[iDC] Re: iDC Digest, Vol 22, Issue 13

Eric Gordon Eric_Gordon at emerson.edu
Tue Aug 15 15:24:02 EDT 2006

Hi.  I have also been lurking for some time on this list and have  
been hesitant to contribute until now.  I'm faculty in new media at  
Emerson College in Boston and I'm currently working on a book about  
new media and the consumption of the American City from 1893 to the  
present.  One of the premises of the book is that new media, from the  
Kodak to Radio to the Internet, have all integrated into urban  
culture through the premise of play.  The playfulness enacted by  
these new forms served to frame the city into a comprehensible and  
consumable object.  In other words, in the United States, play rarely  
broke from the norms of urban consumption; in fact, it was the norm  
of urban consumption.

This is all to say that there is little surprising in the tenor of  
locative media and the very American interpretation of  
psychogeography that has emerged.  The overwhelming emphasis on  
freedom of movement and the cultivation of social connections that  
we've seen in so many projects seems aligned with commercial  
applications such as Radar.net, Where.com and the like.  This is not  
a criticism - only an observation.  While there is a lot of value in  
this playfulness, both in an artistic and commercial context, it is  
not subversive.  This artwork, like much of the commercial work, is  
engaged in the project of articulating new forms of containing the  
urban context for consumption.  Leaving one's home, walking down the  
street, grabbing a coffee, running into a friend, and off to work, is  
the marketable experience of city life - it is promoted in everything  
from art to social software to the most recent luxury condo.

So where does this leave us?  Some version of Baudelaire's  
contemplative wanderer and Debord's playfulness has made it to  
mainstream culture.  What, then, are the majority of locative media  
projects reacting against?  What is the context of urbanism from  
which these interventions emerge?  Does the figure of the flaneur or  
the practice of derive necessarily equal an oppositional engagement  
with space?  As American urban culture continues to successfully  
market urban experience to the highest bidder, what kind of urban  
experience can we construct that exists outside of this consumer  
culture?  Might we need new categories to define the work of urban  

And finally, as locative media confronts all of these issues, I would  
add that one of the best things we can do to ensure the continued  
relevance of this work is to take the concept of urbanism seriously.   
Instead of creating experiences within a seemingly predefined urban  
context, we need to begin focusing on the specifics of urbanism.  In  
general terms, American urbanism is distinct from European urbanism,  
which is distinct from Asian and African urbanisms.  And from city to  
city, and neighborhood to neighborhood, the logic and flow of public  
and private, history and experience, and space and place are distinct.

Thanks for reading.
Eric Gordon

On Aug 15, 2006, at 10:17 AM, idc-request at bbs.thing.net wrote:

