Code/Spaces – Jittery Spaces

In attempting to describe how code and spatiality are mutually constituted, Kitchin and Dodge (2011, p. 16) suggest that spaces augmented by, or dependent on code (running systems and devices) fall into two categories. They call these categories “code/space” and “coded space”. Code/space, is space in which code is “essential to the form, function and meaning” of a space (Kitchin and Dodge 2011, p.71). For example, a supermarket check-out, or an airport check-in are areas in which the “sociospatial production” of space is functionally dependent on code. In other words, if the software were to crash, these areas change, becoming either a temporary warehouse or a chaotic waiting room, respectively (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011, p.17).

Image source: Leonid Mamchenkov

As not all spaces are entirely functionally dependent on code, they introduce a second type of space; “coded space”. This is an area in which the role of code is often one of “augmentation, facilitation, monitoring … rather than control or regulation” (Kitchin and Dodge, 2011, p.18).  A kitchen is good example of a coded space, as a recent post by Don Norman entitled “Why Rice Cookers are so Exciting” concurs, these spaces (in certain parts of the world) now contain a range of mundane, yet highly sophisticated appliances, reliant on code, that are used to facilitate the preparation of food and cleaning. If these code dependent technologies were to fail, the form, function and meaning of the space would largely remain unchanged, one would still be able to prepare meals and clear up, albeit less efficiently. These definitions of code/space and coded space are quite useful, in that they call attention to the often overlooked operation of code in everyday environments and may provide a good “way in” to Kitchin and Dodge’s transduction concept.

In thinking about how these categories might work at the scale of a city, I was reminded of the work of Michelle Teran who used Stephen Flusty’s (1994) taxonomy of “interdictory spaces” to  show the ways that urban space is made defensible, often via code driven devices. Flusty’s categories originally emerged from observations of L.A.’s “emergent paranoid urban environment” (Flusty 1994, p.16) in the 1990’s and are summarised by Teran (2009) as follows: “‘Stealthy spaces’ are ones that cannot be found, ‘slippery spaces’ are ones that cannot be reached, ‘prickly spaces’ cannot be comfortably occupied and ‘jittery spaces’ are spaces that cannot be utilized unobserved.” Thinking back to Kitchin and Dodge (2011, p.75), they make it clear that the intended purpose of code/spaces, such as airports, is productivity, security, safety, and efficiency. But, they also point out that this often involves capture, automated surveillance and management systems (Kitchin and Dodge 2011, p.149). By Flusty’s (1994) account that makes code/spaces “jittery” spaces and in qualifying as “jittery” spaces this probably makes them quite “prickly” too.

Flusty, S,. 1994. Building Paranoia: The Proliferation of Interdictory Space and the Erosion of Spatial Justice. West Hollywood, CA. Los Angeles Forum for Architecture and Urban Design.

Kitchin, R. and M. Dodge., 2011. Code/Space. Software and everyday life.
Cambridge, MA, The MIT Press.

Norman, D., 2014. Why Rice Cookers are so Exciting. [online] Available at: < > [Accessed 20 February 2014].

Teran, M., 2009. Defensible Space. [online] Available at:< > [Accessed 26 February 2014].

code/space and digital cities

This week was half term, therefore a large amount of time was spent entertaining the kids, however, I found time to reflect on this weeks topic during a visit to the British Museum. We took the train and so many aspects of the journey were facilitated by software even before we reached the station, seeing as the tickets were purchased online. We relied on the signalling technologies to ensure our train was located appropriately and then the space within the train carriage was transformed by our use of electronic devices. Once at the museum much of my sons experience was mediated through technology, as I let him use my digital camera and he took so many pictures that I would guess that he looked more at the objects on the camera screen than he did without it.

Manovich (2011) places software at the centre of the study of contemporary media seeing as most of us experience digital code via software interfaces. He describes code as the “universal intermediary” (p8) as viewing code on its own is meaningless to most people, instead we need technology to translate/repackage it into easily understandable formats.

Again this week I found my thoughts straying to Hollywood sci-fi representations, however this time it is ‘The Matrix’ 1999, as an metaphor for the intermediary position of software in society, as ‘real life’ was just an interface created by code.

The cultural impact of this is that we are reliant on software to interact with code and that software defines everything created by code, however this is an active relationship as these interfaces illicit an active response by the user. As Manovich says, “today you can’t simply ‘access’ media without automatically being offered some ways to modify it” (ibid).

Kitchen and Dodge (2011) state that their principal argument is “that an analysis of software requires a thoroughly spatial approach” (p13), as everything is interconnected, nothing is independent of space and that space and software are actants on societal behaviour. Where, “software matters because it alters the conditions through which society, space and time and thus spatiality are produced” (ibid).

