Etymologically the word flânerie comes from the French verb flâner that means to stroll, to take a walk. The origins of the verb are dialectal. In the seventeenth century the verb ‘flanner’ was used in Normandy to mean ‘to waste time’ (CNRTL). The verb flâner [to stroll], and the nouns flâneur [stroller] and flânerie [the act of strolling] became part of the French language in the nineteenth century, in writings of Balzac (1837) for instance, to describe someone who likes to do nothing.
French nineteenth-century poet Charles Baudelaire, who experienced and also theorized flânerie, coined the concept of the flâneur. Initially the term flâneur referred to the reflective stroller in the streets of Paris. The flexibility of flânerie became a pleasure for anyone who could be a detached pedestrian observer of the modern metropolis. After the second half of the century though, flânerie in the capitalist city became mostly the pleasure of those who had the capacity to consume. The flâneur is the initial form of the modern intellectual whose interest was to explore modernity itself.
In Los Angeles, we could do windshield flânerie (from our cars), which is closer to the online flânerie through the computer screen (window). At ipernity we experiment with off-line and on-line flânerie and please join the group and contribute, as I would like to do too :o)
In the essay "Seen from the Window" included in the collection Rhythmanalysis, Lefebvre presents an intermediate position of the rhythmanalyst that is placed in between the nineteenth century flâneur and the contemporary e-flâneur. Protected from the tumult of street life, the rhythmanalyst analyses the rhythms of the public space from the window of his private space.
"From the window opening onto rue R. facing the famous P. Centre, there is no need to lean much to see into the distance. To the right, the palace-centre P., the Forum, up as far as the (central) Bank of France. To the left up as far as the Archives. Perpendicular to this direction, the Hôtel de Ville and, on the other side, the Arts et Métiers. The whole of Paris, ancient and modern, traditional and creative, active and lazy.
He who walks down the street, over there, is immersed in the multiplicity of noises, murmurs, rhythms (including those of the body, but does he pay attention, except at the moment of crossing the street, when he has to calculate roughly the number of his steps?). By contrast, from the window, the noises distinguish themselves, the flows separate out, the rhythms respond to one another. Towards the right, below, a traffic light. On red, cars at a standstill, the pedestrians cross, feeble murmurings, footsteps, confused voices. One does not chatter while crossing a dangerous junction under the threat of wild cats and elephants ready to charge forward, taxis, buses, lorries, various cars. Hence the relative silence in this crowd. A kind of soft murmuring, sometimes a cry, a call.
…. The harmony between what one sees and what one hears (from the window) is remarkable. Strict concordance.
…. The noise grows, grows in intensity and strength, at its peak becomes unbearable, though quite well borne by the stench of fumes. Then stop. Let’s do it again, with more pedestrians. Two-minute intervals. Amidst the fury of the cars, the pedestrians cluster together, a clot here, a clump over there; grey dominates, with multicoloured flecks, and these heaps break apart for the race ahead.
…. The noise that pierces the ear comes not from passers-by, but from engines pushed to the limit when starting up. No ear, no piece of apparatus could grasp this whole, this flux of metallic and carnal bodies. In order to grasp the rhythms, a bit of time, a sort of meditation on time, the city, people, is required.
Other, less lively, slower rhythms superimpose themselves on the inexorable rhythm, which hardly dies down at night: children leaving from school, some very noisy, even piercing screams of morning recognition. Then towards half past nine is the arrival of the shoppers, followed shortly by the tourists, in accordance, with exceptions (storms or advertising promotions), with a timetable that is almost always the same; the flows and conglomerations succeed one another: they get fatter or thinner but always agglomerate at the corners in order subsequently to clear a path, tangle and disentangle themselves amongst cars" (Lefebvre 2004, pp.28-30).