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>    1. Re: iDC Digest, Vol 22, Issue 12 (Daniel A Perlin)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Tue, 15 Aug 2006 15:14:25 +0200
> From: Daniel A Perlin <dap265 at nyu.edu>
> Subject: [iDC] Re: iDC Digest, Vol 22, Issue 12
> To: idc at bbs.thing.net
> Message-ID: <d500b3502a89.44e1e4d1 at mail.nyu.edu>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="windows-1252"
> Hi all,
> I have been a reader of iDC for awhile, and many threads have tempted
> me, but this one seems to have touched and articulated so many of my
> exact sentiments regarding locative media in general, so I thought I
> might add my 2.0 cents.
> In my opinion, the following points raised by kanarinka are so  
> critical
> that they should be asked of each incoming project deemed locative.
>> So, my questions to the artists, the organizers, the attendees and
>> everyone else is - is psychogeography/locative media work simply R&D
>> for a new generation of entertainment spectacle? Or, what are we
>> actually trying to do with these ideas of "play" in urban space? Who
>> gets to play? And what about the interactive cities in Iraq and
>> Lebanon and elsewhere? Why didn't we address war, security,
>> militarization and terrorism as aspects of the contemporary
>> interactive city? For me, running around making the city into a
>> sandbox, a playground or a playing field feels increasingly  
>> irrelevant
>> and irresponsible.
> Somehow, the evasive nature of Debord's psycheogeographic models have
> lent themeselves to the most abusive forms of appropriation (or  
> perhaps,
> as with anything that is powerful, it is a multi-edged sword).
> Clearly the sandbox idea is a diversion from Debord's concept of the
> detournement. I quote:
> If détournement were extended to urbanistic realizations, not many
> people would remain unaffected by an exact reconstruction in one  
> city of
> an entire neighborhood of another. Life can never be too disorienting:
> détournement on this level would really make it beautiful.
> ---Guy Debord, Gil J Wolman, A User’s Guide to Détournement Belgian
> surrealist journal Les Lèvres Nues #8 (May 1956).
> (Translator’s Note: The French word détournement means deflection,
> diversion, rerouting, distortion, misuse, misappropriation, hijacking,
> or otherwise turning aside from the normal course or purpose.)
> It seems to me that the sandbox is not point here for Debord. In fact,
> what might be being begged by Debord, and perhaps some of these new
> works, are new approaches to mapping itself.
> Although we should not privelege cartography as a mapping strategy per
> se, some new ways to make some mess or sense out of our everyday lives
> can be offered by these new technologies. Looking to Frederic Jameson,
> as opposed to simple game theory  may be a strategy.
> Jameson states,
> An aesthetic of cognitive mapping – a pedagogical political culture
> which seeks to endow the individual subject with some new heightened
> sense of its place in the global system – will necessarily have to
> respect this now enormously complex representational dialectic and
> invent radically new forms in order to do it justice. –Frederic  
> Jameson,
> Postmodernism or the Cultural logic of Late Capitalism Verso 1991
> I was and am not at ISEA as I have a residency in Barcelona now  
> where I
> am working on a psychogeographic sound project, but it seems to me  
> that
> much of the work in the field of locative media is blatant
> technofetishization of the latest gadgets masked as art. Is abject
> depoliticization of work needed to make it fun or marketable (I ask  
> this
> of the new york chelsea art gallery system as well)?
> I for one would gladly go to "existentialist hells" to try to uncover
> some spaces which have not been overcommodified by the priveleged  
> zones
> of bourgois play...
> (Kevin Hamilton:)
>> I'm also suspect of permission
>> granted or grabbed through mobility, for the same reasons that the
>> cities and buildings of Constant look to me like an existentialist  
>> hell),
> Here Kevin, while I do love the link-up to Beckett, I feel that
> Constant's New Babylon is anything but existentialist hell. What we
> uncover and unfold from his new bablylon city is the always-already
> existent individual psychogeographies present in the polis. His  
> utopian
> project, of relinking these sites through material and structure are
> only physical manifestations of many of the ideals found in the  
> earliest
> utopian maps: one only need think of Moore's Utopia map from 1517, the
> island where each city represents each other on the island of  
> utopia. Is
> this nota possible goal for the nonheirarchical approach designed by
> Constant?
> Is there play in this utopia? Perhaps, but not necessarily "fun".
> Interplay, dialogues, push and pull. Quite the opposite of the simple
> misreadings of may '68 by the current bourgoise technorati. Sure, play
> can be fun. But just becuase its fun doesn't make it play. And just
> because you track it on GPS doesn't make it play or fun for that  
> matter.
> Every missile fired from and to iraq is tracked too. And for some in
> power-plays, this "iraq thing" is just a playground as well.
> (am I alone in begging my fellow makers of things to please ask:)
> "Who controls what and why?"
> Why are these questions always so taboo at these conventions masked as
> conferences...? I probably sound bitter, but I get frustrated when  
> i see
> so much  potential energy just feeding the beasts.
> best,
> daniel perlin
> ----- Original Message -----
> From: idc-request at bbs.thing.net
> Date: Tuesday, August 15, 2006 3:24 am
> Subject: iDC Digest, Vol 22, Issue 12
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