Wibbly Wobbly Timey Wimey… Stuff

“A space-time path represents the path taken by an individual, but any one path is only one of many that can actually be taken by a person in a given amount of time.” (Corbett 2001 p.2)

When I read this definition of Torsten Hӓgerstrand’s space-time model it reminded me of The Doctor’s explanation of time. And, in turn, of the time that I attended a screening of The Day of the Doctor at my local cinema.

wibbly wobbly timey wimey
The cinematic experience is about much more than passively watching a film, and one’s cinema-going encounter is fundamentally governed by their ability to attend and engage. Hӓgerstrand’s model proposes that one’s navigation through space is “governed by limitations” (Corbett 2001 p.2). Specifically:

  • Capability: a spatial-temporal constraint, where a “certain trade off must be made between space and time” (Corbett 2001 p.2).
  • Coupling: the need to be in a certain place, interacting with people – “linking” your “space-time” paths (Corbett 2001 p.2).
  • Authority: limitations on what a “person’s space-time path is normally not permitted” to do (Corbett 2001 p.2).

These are limitations which can be considered when reflecting upon our own cinematic experiences. Take for instance, my experience of attending the screening of The Day of the Doctor. From memory, there was only one screening of the film, and it was a special event. So, I had to organise time off work to be there. Also, I didn’t have my license at the time, so I organised for someone to drive me to the cinema.

The limits on my capability to attend the screening were worth alleviating for the sake of partaking in the shared experience of this special event.

Because, this wasn’t just any Doctor Who film. It represented the greatness that was Doctor Who, and, of course, it featured the come-back of my favourite Doctor – David Tennant – so, obviously I had to see it. This was such a big event within the Doctor Who fandom that people cosplayed on the day (I felt severely underdressed). But, nonetheless, I felt a part of the communal excitement surrounding the film. Thus, instead of watching the TV release, I decided to “link” my “space-time” (Corbett 2001 p.2) path with my fellow Whovians to enjoy the “extra-filmic” experience (Acland 2003 cited by Turnbull 2018).

I remember gathering in the lobby, the smell of over-buttered popcorn wafting through the air, joyfully discussing fan-theories with the other movie goers. This usual “non-place” was alive with the buzzing enthusiasm of its tenants (Augé 2009 cited by Turnbull 2018). During the film, everyone was well behaved according to the social and established rules of the cinema. There were no sneaky phone-checks or whispered conversations, only mutual laughs… And maybe tears when Rose wasn’t actually Rose (spoilers – sorry!).

Ultimately, adopting a critical approach to reflecting upon our cinema-going experiences can allow us to understand why cinematic experiences are so unique. Among an emerging world of video streaming and on-demand content, it is very difficult to match the convenience that these services offer. So, movie theatres must rely on the magic of cinema: the superb image and sound quality, premium seating, and the sense of a shared emotional experience to stay afloat.


Acland, C. (2003). Screen traffic. Durham: Duke University Press.

Augé, M. (2009). Non-places. London: Verso.

Corbett, J. (2001). Torsten Hӓgerstrand, Time Geography. CSISS ClassicsUC Santa Barbara: Center for Spatially Integrated Social Science. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/2t75b8sj

Tardis. (2018). The Day of the Doctor (TV story). [online] Available at: http://tardis.wikia.com/wiki/The_Day_of_the_Doctor_(TV_story) [Accessed 17 Aug. 2018].

Turnbull, S. (2018). ‘An Ethnography of Cinema Spaces’ Powerpoint Slides, BCM241, University of Wollongong, delivered 16 Aug. 2018.

Featured image

Felix Mooneeram


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