Saturday, November 8, 2003

Network space

Disconnected Urbanism. "The great offense of the cell phone in public is not the intrusion of its ring, although that can be infuriating when it interrupts a tranquil moment. It is the fact that even when the phone does not ring at all, and is being used quietly and discreetly, it renders a public place less public. It turns the boulevardier into a sequestered individual, the flaneur into a figure of privacy. And suddenly the meaning of the street as a public place has been hugely diminished." (via Perl's Architecture Weblog)

Hmm. My advisor has referred to flâneurie as space-time psychosis ... But do mobile technologies cripple the flâneur? (Warning: bad segue ahead) Not if we recall the connections between flâneurie, appropriation and consumption ...

In The Guardian, William Mitchell discusses his new book and suggests "we should no longer think of ourselves as 'fixed, discrete individuals', but as nodes in a network. 'I am part of the networks and the networks are part of me. I am visible to Google. I link, therefore I am'." (Wow, he forgot to say "We are Borg!")

And guess what nodes - er, people - get to do? Buy more stuff. Guess what cities are good for? Consumption.

"In the past, people had to go to a certain place in the city to get certain services. Now, through mobile technology, those services can come to them and they can reconfigure the world to their needs ... These ideas feed into the projects Mitchell is leading at the Media Lab. Take the concept car his students are developing with architect Frank Gehry and General Motors. The car will be 'an intelligent interface to the resources the city offers. Like a good London taxi driver, it should know what you want, know what the city has to offer, and have the capacity to relate the two. It's as much electronics and information systems as mechanical engineering and styling'."

But to cut Mitchell some slack, he does make one interesting point: "You can't draw a clear distinction between the subjects of surveillance and those who employ surveillance. Increasingly, we are all both."

Update: Just read Situating Cyborgs: Technology & Psychogeography by Liz Wilkinson, "attempting to map out points of affinity between conceptualisations of city space, psychogeography, cyberculture and feminist theorisations of the posthuman." Interesting.

Update 19/11/03: Mitchell gave a talk last night to the UK Architectural Association and Alex Wilkie reports to the nettime mailing list: "So what do WE get? New places - such as parks (what real function did they play anyway) - to find jobs, out of the panoptic gaze of the corporeal boss (forget sys admin track and trace here). New places - such as canteens (such as one I was tapping in...) to re-purpose as studio-work spaces (this should be done with a tablet pc by the way). And then ... perhaps ... dispersed forms of grassroots demonstration (he showed some well chosen googled-images here). And that was it. I was hoping Bill++ would provide some urbanista insights into political and ethical sites but grassroots was really it." Update: Kevin Hamilton responds.

Hmm. Echoes my frustrations when I heard him speak last month.

Mitchell speaks again tonight at the Tate. Stay tuned for updates.

Update: Matt Jones' notes here and Matt Webb's discussion here.


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