Creative SpaceMaking Vancouver Pecha Kucha - June 12, 2013


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Pecha Kucha talk given at the City of Vancouver's Creative SpaceMaking celebration, introducing Kitchin & Dodge's concept of code/space and coded space to artists, creative professionals, and civic staff.

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  • Good evening everyone, it's great to be a part of this amazing event.  That's a Google streetview car parked in front of my house in East Van. and that seemed like a good starting point for a quick talk about the intersection of software and space these days.
  • I have recently come to believe that our online / offline; digital / physical; virtual / real dualisms have run their course. Spatial metaphors for our relationship with pervasive networked information & communications tech are declining in their utility.
  • And I believe that our attention would be better shifted away from the metaphorical spaces we are creating online and instead look at how software is embodied in the world around us.  Because there's a lot of it in the world around us today.
  • That's not to say our spatial metaphors and graphical user interfaces haven't been productive.  Files, folders and desktops have been handy for our symbolic manipulation of one's and zero's.  Even if we have been inclined to layer even more space into that metaphorical space.
  • But the superhighway metaphor in particular and all of the matrix type visualizations? I mean come on.  Metaphors are great for helping us see the similarities of the two things we are comparing.  But they suffer most when they ignore the differences between the two.
  • And of course, for many of us, this is/was the reality of cyberspace. A more pedestrian super walkway. Or something, this global assemblage of network infrastructure and software is a far cry from the matrix.  So I'd like to introduce you what I believe to be a more useful concept.
  • British academics and human geographers Rob Kitchin & Martin Dodge call the concept code/space and coded space.  A code/space occurs when the software and spatiality of everyday life are mutually constituted.  In English, it's when space depends on software to fulfill it's purpose.
  • The airport is the canonical example of code/space.  You might not have paid too much attention to software at YVR, replete with its lovely sculptures and pre-flight / post-check-in shopping opportunities, but if the software crashes...,
  • ...the airport essentially becomes a warehouse of angry people.  It's still a space of course, but not one as it was intended.  It becomes a very different space as people are thrown into a variety of improvised holding patterns.
  • Another everyday spatial example, that you may also be familiar with. And one whose physical form hasn't changed too much in 60 years, with its endless aisles of canned goods and frozen food... The supermarket but if the software stops working...
  • ... and increasingly if this particular new fangled flavor of software stops working...  you no longer have a supermarket, you have a temporary food storage facility on your hands.  Again, possibly filled with hungry, angry people (aka "hangry" people)
  • So what about coded spaces.  Well, coded spaces aren't dependent entirely on software for their functioning: but rather the presence of software augments, transforms, or transduces space.  Tonight, the Wise Hall is a coded space, thanks to Tim’s laptop and this projector…
  • Another coded space where much creative production occurs, at least from my 2nd floor office vantage point in Gastown, is the coffee shop.  Mobiles, laptops, and wifitransduce space all day long.  But so long as we can still manually grind beans and pull espresso shots... it's still a coded space, it works as intended.
  • Another example of coded space, a project that my company was heavily involved with: the new Port Mann Bridge;  software makes the tolling and billing happen; but of course if it's not functioning, technically you can still drive over the bridge... Don’t let the government know I told you that, but there you go.
  • So how might you, as a creative professional, contemplate this relationship between software and space in your work?  While airport check-in kiosks, grocery self-serve stations, and laptops in public parks and are all very visible examples… what happens when...
  • ...what happens when that visibility ceases to be?  Like this "smart bench” from the Too Smart City commission at the 2009 Sentient City exhibit. It ejects its users when they have sat there too long, unbeknownst to the unsuspecting bylaw offender...
  • What happens to our notions of the audience and the boundaries of our performances when space and time are transduced and augmented in this way?  Anyone tweeting this talk right now? Taking photos? Both?
  • What happens when our spaces are increasingly mediated, manipulated, and surveilled through the pervasive use of wearable computing, like Google Glass?  When the design fictions envisioned by authors like Vancouver’s own Mr Gibson & his peer Mr. Sterling become real?
  • Making sense of this new normal, this "strange now" has always been the domain of artists, creatives, and cultural professionals.  It's always been your space, your territory. The interplay between old systems and new media.  It's what you do, in whatever medium you choose.
  • So my challenge to you all is to ditch your old metaphors and take a run at a new one.   Help the rest of us, through your work, augment our vision in an entirely different way.  Help us make sense of our new surroundings.  And I hope to see you out... there. Wherever there may be.  Thanks.
  • Creative SpaceMaking Vancouver Pecha Kucha - June 12, 2013

    1. 1. Gordon Ross / VP OpenRoadCelebrating Creative SpaceMakingPowered by PechaKuchaJune 12, 2013WELCOME TOCODE/SPACEphoto credit: gordonr (flickr)
    2. 2. photo credit: Felipe Luchi: Outside Magazine (
    3. 3. photo credit: gordonr (flickr)
    4. 4. matrix
    5. 5. photo credit: gracefamily (flickr)
    7. 7. photo credit:
    8. 8. photo credit: dan-marsh (flickr)
    9. 9. photo credit:
    10. 10. photo credit: gordonr (flickr)
    12. 12. photo credit: gordonr (flickr)
    13. 13. photo credit: gordonr (flickr)
    14. 14. photo credit: scoobay (flickr)
    15. 15. Too Smart City / Sentient City []
    16. 16. photo credit: Michael Sohn, AP
    17. 17. photo credit:
    18. 18. photo credit: woodsboard (flickr)
    19. 19. thanks for listeningi’m @gordonrphoto credit: gordonr (flickr)