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: < http://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140220213117-12181762-why-rice-cookers-are-exciting > [Accessed 20 February 2014].

Teran, M., 2009. Defensible Space. [online] Available at:< http://www.ubermatic.org/?p=189 > [Accessed 26 February 2014].

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