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Portable, personal and composite, fine. But "local", what does that mean? - click opera
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Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:30 am
Portable, personal and composite, fine. But "local", what does that mean?

I've been thinking about cities, prompted by this thought from Vito Acconci:



"A computer makes a city seem almost unnecessary," Acconci says. "If you can have all the information in front of you on a computer, do you need the actual city? The notions of a city now don't seem as separate from notions of "suburb" and notions of "rural" as they used to. "City" is seen to be spreading... maybe a city starts to be more portable. If you can carry all the information from a city, does that mean you carry the city with you rather than you go into a city? Do you carry your own city, does each person now have the possibility of carrying a portable city rather than installing himself or herself in an actual city?"

The thought conjures the image of an individual who's transformed from "just another ant in the antheap" to a sort of snail, carrying his own microcosm-city on his back like a shell -- a portable composite dwelling, a cultural ecosystem. Mohammed no longer has to come to the mountain, the mountain comes to Mohammed. Specifically, to Mohammed's laptop.



"A digital city's more easily changed than a city of concrete," I once sang. Mutability and flexibility are as important as portability. The kind of cultural ecosystems -- webs of connections to various existing cities composited together with the extra-geographical urban space of the internet -- we carry on our backs and on our laptops are a bit like the newspapers we can now aggregate in blog and news readers: they're tailor-made for us, they exclude the bits we don't like, and we can change them at will.

Personally, I find my relationship to the city I live in has shrunk down to quite a local scale. But "local" means something quite different from what it might have meant. On Saturday night here in Berlin I went to a concert two blocks from my house in the company of three Japanese. The performers were Japanese and Italian, and the concert consisted in the Italian wrestling with a dead tree branch planted with contact mics and tiny speakers while the Japanese manipulated the resulting sounds.

The following day HIsae and I went to a Kreuzberg fleamarket and a local children's farm, where we bumped into some other Japanese friends.

The rest of the weekend I was online, doing a musical collaboration with someone in Glasgow, writing about Tokyo events for various online publications, making a video consisting of filmed glimpses of things I'd seen in Japan and Hong Kong, checking blogs written in London, emailing my ex-wife in New York, planning a summer trip to Shetland with my mother in Edinburgh ("On condition that you wear Harris tweed," she said).

A steady stream of mailing list invites flowed into my mail application, some from New York, some from Tokyo, one from a Japanese neighbour alerting me to an event in what he -- adopting my phrase -- called the Berlin Japanese bubble: a release party in Prenzlauer Berg on Tuesday night for a new Lambent record (he's Japanese, living in Berlin), released on a Japanese-run, Berlin-based label and featuring, on the invite, a picture of Tokyo.



I think Acconci is right -- the computer gives us a tool which allows us to make our own composite, portable cities. But we're not post-physical or post-local -- we still have bodies and we still live in specific places. It's just that the "local" has changed too. Because of globalisation, immigration, computers, your "local experience" can now consist entirely of foreigners. Most of my local business encounters in Neukolln are with Turks, most of my socialisation with Japanese. The cut-rate atomic German city I live in half the time has been cut-and-pasted, sliced and diced, filtered and fixed, almost as much as the bit-rate digital city I live in the other half.

I didn't count the hours I was lying this weekend on a futon in my Berlin courtyard, walking in dreamscapes which also composited five or six cities. "Local" doesn't seem to exist in dreams either.

33CommentReplyShare

eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 07:49 am (UTC)

I guess the change that accompanies this is the fact that once you construe your concrete city in bubble-terms, it becomes quite easily changed, and in fact ephemeral -- rents go up, developers move in, scenes shift, the money flow diverts and suddenly all of your friends have moved to, for the sake of argument, Lisbon.

