mjm20 _Critical Practice

MA Creative Media, University of Brighton
(mjm20) Digital Cities

Lee O’Neill _mjm20.m4v from leeoneill on Vimeo.

“I am lost in the crowd, I am anonymous. In my phone, in my space, I matter.”

(Bassett, 2003:350)

This finalised piece is a short movie that uses geolocative augmented reality (AR) to illustrate the mutual constitution of software and socio-spatial practice. It could be argued that the immersive seduction of a digital co-presence mediates and re-codifies urban space through a process of negation and investment in an economy of sustained attention. Ubiquitous and pervasive mobile technologies are blurring the borders of time, community and space facilitated by gamification, quantification and surveillance; conflating online and offline identity and making it increasingly difficult to determine which side of the screen is which. The short film exploits the graphic infancy of contemporary AR technology to illuminate the sophistication of situational data aggregation and commodification. This critical reflection seeks to discuss the accumulation of intimate and long-term data of desires and behaviours in the context of civil liberty and freedom of mobility.






The Jetsons. American animated sitcom (1962). Instant replicated food - out of this world!

The Jetsons. (1962). American animated sitcom.  Instant replicated food – out of this world!

Scanning in  2-D has bridged the physical, analogue world to the digital realm. A 3-D scanner crosses the border of the screen. It is only the ink of composite materials that acts as final parameter before the two worlds are ultimately blurred. In the final chapter of Fabricated, Lipson and Kurman (2013) suggest this first episode of control over shape and fabrication of any material has already been achieved. The second is composition of internal structure and the third is control over behaviour of meta-materials.

“…printing integrated, active systems that can sense and react, compute and behave.” (p.266)

The infancy of the technology revisits the former frontier freedom of the internet in its earliest days, when the ideals of open source and web 2.0 technologies promised an egalitarian digital world. Digital information has developed its own political economy. Freedom to share information will challenge not only intellectual property law but also the long tail of manufacturing. Policy makers need to consider the legality and ethical ramifications of instantly accessible drugs, weapons and custom body parts. A recent example is the online posting of the blueprints to manufacture a fully working gun, The Liberator.

If machines are ultimately to recreate themselves, then where does this leave us? A recurring theme in this Digital CIties blog, is the investigation of a significant opportunity for policy makers to consider how technology can improve the future lives for all citizens. With a focus on macro socio-political initiative the potential is to radically transform society, reduce poverty and improve peoples lives. However, if technology companies are obliged to compete in a market, then a more divisive and proprietorial future will further exacerbate inequality and social injustice.


LIPSON, H. & KURMAN, M., (2013). Fabricated: the new world of 3D printing, Indianapolis: John Wiley.

Söderberg, J., & Daoud, A. (2012). Atoms Want to Be Free Too! Expanding the Critique of Intellectual Property to Physical Goods.Triplec (Cognition, Communication, Co-Operation): Open Access Journal For A Global Sustainable Information Society10(1), 66-76.






FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT: carbon fear and the quantified self

Ubiquitous sensors record and monitor, neural networked algorithms measure and calculate, integrated databases collate and classify. Smart rhetoric of a pre-given near future acts as normalising and facilitates the uncritical, the city becomes a passive canvas for individual needs; no room for conflict or debate to counter vested institutional interests. (deLANGE, 2013). No room for affect, emotion or irrational desire for citizens are objectified as scrutinised data subjects, citizen becomes consumer identified by the narcosis of accumulating brands and experiences. A disembodied cogito; predictable, fragmentised and dependent, upon complex systems of collective coordination and smart technological expertise, augmented by materiality and machine. (ELLIOT, A., & URRY, J., 2010).

A fear of scarcity and terror add to the always on, globally networked ‘liquid life’, miniaturised technologies act as containment for associated rising levels of anxiety and create a dependency on an immersive and virtual mediated reality to compensate for a disenfranchised and distanced life. (ibid. 2010)

The participatory bio-citizen is an early adopter of new forms of openness and disclosure, socially sharing calorific self-loathing, normalising the accumulation of gamified data trails for the quantified self. Agency is left to technology; no room for reflective learning, e-learning is analytical for the social tyranny of others. (O’DELL, T & FORS, V., 2014). Policed by peers and exploited by insurers, government and advertisers as immaterial labour. (EVANS, L. 2013)

