Tuesday, August 3, 2010

[Yasmin_discussions] hybrid city as interface

from marcos novak

Hi Roger,


Just the same, I can take the opportunity to reply briefly to some of
the issues you raise here:

My comments were not exclusionary. Rapid mutation, hybridity, and
sustainable change are not mutually exclusive. There is place and need
for rapid change and for the hybrid as the agent of this change, just
as there is place and need for observing larger structures. The point
I was trying to make was not so much against the hybrid per se, as for
an awareness of how small changes can be subsumed into cultural noise
if they do not recognize that we operate within much larger cultural
structures. The specific issue troubling me is that of values,
especially regarding the common good -- what I see when I travel is
not that we are incapable of change -- both rapid and deep -- but
that, for all our knowledge and power, we do not make choices that
effect positive change as effectively as they might. We do not seem to
have the collective willpower, attention span, and value system to
create a environments like Venezia, in contemporary form. I do not
mean this literally, as a matter of imitating the outer form of the
city, but more deeply, in terms of the civic will that went into
imagining it and carrying it out, as a bold undertaking that was,
nonetheless, immensely beautiful and livable. Even if we attempt to
learn from Venezia, we create Venice Beach, Las Vegas, or Disney's
Celebration, all poor and insincere replicas of what created the
original Venezia in the first place. I am not romanticizing the past,
and do not desire us to go back to it, I am committed to building the
future, but see problems in how we approach things.

In my estimation, change, whether rapid or slow, can cancel itself if
it does not recognize the structures it operates within. It's a little
like swimming -- a good swimmer knows that splashing is not effective,
and that the best stroke is the one that is crispest. Sometimes we
splash a lot but advance little. I think it is both desirable and
inevitable that cities become interfaces -- but interfaces to what? In
a recent architecture and urbanism conference, itself devoted to the
parametric city, hence, the city as interface, I found myself
commenting that it did not really matter whether one built a pyramid
with a square base or a pyramid with a round one, or any other shape,
for that matter, as long as one was still building for the Pharaoh.

Thus the new city as interface, whether hybrid or speciated, needs to
foster a new consideration of citizenship, and encourage a new and
bold imaginary of what a city is, and what a city does to help foster
the thriving of its citizens. If it is to be an interface, let it be
an interface to the best and most enlightened urbanism we can imagine.


I've included my manifesto for the MAK publication. Perhaps it will
shed some more light on my comments.





Author: Marcos Novak ©2010

Title: A Transvergent Manifesto

Location: Los Angeles

Website: [http://www.centrifuge.org]

[Preamble: Armed with the tip of a scalpel rather than the blade of a
broadsword, a manifesto puts forward a polemical call to clarity that
speaks to a potentially imaginary collective of like minds, a wishful
and wished-for "us" that may or may not exist in the present, but may
yet arrive in the future. A manifesto does not enumerate its sources
or reveal the careful construction of its argument. It simply presents
certain conclusions, directions, demands, and programs, and says: "if
you understand us, if you are with us, join us," leaving it to the
reader to think — and to act.]

AlloPolis: A Transvergent Manifesto

We embrace the future. We take for granted the free city, the diverse
city, the global city, the technological city, the scientific city,
the ecological city, the biological city, the smart city, the network
city, the virtual city, the discontiguous city, the swarm city, the
cyborg city, the nanotech city, the alive city, the Singularity city.
To all these, and to any yet to come, we add the prefix "allo~" to
signify "the other, of another kind," and to claim as ours the alien
city, alien and yet of our own making. And while "alien" is for us
something largely positive, we are not fooled into ignoring that its
obverse and corollary can be alienation, against which we must be ever
watchful and vigilant.