They suggest the term ‘code/space’ to describe the mutual relationship that can occur through the interrelationship of space and code because, ‘spatiality is the product of the code and the code exists primarily in order to produce a particular spatiality. (p16) Space can be transduced by code, i.e. the functionality of space can be transformed by the inclusion of software. This tranduction can take place in fixed or mobile spaces, and the transduction itself is not necessarily fixed as can be dependent on how people are using the software and the space.  Space is “always in process, constantly being created in the moment as a collective manufacture composed of hundreds of recursive, interconnected relationships between people and place…. It is endlessly remade, never the same, ceaselessly reterritorialized.”(p69). Therefore, as we move through and interact with cities we experience many different spaces and technology mediates this by through affecting our sensory experiences and our behaviour within those spaces.

I am continuing to collect relevant artifacts on my Pinterest board, for example this is a Ted Talk by Carlo Ratti, who talks about “the real time city”. This is a wide ranging talk dealing with a number of projects. For example he is interested in using data to record and track objects (such as what we throw away), as he believes that if we are more aware of our behaviour then we will be more motivated to do something about it. He also talks about a building with walls of water that parts when you approach (similar concept to the Rain Room by Random International) however what was most interesting was how people used it when it went wrong as they started to play with the building.



Kitchin, R. & Dodge, M., 2011. Code/space software and everyday life, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Manovich, L., 2011. Media After Software.  Accessed 16/02/14

‘The Physics of Culture’

How Algorithms Shape Our World (Kevin Slavin 2011 discusses the impact of algorithms on our culture)

Individuals, the wider public, journalists, technology industry representatives, and government officials’ use flippantly the term ‘digital’, understanding what it actually means however, is a far more complex task than one would assume.

“The techniques, tools, and the conventions of media software applications are not a result of a technological change from ‘analogue’ to ‘digital media’. The shift to digital enables the development of media authoring software […] While we are indeed being ‘digital’, the actual forms of this ‘being’ come from software” (Manovich 2012:3).

With the ongoing development and growth of digital technologies and cities, a more poignant and perhaps helpful or accurate question is to ask, what is software and code, and what are the effects of these vital components that make up the move towards ‘digitalization’? Manovich advises that, “What as users we experience as properties of media content come from software used to create, edit, present and access this content” (2012:3). The capability to be ‘digital’ then, is ultimately only enabled by software.

“The practices of everyday life have become increasingly infused with and mediated by software” (Kitchen & Dodge 2011:3). Software mediation is everywhere; it “actively shapes peoples daily interactions and transactions […] and mediates almost every aspect of everyday life […] within entertainment, communications and mobilities” (Kitchin & Dodge 2011:9). Our entire daily routines, for example, are mediated through software and code, the alarm application on your mobile device or digital radio, travel tickets, engagement with a mobile device on your way to work, throughout your working day on the telephone, or at a computer, in the evening engaging with ‘entertainment’ through leisure practices on your computer, television, or electronic reading device (a Kindle, for example).

 “Software forges modalities of experience – sensorium’s through which the world is made and known” (Fuller in Kitchin & Dodge, 2011:39).

Inside the Matrix

(Image: ‘The Matrix’)

“Software like many other technologies, engenders direct effects in the world in ways never envisioned or expected by their creators, and in ways beyond their control or intervention” (Kitchin & Dodge 2011:39). Software is everywhere, and “alters the conditions through which society, space and time, and thus spatiality, are produced” (Kitchin & Dodge 2011:13). For example, software shapes and speeds up social relations through “email, web pages, virtual worlds, mobile phones, […] and novel social networks (Kitchin & Dodge 2011:12). Not only are we able to meet, communicate and develop relationships through Internet software, but also the instantaneous and immediate nature of it can accelerate such interactions, and overcome, compress or determine spatialities. Similarly Slavin recognizes “this isn’t just information, this is culture, what you see or don’t see is that which is the physics of culture” (2011). Code matters for digital cities, because it mediates entirely its infrastructure; ”it has become the lifeblood of todays emerging information society” (Kitchin & Dodge 2011:3) and is what makes a city ‘digital’, without code it would not be able to operate or exist.

Kitchin and Dodge (2011) argue that code, when materialized through technologically becomes space, ‘an event’ or ‘a doing’, “code exists primarily in order to produce a particular spatiality […] the production of space [therefore] is dependent on code”(2011:16). For example, the Internet can be both mobilized by software on mobile devices, or it can be territorialized in the home by example through a localized Wifi connection and interaction with a personal computer. Different software therefore, creates spatial distinctions. This exemplifies Kitchin and Dodge’s discussion of how “social activities are now regularly transduced as code/space” (2011:20), how software and code contributes to, informs, and creates cultural practices (Slavin 2011), and is therefore ‘spatially active’ (Kitchin and Dodge 2011:ii); code mediates space, and space determines the code from which we can engage.