I suppose you become an element in a gypsy city, then, a city which is divisible and changeable but not precisely killable, because its existence was so tenuous in the first place. I find the idea romantic but not convincing, because we all still have to eat and breathe air, and our vegetables have to come from somewhere. Local is where the dirt is.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 07:59 am (UTC)

Well, I get my vegetables from a local market, but they're flown in from all over the world. It's actually almost impossible to find locally-grown vegetables, unless you have your own patch or go to a very chi-chi bourgeois organics place with premium prices.


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eptified
eptified
H. Duck
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 08:32 am (UTC)

I imagine that's more the case where you are than where I am, where one can live pretty well and pretty cheaply off of farmer's markets and cooperative organic groceries. (Then again that's only if you use a definition of local that encompasses most of the western seaboard of the United States.) The issue is kind of beside the point, as where and how your veg is supplied to you is determined by the economic policies of your local government, which in turn has an effect of the health and well-being of you, the happy citizen of wherever you happen to be living at the moment. Not to mention exactly how fluid your bubble-japan is, as determined by zoning and city planning and development policies, and on and on.

But I understand that trans-nationalism is a spiritual thing, unconcerned with the slightly more fixed localities of people who don't bear the burden and privilege of creative rootlessness. It's not really a class thing because you can do it on the cheap, right? (I just don't know where to put my spite these days.)


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 08:42 am (UTC)
interslice city

Cities will never stop being cities. Perhaps the internet is just a new city, one that everyone can get the bus to.

It has its areas.

The main street - ebay / google / hotmail / youtube /asos

The seedy parts of town - porn etc etc

The arty boutiques - blogs / fashion independents

Art gallerys - Flickr and the like

poppycock? i suppose it is, but worth a try.

wwb



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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 08:45 am (UTC)

Yes, I think the digital experience is really one of the most striking changes to the texture of the 'expat' lifestyle. I'm Australian, and I lived in Europe in the eighties, and here I am living in Europe again in the noughties. But it's really an entirely different experience. Back in the eighties, I was totally isolated from Australia. Phone calls were a pound a minute. Plane tickets were prohibitively expensive. If I really wanted to know what was going on in Australia, I could take a trip to the embassy to read week-old newspapers in the reading room. Communication with family & friends took place in letters, that took a week or two to get there. It was very easy to totally lose touch. And absolutely necessary to engage with the environment you physically found yourself in.

Now, of course, I read the newspapers and watch video online, to the extent that I almost know more of what's going on in Australia than when I lived there. And I'm in constant touch with people via email/messaging/skype etc. I feel none of the isolation from my Australian life. But I think that has its downsides as well. You do more easily end up in a bubble existence, without the need to engage with the culture that surrounds you. And I think that's true of the Internet in general. Whatever you read/do online, it's not being imposed, you're not being challenged or forced, rather you're giving in to your own tendencies/prejudices. It's the difference between reading a paper-version of a newspaper or magazine, where something might catch your eye and you end up reading stuff you wouldn't normally, and reading an online newspaper, where you just click on the headline that interests you.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:00 am (UTC)

"you're not being challenged or forced, rather you're giving in to your own tendencies/prejudices. It's the difference between reading a paper-version of a newspaper or magazine, where something might catch your eye and you end up reading stuff you wouldn't normally, and reading an online newspaper, where you just click on the headline that interests you."

What you describe seems to demand a sort of digital -derive- which surely the general idea of web 'surfing' provides. I really don't think i need an editor telling me what to think, or if i do it's as a refreshing contrast.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:11 am (UTC)

I really don't think i need an editor telling me what to think

I'm not so sure. Yes, the Internet is fantastic in terms of the huge wash of information and our ability to pick and choose and edit the flow ourselves. But it's important to recognise that something is lost in this model as well. What's lost is the curator, pointing us in directions we wouldn't have thought of by ourselves. Instead, we get entrenched in our positions and outlooks and aesthetics.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 08:53 am (UTC)

'Cities will never stop being cities.'

Yes quite, the point is, the cities will infiltrate and weave themselves into the countryside until the 'pure' rural idyll becomes totally fringe. The city is already 'winning' (more than 50% urban population globally), the question is more, 'what will be left'?