To be clear:

We accept the need for caution but denounce all pessimism as
creatively unethical, defeatist, and unhelpful, and insist that only
the assertion of positive alternatives is valid as constructive
criticism. By this token, we accept the limits to any simplistic or
telological notion of Progress, but reject as naïve and malinformed
any notion of the futility of progress, or of the end of the
avant-garde and any such valiant effort to augment and exceed the
world we are given. For this, we replace the obsolete notion of the
totalizing global goal with the active principle of the resistant but
positive gradient of local ascent in search of ever stranger and more
wonderful topologies of freedom and beauty.

We reject the unimaginative city, the ignorant city, the ugly city,
the unjust city, the dogmatic city, the unhealthy city, the unfriendly
city, the unkind city, the paranoid city, the selfish city, the greedy
city, the exploitative city, the usurious city, the cruel city, the
incarcerating city, the separating city, the spirit-crushing city,
though we know full well that this list covers most of our present day
city-making. We reject with them all the false, petty, and
mean-spirited arguments (be they political, religious, or economic)
that have pretended—in the face of all evidence to the contrary—to
justify sub-mediocrity as good, necessary, or inevitable.

We are honest: we measure the success of cities by the thriving of
their citizens, as embodied in the architecture of thriving public
realms. We see that the cities we are building pale in comparison to
the ancient cities we visit, both in terms of ambition and in terms of
the quality of urban life they support. We recognize that people in
the past, though weaker, poorer, less free and massively less informed
than we, nevertheless built better cities than we build, and left us
culture and civilization where we leave extensive urban carpets of
ugliness, fast food and permanent waste.

We admire the extraordinary vessels of our technologies but see these
vessels abducted by avarice for the few and not guided by altruism for
the many, and we reject as absurd the notion that only greed can drive
us forward. We recognize the grandeur of our infrastructure projects,
but realize that they are scaled for giant corporate bodies, not
fragile human ones. We applaud the depth and sophistication of our
sciences, but realize that they are scaled for pulseless nano~,
femto~, atto~, zepto~, yocto~scale bodies, not pulsing human ones. We
conclude that we do not suffer from a lack of knowledge or
imagination, we suffer from the blinding toxins of a value system that
perverts all motives and incentives, and from a malaise of the will
that prevents us from recalibrating what we value, respect, protect,
and nurture to serve us, at our scale, and to balance us, at the
world's scales. We have confused quantities for qualities, quanta for
qualia, counting costs and amenities for weighing balances and
benefits, and have nearly lost our minds, our bodies, and our planet,
as a result.

We refuse to be defeated.

We propose a creative principle, an ethical catalyst, a pervasive
corrective, an aesthetic and moral differential (in a mathematical
sense) that can produce massive change via a myriad minute adjustments
in the direction of sanity and the search for ever stranger, ever more
wonderful, ever bolder beauty. We call this principle "kami" (in
deference to its origin in Shinto, but with no nationalistic,
religious or metaphysical conceits), and mean by it the cultivation of
those minute but precise acts and habits of attention, as if to a
lucid and gentle secular animism toward the sparkling quantum foam of
emerging and vanishing symmetries and balances, toward those tender
alignments that are lost if not noticed and cherished, and toward all
those infinitesimal differences that produce extraordinary beauty in
all its forms, in nature or artifice, in love, in politics, in the
intellect, in art, and in the senses. We propose that our urban and
global future depends on our ability to bring this small corrective to
all—but mostly to those who need it most: our children and our
politicians—and to let it seep into us for years and centuries to
come, till we and our values are one, and sane. In time we will
blossom. This is how civilizations are made.

We seek the transvergent city, the allo~city, the cosmo-polis that
becomes the AlloPolis, the city that helps recuperate the lost whole,
the city that explores and embodies the transmodal continuum and
participates in the human production of the alien, the city that
nurtures the speciation of diversity, manifest freedom, manifest
imagination, the city of present thriving and future augmentation, the
polis worthy of spreading itself among the stars. Most of all, we seek
that from which all other virtues flow: the generous city, free,
exploratory, wise and beautiful. Why should we settle for anything

We can have that, and more, provided that we realize that, above
anything else, cities are mirrors, and that we cannot build what we
seek until we become what we seek.

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