ELLIOT, A., & URRY, J., (2010), discuss a ‘mobilities paradigm’ and networked capital in their predictions of a dystopian future based upon an energy and resources scarcity that ranges from a MadMax local warlord scenario to one of social inequity based upon mobility. deLANGE (2013), argues an emotional cartography is essential to engage the citizen around shared issues of concern, this is the form of networked capital that will engender a sense of ownership and grant agency and self-determination. For example citizens able to track their own carbon emissions may encourage economies in mobility and ownership of the local; political agency to challenge technocracy.






de LANGE, Michiel. (2013). The smart city you love to hate: Exploring the role of affect in hybrid urbanism. In The Hybrid City II: Subtle rEvolutions, edited by D. Charitos, I. Theona, D. Dragona and H. Rizopoulos. 23-25 May 2013. Athens, Greece <Available at: http://www.bijt.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2006/01/Michiel_de_Lange-The-smart-city-you-love-to-hate-exploring-the-role-of-affect_Hybrid_City-Athens_styled_edit-v2.pdf> [Accessed 05may2014]

ELLIOT, A., & URRY, J. (2010). Mobile Lives. Oxford: Routledge.

EVANS, Leighton (2013) How to build a map for nothing: immaterial labour and location based social networking in: Govint, L. and Rasch, M. (ed.s) Unlike Us Reader: Social Media Monopolies and their alternatives. Amsterdam: Institute of Network Cultures. <Available at: www.networkcultures.org> [Accessed 05may2014]

O’DELL, T & FORS, V (2014) Body monitoring: on the need to put culture into the quantifying equation. Submitted to Culture  Unbound. <Available at: http://www.lunduniversity.lu.se/o.o.i.s?id=12683&postid=4195709> [Accessed 05may2014]




A precursor to googleGlass, Steve Mann pioneered cyborg logging wearable technology called Eyetap in 1980.

Golden Shield, or the Great Firewall of China is a censorship and surveillance project operated by the government of China, operational since Nov2003.

The Ghost in the Machine by Arthur Koestler (1967). Used as a metaphor in Elliot and Urry (2010) as a metaphor to describe the accumulation and integration of data trails. Interestingly Koestler discusses latent self-destruction.

An eMail to join an example of community ownership gamified. Reimagine South Central on Community PlanIt is LIVE! (05may2014). https://communityplanit.org/southcentral/


shantyTown _smartCity

On the fringes: as cities grow many struggle to cope with the influx of migrants

On the fringes: as cities grow many struggle to cope with the influx of migrants

The promise of smart, the promise of information technology, the promise of transparency and efficiency is great for buses but not always for people. A city is not a machine and neither are its citizens. Rural migration and urban overpopulation is not a new phenomenon, nor is urban planning. Campbell (2012) estimates that by 2025, there will be 1200 large or intermediate sized cities (p.28) and that 75% of the world’s population will be in urban areas. The solution has been to make a city smarter, sold to urban planners by technology providers with a mantra of efficiency and sustainability. Hemment and Townsend, 2013 argue that this vision is flawed, that a top-down centrally controlled provision; vulnerable to political churn does not work for billions of excluded informal citizens.

Inclusive, bottom-up philosophies conclude that open and accessible big data for the smarter citizen will hold accountable the legacy of Fortune 500 urban planning for politically expedient new cities. Yet there are currently a billion people living on less than a dollar a day (ibid. p.35), 1 in 5 people live in slum conditions and by 2050 it is estimated to be 1 in 3 (Lea REKOW, 2013: 35). Kibera, Africa’s purportedly largest slum (Nairobi, Kenya) was officially registered as a forest (Hagen, 2010)  until residents were able to document and map their community using GPS and openstreetmap.org . Without documented infrastructure, residents lack any agency in policymaking and are powerless to hold institutions to account. Similarly, in Brazil, children’s kites attached to a digital camera have been used to conduct aerial surveys of Rio’s favelas.  These smarter citizens can then use their smart phones to document and geotag areas of contention and negotiation. These two examples of micro-social behaviour have the potential to encourage ‘landscapes of collective desire.’

” …landscapes that are characterised through the politics of self-positioning, regardless of the form of technology used.” (Lea REKOW, 2013: 38)





CAMPBELL, T.E.J., 2012. Beyond smart cities: how cities network, learn and innovate, Abingdon, Oxon: Earthscan.