And what are the consequences of 'the city' bleeding into all social crevices, niches and sectors?


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:12 am (UTC)
[insert pig onomotapoeia here]

Image and video hosting by TinyPic


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:13 am (UTC)
Re: [insert pig onomotapoeia here]

...did you know Disneyland has its own petting zoo?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:39 am (UTC)
Re: [insert pig onomotapoeia here]

There are two pigs in the Gorlitzer Farm, one is Pippi. I think Pippi is the smaller one with white on her back, featured in the photo of the girls, rather than the one I'm petting here. But they're in the same pigpen.

Last month, when I was in the farm, a drunken boy jumped over the fence and started riding Pippi (or the other one) like a horse. The farm attendants got very angry and chased him, quite rightly, out of the zoo.

Pippi makes a cameo appearance in my novel, there's a reference to "greedy Pippi snouting open and guzzling down goose eggs".


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microworlds
microworlds
Sparkachu Maelworth
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 09:45 am (UTC)
Re: [insert pig onomotapoeia here]

I just find pictures of you with animals amusing! I have no idea why. Awww, look at Momus petting the huge pig! You can momentarily stun me with pictures of you with animals, or just pictures of baby animals if you were to ever argue with me.


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cerulicante
cerulicante
cerulicante
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 03:44 pm (UTC)
Re: [insert pig onomotapoeia here]

Marxy is one sexy BEAST. Momyus looks good, too.


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fadetogrey.wordpress.com
fadetogrey.wordpress.com
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 10:50 am (UTC)

Interesting video. I do think he is a bit off when describing the Internet as a digital, alternative city. Seems a bit 90's cyberspace to me.

The web of today seems points in the complete opposite direction of immersion into a digital world and instead is about enhancing experiences in the city with technology and concepts from the digital (for good and bad) - organizing, documenting, synchronizing, linking, re-programming experiences in the city - which of course transforms the notion of it. Partly driven by companies needs for geo-tagged advertising

It's the opposite of the virtual reality discourse that tried to enhance the computer experience with concepts from the city.

I can relate to what you say about the city becoming local though
I live in Malmö, just a few blocks away from the Krets gallery where you did your "Down with fun" lecture which, as you know, is a compact area in a compact city. The Internet enables living in these kind of compact areas, thse bubbles without missing all that goes on outside fo them. The city being distilled down to only the pure social interactions.

I think that especially the younger generations growing up with the internet today will use it more to connect with people and events in their proximity (their micro-city) than discovering new, digital worlds.

It's very interesting to se what happens with a city when it becomes an web of layered micro cities. What's the relation between these neighboring micro cities, how are conflicts created and resolved, etc...


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fadetogrey.wordpress.com
fadetogrey.wordpress.com
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 11:36 pm (UTC)

Perhaps the most interesting things about these micro-cities aren't the strong ties creating the (in this case japanese) bubble, but the weak ties to other micro-cities one brings into the bubble, therefore securing its dynamic development.


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tinyfolk
tinyfolk
xxxx
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 11:37 am (UTC)

Definitely. I feel like the music scene I'm part of is a lot more a "virtual" scene than one based in any city. Half of us spend the majority of their time on the road, but we all know each other and collaborate and play shows with each other and keep track of each other online. It's exactly what the concept of a music scene has always been except without the common locality.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 11:45 am (UTC)
Local means you can touch it

..or you pay a landlord most of your wages for the joy of being inside it.

Still convinced that the future is some kind of 'Tactilism'. Gropers will be seen as pioneers in the field. Although there'll be a 2040s schism with the Frotists, who'll be condemned as 'digital-sick', still held by a repression essentially distance-informed.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 12:04 pm (UTC)

sorry for bursting this japanese bubble, but that label is in fact entirely German-run, and the image on the invitation shows a townscape which is indeed cut-and-paste, sliced and diced, filtered and fixed quite literally, and might or might not include bits and pieces of tokyo.
does it still support your point? or is the example too messy and run-of-the-mill now?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 03:04 pm (UTC)

Ah, I'm glad you put me right, I wasn't quite sure about the label. I thought Lambent was on Onpa, so I was describing them. Then I saw he was doing this record on stillavailable and wasn't quite sure who they / you are.

