UCL Urban Laboratory


Lunchtime seminar: On the 'Loss of Night'

23 January 2018, 1:00 pm–2:00 pm

Maracay, Estado Aragua, Venezuela. Credit: George Miquilena on Flickr

Event Information

Open to



Room 113, 26 Bedford Way, London WC1H 0AP

This talk, by Dr Robert Shaw (University of Newcastle), will explore the contention that we are facing a 'loss of night', in which night and day are becoming more alike.

Whether claims focus on a shift to a capitalist '24/7 City', reduced use of the night for sleeping and rest, or rises in light pollution, there is a dominant narrative in academic and popular media that night is, in various ways, under threat in the contemporary society. In this seminar, I want to consider what it is about night that we are presumed to be losing, and what such a loss tells us about understandings of night, and also of day. My core argument is formed of three parts. First, that there has never been a shared 'natural' experience of the night which is somehow being corrupted. Rather, nights have long been and continue to be varied, and that the contemporary night has emerged out of a series of socio-cultural norms.  Second, that the 'loss of night' might be better formulated as part of a broader set of transformations to everyday temporal units that has been driven by changes in work, leisure and communication that are in part driven by technological innovation. As such, the loss of night is just part of the story of a wider set of changes to phenomena such as night, day, week and weekend. Third, I will argue that despite these changes, many people's nights remain outside of and different to day in a number of key ways. I will conclude by arguing that, as a phenomenon which emerges from a complex intersection of the social with the 'biogeoastronomical', the study of night might offer insights for the 'earthly social sciences' described by Latour, which have begun to open up further the exploration of the humanity-planet relationship.

The talk is part of the Human Geography Lunchtime Seminar series, organised by UCL Geography.

Additional information:

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Image credit: George Miquilena on Wikimedia Commons (see)