Published on February 24, 2014
Remediating Cities: The Changing City and Public Digital Domain Prof. Stephen Graham Newcastle University
From Dreams of Transcendence to the ‘Remediation’ of Urban Life • 1960s-1990s Pervasive obsession with substitution/ dematerialisation/ death of distance • Assumption that ICTs would inevitably eviscerate and simply replace cities/ corporeality/ materiality/ physical flow • Cities (concentrations of space to overcome time), body and transport abandoned because of real-time interactions to overcome space • Cast away “Ballast of materiality” (Benedikt) • Fantasies of complete transcendence: utopian/dystopian/’neoliberal/ cyberlibertarian
A ‘Manifest Destiny’ or ‘Anything-AnytimeAnywhere Dream’: Examples • ”The city as a form of major dimensions must inevitably dissolve like the fading shot in a movie" McLuhan 1964 • ”If cities did not exist, it now would not be necessary to invent them" Naisbitt and Aburdene 1991 • ”The city of the past slowly becomes a paradoxical agglomeration in which relations of immediate proximity give way to interrelationships over distance” Virilio 1993 • ”In urban terms, once time has become instantaneous, space becomes unnecessary” Pawley 1997 • “When work is a few keystrokes away from the comfort of your home-office, why even build in reality”? Kaba 1996
Massive Myth! Instead, Urban Remediation • Bolter and Grusin: Cyberspace "is very much a part of our contemporary world. It is constituted through a series of remediations. As a digital network, cyberspace remediates the electric communications networks of the past 150 years, the telegraph and the telephone; as virtual reality, it remediates the visual space of painting, film, and television ; and as social space, it remediates such historical places as cities and parks and such 'nonplaces' as theme parks and shopping malls. Like other contemporary telemediated spaces, cyberspace refashions and extends earlier media, which are themselves embedded in material and social environments".
• Massive parallel growth in ICT use, urbanisation and transport flows • Very material geographies of ICTs • New media applications increasingly articulate closely with, and animate, fine grain of urban places • Complex spatial divisions of labour • Complex combinations of face-to-face and electronic interactions within and between cities • ‘Compulsion of proximity’ for burgeoning ‘creative’ industries and people, as well as massive ICT flows • ICTs have quickly become normal, taken for granted and banal • Now the ordinary urban landscape
5 Key Dimensions (1) Remediations of Consumption in the ‘Age of Access’
Consumption and Experience of Neighbourhoods
New Urban Social Movements: Exposing the Politics of Digital Information in Neoliberal Cities
The Telepresent Landscape Remote Consumption of Place
2. Remediating Urban Public Realms
‘A New Biology of Culpability’: Rapid shift to algorithmic and biometric surveillance systems
Risk of Parallel Physical and Electronic Capsularisation
Digital Portals and the Commodification of Cyberspace
Polarising Effects of High-tech Megaprojects
Post 9-11 ‘Surveillance Surge’
Deep Place: Parallel Challenges to Reassert Urban Public Realms Through Remediation Exploit: * Geospatial Software * Wireless * Location Services
Social Networks and Social Software
Mobiles as Urban Portals
Brings a New Politics of (In)visibility
Cities as Digital Playgrounds
Animating the Past: Digital Collective Memory
Art and Resistance
The ‘Compulsion of Proximity’ Bodies as Communications Networks
(3) E-Enabled Mobilities
Recommodification: Premium E-Tolled Spaces and Mobilities
Face as a Bar Code: Elite Bypass
RFIDs: The Triumph of Logistics and Ubiquitous Electronic Tracking
Ubiquitous Computing and Sentient Urban Landscapes
(4) Software-Sorted Societies: The Automation of Social Exclusion “The modern city exists in a haze of software instructions” Amin and Thrift
(5) Imaginative Cities: From Cyberpunk to SimCity
Conclusions • Complex and multi-scaled urban remediations underway • These rely on subtle, complex and continuous combinations of ‘virtual’ and urban/corporeal/physical/place-based • ICTs have very quickly become ordinary - The most basic and prosaic background to contemporary urban life • The urban is ICTs; ICTs are the urban. Not separate realms • Urban life continuously brought into being by massive, globally-stretched complexes of increasingly automated logistics, consumption, surveillance and social systems • But, with a few exceptions, research and policy paradigms lagging far behind • Often trapped in the anachronistic concepts and paradigms of modern, electromechanical urbanism or fantasies of virtual transcendence and dematerialisation
Main Policy Challenges • View remediating cities as sociotechnical process • Develop ‘relational' conceptions of urban place: space and time continually brought into being through remediation, operating at scales from body to globe • Creatively shape ICTs and urban spaces in parallel as joined and inseparable ‘hybrids’ • Bold and flexible experiments in urban remediation needed as basis for creative, sustainable and just future cities • Must strive to revitalise urban public realms through remediation, addressing dangers of electronic/physical capsularisation, sprawl, and rise of national security states • Also address growing invisibility of social and technical power: the growth of ‘software-sorted’ digital divides
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