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.

 

References

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

Manovich, L., 2011. Media After Software.  http://www.manovich.net/articles.php  Accessed 16/02/14

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