(Own words: 328)


Berry, D. 2012. Life in Code and Software: Mediated Life in a Complex Computational Ecology. Open Humanities Press.

Kitchin, R. & Dodge, M., 2011. Code/space software and everyday life, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press:

Fuller, M. In Kitchin, R. & Dodge, M., 2011. Code/space software and everyday life, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press.

Manovich, L., 2011. Media After Software. (Available at:, Last Accessed: 24.2.14).


The Matrix


Slavin, K. 2011. ‘How algorithms shape our world’ (Available at:, Last Accessed: 24.2.14).

Further Resources

There are also some interesting videos available at:  Last Accessed 24/2/14.

software city

MorseCodeForever                                                     Cunningham, Ward. Morse Code Forever

Digital or electronically codified information is accessed through the interface of software provided by technology manufacturers, who Manovitch argues, act as gatekeepers with the potential to manipulate media access and representation. “in short, media becomes software.” (Manovitch, 2011:12). Kitchin & Dodge (2011), contend that software or code transduces the physical, social and environmental space and time (spatialities) as well as automating the governance of everyday life. The consequences of software-coded space, such as surveillance, regulation “unfold in diverse ways through the mutual constitution of software and sociospatial practices.” (p.16). Kitchin and Dodge qualify this neatly, “software conditions our very existence”(ix).

Not simply linking the screen, register and algorithms with roads, rooms and runways urban space is transduced and managed by code, be it in the physical workplace, in the social space of the home, or commuting within the built environment. “Space from this perspective is an event or a doing…” (Kitchin and Dodge, p.16) This code/space is dependent on software driven technology to function as intended. For example, a waiting room can be transduced to an airport check-in area with the use of software and the codification of the individual and potential passenger. A warehouse can be transduced into a supermarket with the codification of goods, customer and transaction.

Codification has the potential of empowerment and control. Traffic cameras are an example of where the individual’s behaviour is codified and monitored by software, policed by algorithm and social practice manipulated within this urban space by digital surveillance. By codifying the citizen as a data subject, the individual is dehumanised as object for automated management. Security and efficiency are promoted by government in tandem with business, as an argument for the deployment of software. With 4g mobile and location based services, there is a cultural need to contextualise ourselves within a growing network of information (Gordon and de Souza e Silva, 2011), trading potential disciplinary effects against the mediated benefits gained. The ubiquitous and irresistible seduction of software erodes the element of choice on how to engage or function as a citizen.






Greenfield, Adam, (2006). Everyware: the dawning age of ubiquitous computing. Berkeley : New Riders.

Kitchin, R. & Dodge, M., (2011). Code/space software and everyday life, Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press

Manovich, L., (2011). Media After Software <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 23feb2014].

Gordon, Eric and se Souza e SIlva, Adriana (2011). Net locality: why location matters in a networked world. Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell



Cunningham, Ward. Morse Code Forever. <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 26feb2014]. Original source code: <Available at: > [Last Accessed: 26feb2014].


Further Reading

Matthew FULLER (2003) It Looks Like You’re Writing a Letter: Microsoft Word in Behind the Blip. <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 23feb2014].

Suggestions for transparency in big data                 


Google Fiber

A map of Google Fiber cities and potential Google Fiber cities

This article by links with my post earlier in the week, which talked about the governmental effect of smart city discourses on cities. Larson reports that US cities need to complete a ‘Fiber-ready checklist’ in preparation for a Google’s new (x100 faster than broadband) fiber-optic network. In this example, Google’s vision of a smart city is regulating cities by setting criteria that need to be met in order to receive the infrastructure and investment. To meet the criteria cities will presumably need to make decisions and divert resources according to this criteria. In this way Google’s smart city discourse or vision has a constitutive, material effect on cities and then casts them as either Google Fiber cities, potential Google Fiber cities or non-Google Fiber cities not included on this map.

smart city

“One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet, poverty.” Like a dirty word, that shouldn’t be mentioned in the pristine ‘superfuturespace’ of The Electric City, Julio Davila began his presentation on Medellin’s Metrocable. The eleventh Urban Age conference hosted by the LSE in 2012, was a slick business conference masquerading as educational forum. Politicians and decision makers were keen to seduce multinational conglomerate contracts to help rebrand an area of London’s deprivation as a Silicon Hub. Davila championed social inclusion, with a Colombian example of linking slums to Medellin’s main transit hubs utilising aerial cable-car, as a low tech solution to reducing poverty and increasing accessibility. Above all, he argued, the infrastructure should remain public to engender a sense of ownership amongst the community it serves.

