Alicia Framis, Departure hall for scifi cities
Last Friday I was in Manchester at the 17th edition of the incredible FutureEverything conference, which was held at the monumental Museum of Science and Industry, home of the industrial revolution. I had been invited to the festival to give a keynote address about the future city, a subject I have been more actively investigating since the founding of VURB in 2009 with Ben Cerveny and James Burke. Here is a brief summary of my talk.
Titled The City and The City, after the imagination defying novel by the great weird fiction author China Miéville, the presentation was my personal experiential premise of another city being added to the city we live and work in by the enthusiastic use of continuous media.
This extracity is informational, which in my case consists mostly of the viral networks of social services-in-space as Foursquare, Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Sonar, all swarming in and out of my iPhone at the speed of friendship, family and curiosity.
Foursquare I use for bookmarking, sharing and recommending places. Instagram is for sending social postcards of interesting sites, and is quickly replacing Facebook as my social network of choice (and here comes the irony). Facebook is Facebook, but with the new timeline feature it has become a container for well-integrated Foursquare and Instagram updates. Twitter is Twitter, but with iPhone location services switched on it becomes a site-specific social news feed. And Sonar is excellent at helping you find places you might like in realtime, based on shared interests and mutual friends on Foursquare, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
In the background there are at the same time deeper, more systemic developments taking place: high-speed internet access, ubicomp, cloud computing, sensor networks, big data, etc.. And out of these, some weird, boutique threads that are relevant to spatial practice, like the 3D printing of rooms, robots weaving buildings, self-driving cars, domestic drones, urban operating systems and nonhuman cities.
A few weeks ago, my dear friend Ben Cerveny stopped over in Amsterdam for a weekend on his way to Geneva. For a few years, Ben had been living in Amsterdam for some months a year, traveling back to San Francisco and Los Angeles after summer and returning to Amsterdam after winter.
It had almost been two years since we last saw each other, but because we have constantly been in touch via Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, Instagram and iChat, I felt like it had been only yesterday. When I explained this to Ben, he immediately said, without stopping to think about what he was saying, ‘oh of course: the continuous partial everywhere.’
And that is exactly it. The continous partial everywhere is the aspatial experience of simultaneity in immediate media. I am in the city where my friends are at the same as the one where I am myself. The city for me is no longer only a city in space, but now also a city in time. An aspatial city, without distances, in a kind of aspace.
Sarah van Sonsbeeck, Faraday Tent
To avoid aspatiality, and to be in the here, artist Sarah van Sonsbeeck has created a Faraday Tent: an electromagnetic radiation shielding tent for ordinary camping use, that represents her desire for a ‘right to silence’. The Grenoble Institute of Technology has produced wifi-blocking wallpaper: a printable electromagnetic shield that ‘only blocks a select set of frequencies used by wireless LANs, and allows cellular phones and other radio waves through.’ And the EMF Safety SuperStore has been selling shielding apparel and devices since 1996, ’out of personal interest and concern for the possible dangers associated with overhead power lines, cellular phones, microwave ovens, police radar and all the electronic radiation which increasingly pollutes our modern environment’.
In Manchester I showed a few more examples of various spatial strategies of artists, designers and corporations and the implications for how we understand, build and live in cities, but I will leave that for later. It’s now time to leave the aspace and go to bed. Good night.