Saturday, March 20, 2004

New Dead City

While we were looking at the beautiful architectural sketches of Rossi's design for the cemetery at San Cataldo - a city of the dead - Joey told me about a proposal by Mikael Damant-Sirois, a student in her Networks and Navigation class.

Nautilus Memorium is the most brilliant social networking site concept I have ever seen. A bit tongue-in-cheek, the project is also profoundly sociable and intimate - based far more on quality than on quantity of relationship.

With Nautilus Memorium, people can create profiles of departed loved ones as a practice of memorial or remembrance - and perhaps take solace in helping them find quality companionship in the afterlife. In addition to submitting a biographical description for each soul you add, you are prompted to rank personal characteristics such as vitality and patience, as well as the characteristics they might look for in their companions. This information is used to indicate inter-personal affinities and individual souls, represented as glowing stars, cluster on screen - like constellations and galaxies of the dead. And, of course, this means that each time you visit your loved ones, you can meet their new friends.

This also reminds me of Eusapia, one of Calvino's invisible cities:

And to make the leap from life to death less abrupt, the inhabitants have constructed an identical copy of their city, underground. All corpses, dried in such a way that the skeleton remains sheathed in yellow skin, are carried down there, to continue their former activities. And, of these activities, it is their carefree moments that take first place ... [But] to be sure, many of the living want a fate after death different from their lot in life: the necropolis is crowded with big-game hunters, mezzosopranos, bankers, violinists, duchesses, courtesans, generals - more than the living city every contained ...

They say that every time they go below they find something changed in the lower Eusapia; the dead make innovations in their city; not many, but surely the fruit of sober reflection, not passing whims. From one year to the next, they say, the Eusapia of the dead becomes unrecognizable. And the living, to keep up with them, also want to do everything that the hooded brothers tell them about the novelties of the dead. So the Eusapia of the living has taken on copying its underground copy.

They say that this has not just begun to happen: actually it was the dead who built the upper Eusapia, in the image of their city. They say that in the twin cities there is no longer any way of knowing who is alive and who is dead.

Which in turn reminds me that the most sociable and intimate technologies will be those that involve a lot of slippage...


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