Byrum and Breitbart’s (Tarantino and Tosoni, 2013) paper on owning urban space is similar, a shared physical space can engender a sense of community spirit. Using church steeples to provide wifi in low-income urban communities is an inclusive way of regenerating a former focal point of the community and redressing social imbalance.

storm water skate park

The Roskilde storm water skate park in Denmark uses architectural design to allow its citizens to reclaim modern urban infrastructure, combining function with leisure. Overlaying the physical space with augmented information, such as being able to rate a travel experience and provide comments (Lee Humphrey and Tony Liao in Tarantino and Tosoni), can allow a once impersonal physical space to become mediated and engender a sense of virtual community.

Townsend (2013) defines a smart city as “places where information technology is combined with infrastructure, architecture, everyday objects and even our bodies to address social, economic, and environmental problems.” (p.15). There will be a trade-off between these competing goals for urban planners. The focus must not be dominated by economic goals of efficiency held ransom to capital mobility; automating proprietary and ubiquitous ‘big data’ at the expense of civil liberty; ultimately emasculating citizenship to be a consumer held hostage.





Davila, Julio (2012). The low-tech experience and social inclusion: Medellín’s MetroCable. in Urban Age (2012) The Electric City London: LSE, 6-7 Dec <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].

Tarantino, M. And. Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space. First Monday, 18(11) <Available at:>[Last Accessed 19feb2014].

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company

Urban Age (2012) The Electric City London: LSE, 6-7 Dec <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].


Introductory film to Urban Age The Electric City, written and narrated by Deyan Sudjic. <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].


Roskilde storm water skate park in Denmark <Available at:> [Last Accessed: 19feb2014].




What is interesting and relevant about smart cities?

Mirror City Timelapse from Michael Shainblum on Vimeo.

Before the main text for this week I wanted to include this video, which visualises a ‘sci-fi’ type image, which invades my thoughts about ‘smart cities’, and also draw your attention to the pinterest board I have started for this module, where I have been posting various links I have thought relevant to the module. My intention is to keep populating this as the weeks progress. Feel free to click through for a visit.

Tarantoni and Tosoni ask how media impacts on space and what the implications are of these processes? As they see “urban space as an irredeemable patchwork”, 2013, p. 3, meaning it is made up of many different, often opposing features therefore they are interested in a multi-perspective approach to studying cities. They state that, “[o]ur age is characterised by urbanization and mediatisation: most of us live in cities and most of us have access to the media” 2013, p. 1, this left me thinking about the digital divide and what this means for those who do not fit within the majority. That a multi-perspective approach must include those who are disenfranchised, without a strong presence within the dominant system and whose needs may get overlooked by planners. I generally find myself gravitating towards the individual nature of people, and how it is easy to look at a city and think about the masses rather than the few.

Townsend suggests that “Smart cities are places where information technology is wielded to address problems old and new”, 2013,  p. xiii,  where the problems are things like shortages to resources and climate change and the infrastructures of smart cities are versatile and adapt in real-time to changes of information.

Pavegen Projects Showreel from Pavegen Systems on Vimeo.

He sees ordinary people being part of this process, saying, “We are witnessing the birth of a new civic movement, as the smart phone becomes a platform for reinventing cities from the bottom up.” 2013, p. xiv

This idea of civic involvement is interesting as my initial concerns about smart cities are how much control is given over a small number of large corporations in the running of the infrastructure of cities. Where this could create a strangle hold on political systems and edge ordinary citizens out to the edges of the power systems.

Saskia Sassen places individuals at the centre of urbanising technologies, she suggests that cities talk back, as proved by their failures. Forever incomplete, cities are open-source, hackable systems consisting of a larger ecology, which makes use of non-technical aspects. This allows cities to evolve and outlive other closed systems e.g. individual governments or conglomerates. Ordinary users bring things to the design not thought of by the original designers and engineers allowing cities to respond in unexpected ways. Therefore , she also advocates a multi-perspective approach as being needed in the creation of urbanising technologies and smart cities.

Sassen mentions that she is interested in spaces that contest the design of de-urbanising technologies and she is keen that users keep questioning the status-quo


Sassen S. 2012. Urban Age Electric City: – Urbanising technology,

Tarantino M. & Tosoni S. 2013 Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space, First Monday, Vol.18 No.11

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.


What makes a city ‘smart’?

