RFIDs and the “Internet of things”: Also biometrics, algorithmic CCTV, tagging, new bordering technologies, ‘smart’ infrastructures, geodemographics, GPS etc.
Machine readable entities--sensors---databases to recognise and track individual ‘objects of interest’’
Ubiquitous computing and the promise of the always-on, everywhere network
Architectural and urban spaces continually animated, brought into being, and continually performed through ubicomp or ambient intelligence
’ Technological unconscious’ or ‘calculative background’ within which computers inhabit the most ordinary things
3 KEY STARTING POINTS ONE: Best understood not as a real/virtual binary of ‘real city’ & ‘virtual cyberspace.’ Rather, simply the latest process in long history of urban ‘ remediation’
‘ Cyberspace’ "is very much a part of our contemporary world. It is constituted through a series of remediations. As a digital network, cyberspace remediates the electric communications networks of the past 150 years, the telegraph and the telephone; as virtual reality, it remediates the visual space of painting, film, and television ; and as social space, it remediates such historical places as cities and parks and such 'nonplaces' as theme parks and shopping malls. Like other contemporary telemediated spaces, cyberspace refashions and extends earlier media, which are themselves embedded in material and social environments".
Bolter, J. and Grusin, R. (1999) Remediation : Understanding New Media, MIT Press.
” There is a continual fluctuation of people, goods, data, and services as moving entities, together forming a society where the whole structure is in movement. This dynamic is supported by thousands of signs indicating both movement and intensity of urban flows. Each flow individually forms its complex horizontal network, further linked vertically through different transportation systems. Both new infrastructures and the hyper-concentration of facilities [in cities] create a strategic terrain for a network of international corporate cultures (international finance, telecommunications, information technology). These networks are open systems capable of absorbing new centres without causing instability"
Gutierrez and Portefaix (2000)
THREE: Paradoxically, ambient, ubiquitous or locative media, like all new technological systems, tend to become hidden and ‘disappear’ at precisely the moment that they become most important:
“ The most profound technologies are those that disappear. They weave themselves into the fabric of everyday life until they are indistinguishable from it”
(Mark Weiser, 1991)
Socially ‘Black boxed’ to become the ‘engineer’s stuff’: ‘Infrastructure’
‘ Infrastructure’ is:
Embedded (i.e. “sunk into other structures);
Transparent (“it does not need to be reinvented each time or assembled for each task”);
Offers temporal or spatial reach or scope;
Is learned by its users;
Is linked to conventions of practice (e.g. routines of electricity use);
Is built on an installed base of sunk capital;
Is fixed in modular increments, not built all at once or globally; and
Tends to become visible when it fails (Susan Leigh-Star, 1999)
Windows Mobile application AURA launched in December 2006. Aims to ‘connect shoppers on the go to a world of information about products’ (MS press release).
It depends upon objects being ‘coded’ in this case with a bar code. With an AURA-enabled device, you use a digital camera to snap the bar code on a product, which it will relate to the database held by Microsoft and will return links and search results about the item to the handheld device.
‘ Software-Sorting’ techniques often used to ‘unbundle’ and recommodify public urban infrastructure into neoliberal mobility marketplaces
Road Pricing: Unbundling Public Roadspace Monopolies:
The Internet: ‘Squelching the Scavenger Class’
Cisco (2002): "The Scavenger class [categorisation] is intended to provide differential services, or ‘less-than-Best-Effort"’ services, to certain applications", the document suggests. "Applications assigned to this class have little or no contribution to the organizational objectives of the enterprize. Assigning a minimal bandwidth queue to Scavenger traffic forces it to be squelched to virtually nothing during periods of congestion" .
Call Centres: The Politics of Speed-Up and Slow-Down
Avaya Corporation (2000):
"One of your best customers dials the national customer service number for your company. The ANI [Automatic Number Identification] database reveals the customer to be among the top 5% of your customers. [Our system] routes the customer at high priority. When the agent picks up the call, he hears a whispered announcement that this caller is ‘Top 5’"
Surveillance Creep: Embedded Systems Become Securitised
The ‘New Manhattan Project’: Surveillance Systems for ‘Unconventional War Targets’
Defense Science Board (2004) US forces need another “Manhattan Project” for tracking and locating targets in ‘assymetric’ urban warfare to “locate, identify and track people, things and activities in an environment of one in a million”
DARPA’s Combat Zones That See: Persistent Urban Surveillance
Observing ‘change’ rather than ‘scenery’
Identify purported notions of urban ‘normality’ against the ‘abnormal’ behaviours and patterns that can then be assessed as targets.