HAGEN, Erica (2010.) Putting Nairobi’s Slums on the Map. Development Outreach, Special Report: WORLD BANK INSTITUTE. Available at: <http://siteresources.worldbank.org/WBI/Resources/213798-1278955272198/Putting_Nairobi_Slums_on_the_Map.pdf> [Accessed 28apr3014]

HEMMENT, D. & TOWNSEND, A., (2013). Here Come the Smart Citizens in Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., ed. (2013) Smart Citizens – FutureEverything. Available at: <http://futureeverything.org/publications/smart-citizens/> [Accessed 01apr2014]

REKOW, Lea (2013). Including Informality in the Smart Citizen Conversation in Hemment, D. & Townsend, A., ed. (2013) Smart Citizens – FutureEverything. Available at: <http://futureeverything.org/publications/smart-citizens/> [Accessed 01apr2014]



HEATHCOTE, Edwin (2012). Compare and Contrast. ©Eyevine. <Available at: <http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/a403d5b2-39e9-11e2-a00d-00144feabdc0.html#axzz2tgyEr3in> [Accessed 28apr2014].



Masdar, UAE.  Norman Foster designed city without residents.

Gurgaon, India. The ‘millenium city’ , filled with Fortune500 blue chip companies and a failed infratructure.


What do Points Make? Prizes!

bullet hole

Lorenzo QUINN,
Italian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 2011.

Sex, food, mood, location, sleep, alertness, productivity, exercise, mental health and spirituality (Whitson, 2013): always on; always gaming; always working to be the best. The game world never stops, expanding the temporal borders of Montola’s “magic circle” (deSouza e Silva and Sutko, 2009:1). The acceptable face of pervasive surveillance is play, as long as you know the rules.

Whitson analyses the effectiveness of gamification to the quantification of everyday life by linking it to aspirational self-surveillance, participatory and social surveillance and hierarchical management surveillance. The concept of gamification as play works as long as it is participatory, be it incremental improvements in health and exercise or becoming a foursquare mayor, control and ownership over the accumulated data is key. However, the ‘black box of software’ is not transparent, nor is the commodified data free. In a process of function creep, the accumulation of intimate and long-term data of desires and behaviour could be exploited for marketing, government agencies and law enforcement. In work and education, the individual can no longer choose to quit where gamified applications facilitate the lateral surveillance of workers, generating a competitive and panoptic coercion “used to judge, rank and punish.” (Whitson, 2013:174)

Torres and Goggin (2014) expand the ‘magic circle’s’ social border in their paper on mobile social gambling and the increased normalisation of wagering as entertainment. Free from local or national jurisdiction, social gaming and mobile gambling has become play in everyday spaces. <footnote 1> “Digital wagering for play money blurs the distinction between gaming and wagering, in effect expanding the notion of gambling.” (p.96). This has serious implications for policy makers and those who are vulnerable to addiction.

The most obvious expansion of the ‘magic circle’ is location-based mobile games. Blast Theory in 2001, began to use mobile technologies to transform urban space. <footnote 2> Pac Manhattan, Brazilian frogger and London zombie chase games are examples of urban infrastructure being redefined and gamified.

Mobile technologies are blurring the borders of time, community and space facilitated by surveillance, games and play, conflating online and offline identity and making it ever harder to determine which side of the screen is which.







1) In-app purchases for Zynga poker accounted for 12% of Facebook’s total revenues in 2011 (Torres and Goggin, 2014:102), where players send and receive gifts of poker chips (Zynga, 2013 cited in Torres and Goggin, 2014:104), as well as chatting and making friends.

2) fAR-Play uses the Layar app to allow game players to create and share their own points of interest using augmented reality. These ideas are also of benefit to the corporate world and this example shows how AR games are used to promote team-building, key messages and training.



de SOUZA e SILVA, A., and SUTKO, D., (2009). Merging Digital and Urban Playspaces: An Introduction to the Field. In: de Souza e Silva, A., and Sutko, D., (2009). Digital Cityscapes Merging Digital and Urban Playspaces. New York: Peter Lang Publishing. Ch.1

TORRES, César Albarrán and GOGGIN, Gerard (2014) Mobile social gambling: Poker’s next frontier. Mobile Media & Communication 2: 94 <Available at: http://mmc.sagepub.com/content/2/1/94> [Accessed 22apr2014].

