constitute the space of hype. Such site-specific on-screen and off-screen consumer practices visually invest in the future of retail gentrification as a destination of expectation, framing the locale of Lower Ossington as an aesthetic utopia of ontological certainty and existential safety. But, underneath the ornamental surface of the urban good life is a structural feedback loop of cultural anxiety attempting to 'destroy' perceived threats of invisibility, irrelevance, and obsolescence. Consequently, this crisis of emulation seeking to 'annihilate' hype as an object of anxiety only amplifies the digital circulation of hype and magnifies the spatial entitlement of retail gentrification.

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