CTS “explores concepts, develops algorithms, and delivers systems for utilising large numbers (1000s) of algorithmic video cameras to provide the close-in sensing demanded for military operations in urban terrain.”
“ Will produce video understanding algorithms embedded in surveillance systems for automatically monitoring video feeds to generate, for the first time, the reconnaissance, surveillance, and targeting information needed to provide close-in, continuous, always-on support for military operations in urban terrain”
“ Behind the fighters, military police and intelligence personnel process the inhabitants, electronically reading their attitudes toward the intervention and cataloguing them into a database immediately recoverable by every fire team in the city (even individual weapons might be able to read personal signatures, firing immediately upon cueing. Smart munitions track enemy systems and profiled individuals. Drones track inhabitants who have been ‘read’ as potentially hostile and ‘tagged’”
Jordan Crandall: a militarisation through ‘Armed Vision’: “Tracking is an anticipatory form of seeing”
” Identifying targets becomes the role of statistical algorithms which sift the mass and flux of registered and sensed data searching for [Mark Seltzer’s]”‘statistical persons’”
“ A gradual colonization of the now, a now always slightly ahead of itself”
“ While civilian images are embedded in processes of identification based on reflection, militarised perspectives collapse identification processes into “Id-ing” - a one-way channel of identification in which a conduit, a database, and a body are aligned and calibrated” (Crandall 1999).
Tracking, ‘Security’ and Militarisation
III Art and Activism: Reenchanting, Reanimating, Repoliticising the City?
Calls to realise and reclaim the potentials of augmented spaces through art and activism. Direct challenge to visions of both sanitized and transparent corporate and commercial spaces and militarised and securitised spaces .
Technological reappropriation: ‘The new hybrid space also calls for new forms of public action. These can only be created and facilitated if the users of hybrid space learn to see the influence of relatively invisible digital structures and appropriate their technology where possible for alternative use.’ (Kraan 2006).
New social performances; address alienated experience; strive for (digital) reenchantment of world; opening out authorial empow-erment; build collective community and participatory endeavour; struggle against hegemonic commercialisation &/or securitisation
‘ When information can actively find you on the street, there is a viscosity of space that forms between strangers with locative media, creating landscapes charged with traces of others that have inhabited the same space. In this early stage of location-based media, a greater connectivity and interaction between people who share a common interest, is thought to hold the promise of invigorating the public sphere to create an awareness and, therefore, a vitality of activity and public dialogue in spaces that might otherwise remain stagnant. This density and cohesion is more or less explicitly opposed to notions of disorientation and distractedness in contemporary urbanity” (Shirvanee 2006).
Multiple visions of sentient urbanism: commercialisation, securitisation, art/activism. Each struggling to become fixed into infrastructure whilst striving to remediate urban life in various ways:
Relations between these important but poorly understood
An emerging urban and technological politics as each offers possibilities for new urban spatialities and temporalities. Relational politics linking ‘proximate distance’ with ‘distant proximity’.
Profoundly different treatment of social relationships.
Temporalities especially interesting: Environments are now being saturated with anticipatory technologies which delegate agency to invisible and sentient systems. These blur into local, urban environments, whilst enacting and organising transnational flows.
But may also contain memories and link to the past just as much as to anticipation of the future . May offer the possibility of enriched community formation -- sense of destabilising spaces or haunting them with absent others
Dreams of perfect transparency and omniscience are long-standing. But the linking technology within ambient technology is generally a ‘kludge’, as software designers call it.
Result, crucially, is a multitude of ‘Little Brothers’ not one ‘Big Brother’; a pan-urban ‘oligopticon’ with many gaps and spaces, failures and unintended effects, rather than an all-seeing , omniscient, and all-controlling urban ‘panopticon’.
‘ Mobile networks have to negotiate the architecture of spaces that they attempt to inhabit. The supposedly flat space of the network is in fact not flat, pulled into troughs and peaks by the gravity of architecture and the users themselves.’ (Manovich 2006)