WHITSON, J. R., (2013). Gaming the Quantified Self. Surveillance & Society 11(1/2): 163-176. http://www.surveillance-and-society.org <Available at: http://library.queensu.ca/ojs/index.php/surveillance-and-society/article/view/gaming> [Accessed 22apr2014].


Lorenzo QUINN (2011). This is not a game Italian Pavilion at the 54th International Art Exhibition, Venice Biennale, 2011. <Available at: http://www.lorenzoquinn.com/en/press> [Accessed 22apr2014].

Huddersfield Examiner (2013). World Record for the largest playable game projection. The Gadget Show and Running in the Halls:  London, Victoria Dock building. <Available at: http://www.examiner.co.uk/news/pac-man-taken-whole-new-dimension-6367680> [Accessed 22apr2014].

Parallel Kingdom (2013) Screenshot of gameplay on android mobile. <Available at: http://www.parallelkingdom.com/img/theme/pages/pk_media/screenshots_page/pieces/screenshot_android_2_full.png> [Accessed 22apr2014].


Layar augmented reality for googleGlass, 19Mar2014


projection mapping snake onto 3D buildings


Multi-platform console game based on the darker elements of surveillance, Watchdogs. UK Release Date 27may2014, © 2013 Ubisoft Entertainment.




Locative, Mobile and Public Sound

Isolated, fragmented and atomised the urban citizen can be a stranger in a crowd and congregate without meeting. Church bells used to mediatise a social order, now public sound is used to envelop the individual user by ‘engulf(ing) the spatial’ (Bull in Bassett, p.349). From changing the car radio, to fast-forwarding a Walkman and now downloading mobile content, personal technologies are used to recodify space; re-aestheticise everyday experience through a process of negation; and filter stimuli by investing in an economy of sustained attention. (Bassett, 2003).

Michael Bull (aka Professor iPod), studies the use of audio to mediate urban space in order to foster mood and experience. He argues that technology has the potential to be emancipatory, providing “oases of meaning through a featureless desert” (Bull, 2007:17). This consumption of media acts as an effective substitute for a sense of connectivity (Bull, 2007:5) but comes at the price of privatisation; distancing users from the proximity of others, ‘warming’ the individual’s mediated experience but ‘cooling’ the physical space for others.

This dialectic of power, control and freedom is challenged by the smartphone, according to Bassett (2003). It is at once emancipatory, facilitating communication in multiple socially produced spaces, yet at the same time limiting by compelling the user to be ‘always on’ and accountable to social solicitation. Sonicmaps is an example where the urban consumer can re-codify space by producing location specific audio content. Users can download site specific content, walking as remixing (Behrendt, 2012) a narrative from pre-curated sound. As yet, this app seems limited by its interface (see field notes). Bluebrain produced an example of a locative album which highlights the potential of immersive sound away from a tiny screen and clunky menu.

Behrendt mentions the exclusive nature of the branded technology, app and location. Debord in Bull discusses the atomisation of the individual and the weakening of the collective bonds between urban citizens and Bassett discusses the necessary fetishisation of mobiles as an enhancement of urban life.

“I am lost in the crowd, I am anonymous. In my phone, in my space, I matter.” (Bassett, p.350)




BASSETT, C. (2003). How Many Movements? In M. Bull & L. Back (Eds.), The Auditory Culture Reader. Oxford: Berg: 343-355

BEHRENDT, F. (2012) The Sound of Locative Media. Convergence: The International Journal of research into New Media Technologies, 18(3): 283-295.

BULL, M. (2007) Sound Moves, iPod culture and urban experience: an introduction. In: Sound Moves: iPod Culture and Urban Experience. Oxford: Routledge: 1-23.


field notes week 7

augmented reality

layar logoAn intimate and almost seamless experience, layar seduces the user to engage and share, daring to tell all. Most obvious filters for immediate consumption were twitter and instagram <pic>, which allowed the hybridisation of space, conflating the mediated image with an augmented reality (AR) of geolocated tweets and personal images. The local nature of the media presented an allure that made the experience almost personal, as users revealed their thoughts and their postcode. Wikitude required more customisation with tripadvisor posts superimposed over a shopping mall which made the screen real estate of a smartphone almost redundant (see net .locality). Both AR applications suffered from erratic movement and a vagueness in direction as the mobile phone screen moved in a “chaos of data” (Karppi, 2011). Both offered more educational and cultural filters but suffered from a lack of social content, held hostage to the commercial nature of the medium.