With increased urbanization, currently half the worlds total population resides in cities (Zenghelis 2012). By 2025 this will increase to 85%, the demands on a city to be ‘smart’ and develop in line with the ever-growing population is great. With increased urbanization came an “increasing mediatization of everyday life” (Lash 2005 in Tarantino & Tosano 2013). It is easy to celebrate the emancipatory, communicative nature of digitalization and the mediation/mediatization of our everyday, but what does this mean for our long-term communication practices, daily routines, and our cities infrastructures? Does a digital city equate to a ‘smart city’, and what actually makes a city ‘smart’?

Townsend understands ‘smart cities’ as “…places where information technology is combined with infrastructure, architecture, everyday objects, and even our bodies to address social, economic and environmental problems” (2013:15). Zenghelis understands such spheres as that which “think, adapt and evolve, and learn to optimize their use of resources” (2012). From an idealistic outlook, we can identify the development of ‘smart cities’ from a holistic perspective: combining a cities infrastructure with long term planning, policy, civic engagement, benchmarking, and learning from each other, with a predominant focus upon development of the ‘right technologies’ and the ‘right relationships’ to aid both economic growth and environmental solutions in the long term (Busch, 2012).

A ‘smart cities’ infrastructure must be resource efficient, through the planning of the urban environment, for environmental and economic sustainability (Zenghelis 2012). Both Townsend (2013) and Zenghelis (2012) stress the importance for identifying and defining outcomes, rather than simply investing in technological development, we must look at not the immediate goals and achievements, but the long-term effects. In achieving this, both scholars (Tarantino & Tosano 2013; Townsend 2013), and technology industry representatives (Busch 2012), focus upon the importance of developing our cities into ‘smart’ environments from the ‘bottom up’ through civic engagement, participation, and technological development.


(Photo by

Rarely does a day pass without the recognition of our increasingly digitalized environment and perpetual (Katz and Aakhus 2002) ‘connectedness’. We have all encountered it, through overhearing strangers observations or our personal conversations with friends and colleagues, our communication and interaction practices, information, communication and knowledge sharing are now very much, an ever evolving and changing landscape. Such connectivity is ‘seductive’ (Townsend 2013); we are seduced by applications, websites, social networks or any technology which ‘promises’ further ‘connectivity’. We cannot ignore however, that if civic engagement is a key component in the development of ‘smart city’ infrastructure, the gaps between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’, digital literacy, access inequalities, alongside technological means to limit and shape information (Deibiert & Rohoniski 2010), will all have an impact upon our ‘connectivity’ and digital competency: individually, locally, nationally and globally.

More generally, we need to focus on the effects of how we build and grow our ‘smart’ cities: the actors, stakeholders, drivers and key figures pushing these developments and why, alongside impacts on the individual. Similarly our research approaches must become all encompassing, combining multi-disciplinary, multi-layered analyses (Tarantino & Tosani 2013), combining space, place, object and context, to determine both how our ‘smart/digital city’ is technologically developing, and the impacts of this socially and culturally, on individual and collective behaviours (



Deibert. R. And Rohozinski. R. 2010. Liberation vs Control: The Future of Cyberspace, in The Journal of Democracy, Vol. 21: 4, pp. 43-57.

Katz, J. And. Aakhus. M. 2002. Perpetual Contact: Mobile Communication, Private Talk, Public Performance. New York: Cambridge University Press

Townsend, A.M., 2013. Smart cities: big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia, New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company,

Tarantino, M. And. Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space. First Monday, 18(11) (Available at:, Last Accessed7/2/14).

Lash. 2005. In Tarantino, M. And. Tosoni, S., 2013. Introduction: Beyond the centrality of media and the centrality of space. First Monday, 18(11) (Available at:, Last Accessed7/2/14).

Urban Age Electric City (Availble at:, Last Accessed: 17/2/14).


Lindsay, Greg, 2012. Urban Age Electric City: ‘Smart Working’ (Available at:, Last Accessed 17/2/14).

Cerwell, Patrick, 2012, Urban Age Electric City: ‘Smart phones’   (Available at:, Last Accessed 17/2/14)

Behrendt, Frauke, 2012. Urban Age Electric City: ‘Smart e-bikes’ (Available at:, Last Accessed: 17/2/14).

Zenghelis, Dimitri. Urban Age Electric City: ‘The Green Economy: A Global Perspective’ (Available at:, Last Accessed: 17/2/14).

Urry, John, 2012. Urban Age Electric City: ‘Sociotechnical scenarios for our Changing Futures’ (Available at:, Last Accessed 17/2/14)


‘Smart City’, Shutter Stock, (Available at: , Last Accessed: 17/2/14)