The image, anyway, can stand now as an objective correlative of Acconci's cut-and-paste city.


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bongo_kong
bongo_kong
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)

".........and the concert consisted in the Italian wrestling with a dead tree branch planted with contact mics and tiny speakers while the Japanese manipulated the resulting sounds."

I quite like wrestling. Was Kendo Nagasaki doing the sound manipulation? You can easily get a tree branch into submission with a roundhouse followed by a kamikaze splash. Works every time.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 03:07 pm (UTC)

Sound manipulation was by Seiji Morimoto. Half the live shows I see these days involve Seiji!


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 03:15 pm (UTC)

That second one sounds like Terry Riley's "In C"!


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Tue, Apr. 15th, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)

I hope you don't mind that I use those recordings in any of my future musical adventures.


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 05:01 pm (UTC)
listen to the frogs

That beautiful sound is becoming a rarity around most populated areas in North America thanks to chemical fertilizers, dump site leaching and all air born contaminants.
Hola!


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cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
cap_scaleman
Tue, Apr. 15th, 2008 08:27 pm (UTC)
Re: listen to the frogs

Not only that, returning to a more organic style of farming wood increase the need of work force = less unemployed people!


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nancerina
nancerina
nan de
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC)
Thank you very much for that Whimsy

Your live journal comment exchange with ken ichi certainly delivered a gem:

**Man, what a fantastic bog. Dropped by this afternoon and reveled in the plant life, all the while thinking, "I am here because of the Internet."**


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count_vronsky
count_vronsky
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 02:56 pm (UTC)

Athens

On the first morning, my first day in Athens, I was proffered the following dream. In front of me stood a row of books filling a long shelf. They formed a set of the Encyclopedia Britannica, one of my lost paradises. I took down a volume at random. I looked up Coleridge: the article had an end but no beginning. I looked up Crete: it concluded but did not begin. I looked up the entry on Chess. At that point the dream shifted. On an elevated stage in an ampitheater filled to capacity with an attentive audience, I was playing chess with my father, who was also the False Artaxerxes. (His ears having been cut off, Artaxerxes was found sleeping by one of his many wives; she ran her hand over his skull very gently so as not to awaken him; presently he was killed.) I moved a piece; my antagonist did not move anything but, by an act of magic, he erased one of my pieces. This procedure was repeated various times.
I awoke and told myself; I am in Greece, where everything began, assuming that things, as opposed to articles in the dream's encyclopedia, have a beginning.

jlb - atlas



Edited at 2008-07-17 05:28 am (UTC)


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thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Mon, Apr. 14th, 2008 10:42 pm (UTC)

There is a danger in living spuriously through the internet, it does facilitate vague simulacra of certain city life experiences to a rural dwelling, city-rent-avoider such as I but I'm wise enough to recognise the illusion, the placebo.


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anglerfish96
anglerfish96
anglerfish96
Tue, Apr. 15th, 2008 01:40 am (UTC)



In this virtual world, the centralization of cities is lost. Forced interaction between cultures, possibilities of mass-transit, one-on-one conversations while cruising around on foot through neighborhoods you've been led to through fliers. Not to discount the power and value of the web-- I love it and depend on it constantly. Yet I'm afraid it is reinforcing tendencies toward sprawl, dulling the sense that, as you move further away from the focused problems of the city, you aren't really escaping those problems, you're taking them with you-- it's only spread out more-- and every time you order online or travel across country to get to that show you read about on that blog it adds a real cost to those of us who've traded in our white-picket-fence dreams for a future where we all live under a gigantic climate-controlled bubble and give up the ghost at thirty for the great good.


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