layar _instagram2layar _instagram3

More commercial applications are suggested by Drakopoulou in her paper on the intersection between informational and urban space, including heads up displays (HUD) for cars (BMW, 2011) or peripheral vision displays (PVD), like google glass. Both move away from the handheld smartphone to an experience that is wearable and more immediate (further removed from holding a physical object), enabling a more vicarious immersion in “a redefined urban environment that is techno-synthetically composed.” (Drakopolou, 2013).

no google glass 2Both technologies have the potential to infringe upon civil liberties with a data trail users will inevitably leave. Google glass is already proving controversial with businesses banning “glassholes” (Casey, 2013). The Mail online (Prigg and Thornhill, 2014) suggested that facial recognition apps have the potential to scan a room matching networked images (including sexual offenders), either for more efficient political campaigning or lonely hearts. Google are confident that “behaviours and social norms will develop over time.” (Casey, 2013).

The rapid development in computer generated imagery (CGI) in cinema, video and gaming and by extension AR, is moving ever closer to reality, blurring the lines of distinction and removing the divide of the screen. As eyesight and peripheral vision become fully integrated into a commercial space, the technology must be held accountable to avoid the mediation and manipulation of reality, driven by a market driven ideology.

“Rather than enriching places with electronic information, these new augmented reality applications do little to enrich but they rather visualise the hybridisation of space, of the urban environment, by visualising the commodification of all spaces, both mental and physical.” (Drakapolou, 2013).




DRAKOPOULOU, S., (2013). Pixels, bits and urban space: Observing the intersection of the space of information with urban space in augmented reality smartphone applications and peripheral vision displays. First Monday, 18(11). <Available at: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/ article/view/4965>  [Accessed 17mar2014].

KARPPI, T. (2011) Reality Bites: Subjects of Augmented Reality Applications. In Unfolding Media Studies, eds. Puro, J. and Sihvonen, J. Turku: University of Turku: 89-102

NEWTON, Casey (2013). Seattle dive bar becomes first to ban Google Glass. (Last updated 9 March 2013 5:12 PM GMT). Available at: <http://www.cnet.com/uk/news/seattle-dive-bar-becomes-first-to-ban-google-glass/> [Accessed on 17mar2014]

PRIGG, Mark and THORNHILL, Ted (2014). Could Google Glass find your dream date? (Last updated 07feb2014: 20:00). Available at: <http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2554133/First-Google-Glass-facial-recognition-app-launches-match-potential-couples-not-checking-sex-offenders-registry.html> [Accessed on 17mar2014]


BMW, 2011



field notes    _week6                                                                     https://oneill2014.wordpress.com/

net .locality

Technology blurs the boundaries between public and private. The urban dweller, seduced into disclosing the content of a private communication becomes an urban consumer. (Gordon and deSouza, 2011, p. 173) In an ‘economy of attention’ (Lanham, 2006 cited in Gordon and deSouza, 2011, p. 79), this desire to be located and contextualised in a networked locality of miniaturised icons and intermittent text is exploited and aggregated; ‘dataveillance’ (Clarke, 1988 cited in Gordon and deSouza, 2011, p. 11) becomes normalised for commercial prediction and social stratification. Public space is privatised and private information is disclosed as public.

The ‘perceived’ (Gordon and deSouza, 2011) social norm of co-presence in the digital and physical world leaves me confused and resentful, bound up in a fear of losing control over a fledgling digital identity. To compound my anxiety, privacy policies and terms of usage employ a syntax requiring an entire module to Master, to the extent I blindly accepted Foursquare et al.

SC20140315-184025 SC20140315-184041

"i need more real screen estate!" App: Wikitude  Geolocation: in bed

“i need more real screen estate!”
App: Wikitude
Geolocation: in bed


I discovered a kebab shop had some friends I could check-in with. I also discovered that my screen real estate was insufficient for the information overload I was attempting to navigate. Customising my networked locality was going to take a long time, besides which the shopping centre was about to close along with their free wiFi.



This attempt to discover and use a socio-spatial practice was doomed because I was unwilling to be seduced by its representation. I was not engaged by sharing with peers nor my provider and did not want the attention. Interestingly enough, on a parochial level (Humphreys & Liao, 2013) I am quite happy to make objections to local planning initiatives for yet another multi-occupancy concrete bunker or sign an ePetition to improve local workers terms and conditions, yet the experience of net locality for the purposes of socialising and entertainment left me cold and ultimately excluded.

