technology and urban space

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How do the three authors for today (Castells, Kitchin, and McKim) envision the ways in which technology is changing the both urban space itself and the urban experience? What kinds of problems with technology do they highlight, be they technical, social, aesthetic, or something else altogether? Finally, what connections can you draw between these readings and previous readings?

To start, there were two words that stood out to me most and seemed to be mentioned a number of times throughout this week’s readings: periphery (and variations of) and homogeny. It seems that these authors imagine technology is shrinking the world (creating global connections) while also dividing and segregating it further. Castells mentions doctors being able to do check ups by computer and the rise of mega cities as “nodes of global economy” and having “gravitational power” – the point about doctors being able to help patients from afar is an obvious example of a shrinking world. But the idea of these mega cities being connected to regions far from the center of the city (such as Beijing being connected to so many regions around it) is another way of symbolically shrinking the world. (Meaning you can live a hundred miles away from Beijing but still be “connected” to it.)

Going back to “periphery” and “homogeny” – these highlight the two major problems I see within these articles which I see as being social and aesthetic. Castells especially used the word periphery/peripheries/peripheral  several times throughout his writing, connecting to ideas from Engels, Mieville, and Foucault. He speaks of cities as “segmented in different peripheries around the city” and “peripheral ghettos of public housing”. McKim also said, “how much of the city’s limited resources will remain for those left on the periphery”. For all the connections we’re making through wires and networks and technology, we, as human beings, seem to be getting further disconnected as a society and from all the qualities that make us human.

As to aesthetics, McKim calls up shades of Lazzarato when he describes “human creativity as a human resource to be managed and exploited”. Human creativity is now immaterial labor and aesthetics and art are suffering for it. We are reminded of instances of real art that called up controversy which is now being replaced by carefully curated design that fits into a brand’s concept. “Art” is now decided by designers to fit within a homogenous aesthetic that keeps people moving along and doesn’t challenge the status quo. (I enjoyed the example of the global, elite hotels which create the same homogenous experience for everyone, whether you’re in New York or Tokyo. I’ve noticed this on my own travels which is why I never choose to stay in such places – once inside, you can’t tell you’re in a foreign country with it’s own customs, cultures, and atmosphere.)

Lastly, Kitchin’s article connected most to last week’s readings regarding security. In the section under the heading “The Real Time City” he described the use of traffic cameras and police networks. It occurred to me that even here, we can’t (or don’t want to) keep track of each other any more – we use networks and technology to watch, monitor, and punish each other. I wonder if, at some point, we might only have one or two major “security hubs” within a tcouple of mega cities across the globe which will connect to all the streets and traffic lights and buildings in the world – the perfect example of the world getting “smaller” while also disconnecting us even further. Imagine! A traffic camera in London  could be outsourced and connected to a security hub in New York which would track your movement through a red light and automatically send out a ticket.


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