Don’t like shopping, not really big on kebabs but I may spend time customising my digital presence to engage and motivate others in civic action. By checking-in to my urban space and legitimising the representation of a contextualised locality, I could be ‘mayor’ in a town of like-minded people.





GORDON, E. (2008) Towards a theory of network locality. First Monday, 13(10). <Available at: http://journals.uic.edu/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/2157/2035> [Accessed 12mar2014].

GORDON, E. & de SOUZA eSILVA, A. (2011). Net locality: why location matters in a networked world, Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell.

HUMPHREYS, L. & LIAO, T. (2013). Foursquare and the parochialization of public space. First Monday, 18(11). <Available at: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4966> [Accessed 12mar2014].

TOSONI, S. & TARANTINO, M., (2013). Space, translations and media. First Monday, 18(11). <Available at: http://firstmonday.org/ojs/index.php/fm/article/view/4956> [Accessed 12mar2014].



GORDON, E. (2013). Place of Social Media. Technology and Civic Engagement
 <Available at: http://placeofsocialmedia.com/blog/category/net-locality/> [Accessed 12mar2014].

TELHAN, O. & YAVUZ, Mahir M. (2013) United Colours of Dissent. <Available at: http://www.connectingcities.net/project/united-colors-dissent> [Accessed 12mar2014].

An example of civic engagement and gaming by the engagement game lab, who’s executive director is Eric Gordon



field notes 12march2014

space, people and technology

I grew up overlooking Tooting Bec Common, which I regarded as my own free space to play. Common land is something that I vaguely remember to do with ‘commoners’ and being able to graze sheep. By extension, the term “commons” has come to be applied to other resources which a community has rights or access to. In later life, this memory evolved into a political sensibility to demonstrate in a public space, like causing bicycle congestion for ‘critical mass’. Berry et al. (2013), refer to the difference between ‘public’ and ‘the public’ as being distinct, separated by “a very particular political formation associated with liberal and bourgeois democracy” (Berry et al, 2013:5), discussing issues within the public sphere. Originally ‘the press’ and now other forms of media, represent this discussion removing the need for face to face contact. This space “is never finally fixed but only stabilised at certain historical moments.” (Berry et al, 2013:6)


Street Ghost by Paulo Cirio


Street Art is an example of negotiation with private property and civic engagement; vandalism or art. A fine example is Paolo Cirio’s ‘Street Ghost’, where life sized “pictures of people found on Google’s Street View are printed and …affixed to the walls of public buildings at the precise spot on the wall where they appear in Google’s Street View image” (http://mediacities.net/). A more sinister negotiation of public/private space is the use of sonic media to act as deterrent. The Mosquito is a high-pitched frequency, painful to those under-25, seen as anti-social users of public/private space. Mitchell Akiyama (2010), argues that this stratifies space, creating inhospitable zones and weaponising sound. It is based on a physiological phenomenon that separates young people from adults but ultimately criminalises youth indiscriminately. “we must not let mainstream culture define youth through exclusion; to do so is to deny young people agency.” (p.466)

Both examples illustrate the intersection of space, people and technology mutually constituted by socio-cultural practice and codified into an urban place of significance and meaning.





Akiyama, M., 2010. Silent Alarm : The Mosquito Youth Deterrent and the Politics of Fre- quency. Canadian Journal of Communication, 35, pp.455-471.

Berry, C., Harbord, J. & Moore, R.O., (2013). Public space, media space. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Cirio, Paolo (2013)  Street Ghost. International Conference, Workshops and Exhibition May 3-5, 2013 – University at Buffalo, The State University of New York. <Available at: http://mediacities.net/site/exhibition-street-ghosts/> [Last Accessed: 04mar2014].

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: http://www.manovich.net/articles.php> [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: http://c2.com/ward/morse/> [Last Accessed: 26feb2014]. Original source code: <Available at: http://azarask.in/projects/algorithm-ink/#e0274a5c > [Last Accessed: 26feb2014].


Further Reading

Matthew FULLER (2003) It Looks Like You’re Writing a Letter: Microsoft Word in Behind the Blip. <Available at: http://www.multimedialab.be/doc/citations/matthew_fuller_blip.pdf> [Last Accessed: 23feb2014].

Suggestions for transparency in big data                           http://recode.net/2014/02/10/putting-privacy-first-in-big-data-technologies/