2020 in Review

Grayness in Maine
Grayness on Mount Desert Island, 2020.

According to conventional chronological schemas, 2020—not 2019—is the last year of the 2010s.* This is convenient since, as I pointed out in last year’s premature review of the last decade, the 2010s were “the decade of shit” and 2021 is a stinking pile of shit. The worst decade since World War II ended with the worst year since 1945.

My “year in review” posts are usually almost as late as my taxes and when I finished last year’s post on February 12, we were all well aware that COVID was out there. Now, no question that I missed the severity of the pandemic back then, but I was on the money about its psychic effects. For all of the horror of COVID, it isn’t horrible enough. COVID is banal. Instead of bleeding out through all of our orifices as with Ebola, COVID is “a bad case of the flu” that leaves people dead or with debilitating cardiovascular and neurological ailments. But how different is my diagnosis, really, from what happened?

Now sure, this year [2020] we’ve already had firestorms the size of Austria ravaging Australia, a rain of rockets in Baghdad, Ukrainian jetliners getting shot out of the sky, a deadly pandemic in China caused by people eating creatures that they really shouldn’t, and the failure of the Senate to uphold the rule of law, but the banality of it all is crushing. While the Dark Mountain set drinks wine around a campfire, gets henna tattoos, and sings along to songs about the end of nature, for the rest of us, it’s just an exhausting, daily slog through the unrelentingly alarming headlines.

COVID brought us yet more crushing banality. The Idiot Tyrant is gone, but we are trying his impeachment yet again. Everything changes, but nothing changes. We were all the Dark Mountain set this year, sitting around our campfires, singing songs about the End. It was another atemporal slog, one day bleeding into another, every day a Sunday in a country where everything is closed on Sundays and there is nothing to do, every day stranger and more disconnected than the last, something captured in comedienne Julie Nolke’s series of videos entitled “Explaining the Pandemic to My Past Self.”

Amidst the disconnection, the Jackpot—or William Gibson’s term for a slow-motion apocalypse—cranked up a couple of notches. Just surviving the year was an accomplishment. The balance of life has been thoroughly disrupted and that disruption isn’t going away any time soon. It’s not just COVID: we now feel certain that there will be more pandemics, more massive wildfires, and more superstorms in our future. The Earth isn’t dying (sorry, climate doomers), but there will be huge losses of species worldwide, human population decline is well underway in advanced societies (the US is finally on the bandwagon here), and massive deaths will take place across the planet until the population comes back to a sustainable level decades from now.

But the premise of the Jackpot is that it isn’t a final apocalypse: there will be another side. In his Twitter feed (@GreatDismal), even Gibson focuses on the horrific and unjust nature of the Jackpot, but there will be winners, selected on the basis of wealth and sheer dumb luck. What might this say about the US election and the fact that 46% of Americans voted for a cretin? Now, there is nothing particularly new about melding Tourette’s and dementia into a public speaking style, there are plenty of lunatics sitting on their porches screaming obscenities at their lawn ornaments. Everybody knows that Uncle Scam’s persona as a billionaire—or rather the King of Debt (his own term!)—is an act. The man with the golden toilet is not a successful businessman. He is weak, a loser who can’t stay married or stay out of bankruptcy court. Four years of misrule ended in abject failure: defeat in both electoral and popular votes, being banned from social media and, with his businesses failing, being forced out of office in shame to face an unprecedented second impeachment, an array of civil litigation as well as criminal indictments for fraud, tax evasion, incitement to riot, and rape. But this—not a misguided notion of him as a success—is the real point of his appeal. The short-fingered vulgarian is a life-long loser, a reverse Midas whose every touch turn gold to lead. But in the face of the Gibsonian Jackpot, his appeal was not as a stupid version of Homer Simpson, grabbing whatever scraps he can and, when that failed, LARPing as President, destabilizing society, and just blowing everything up.

LARPing was big in 2020, which saw the attempted kidnapping of Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer by wingnut idiots, various insane protests by COVID deniers, the attempted coup of the Capitol Insurrection, and the riots developing after the Black Lives Matter protests. BLM was the standout among these, not only a good, just cause, but also because the majority of the protests themselves were peaceful—such as the one in our town of Montclair, New Jersey. None of that was LARPing, but the riots that accompanied it were. For the most part, this was less people with genuine greivances and more Proud Boys, Boogaloos, anarchists, and grifters who came in to loot and burn whatever they could down. Although there were kooky moments on the Left like the Capital Hill Automonous Zone, Antifa, for however much it exists, didn’t do much, certainly proving to be far less trouble than white supermacist-infiltrated police forces in paramilitary gear. Still, the widely-vaunted second Civil War never came about and the arteriosclerotic LARPers on the Right limped off the field in defeat after their they got a spanking at the January putsch.

A number of observers at both the Capitol Insurrection and CHAZ —including some of the idiots who took part in it—noted that these events felt much like a game, specifically an Alternate Reality Game (ARG). In a typical ARG, players look for clues both online—think of the QAnon drops, the Trumpentweets, or the disinformation dished out by the skells at 4chan, 8chan, and so on—as well as out in the world. Jon Lebkowsky, in a post at the Well’s State of the World and Clive Thompson over at Wired compare QAnon to an ARG. Indeed, gaming is taking the place of religion (whichever grifter figures out how to meld this with Jesus and his pet dinosaurs will get very rich indeed), with the false promise that playing the game and winning will deliver one to the other side of the Jackpot. Somewhere, I read that when asked what he would do differently if he had made Blade Runner a decade later, Ridley Scott replied that he would be able to skip the elaborate sets and just point the camera down the streets of 1990s Los Angeles. Today, the same could be said for the Hunger Games today.

But not everything was LARPing. If Cheeto Jesus is an icon for LARPing losers, Biden was elected on the premise of staving off the Jackpot by returning adults to the White House. This is not a bad thing, we might as well try. Still, from the perspective of Jackpot culture, the most interesting political development of the year was the candidacy of Andrew Yang whose cheery advocacy of Universal Basic Income (aka the Freedom Dividend) masked the dark, Jackpot-like nature of his predictions. Let’s quote Yang’s campaign site on this: “In the next 12 years, 1 out of 3 American workers are at risk of losing their jobs to new technologies—and unlike with previous waves of automation, this time new jobs will not appear quickly enough in large enough numbers to make up for it.” No matter how friendly Yang’s delivery, there is a grim realism to his politics, an acceptance that things will never be better for a massive sector of the population. Certainly some individuals will find ways to use their $1,000 a month freedom dividend as a subsidy to do something new and amazing, but 95% will not. Rather, they will form a new and permanent underclass as they fade into extinction. Again, the point of Yang’s candidacy isn’t the cheerleading for math and STEM, it’s the frank acknowledgement that the Jackpot is already here.

On the other hand, toward the end of the year, Tyler Cowen suggested that we might be nearing the end of the Great Stagnation (he is, of course, the author of an influential pamphlet on the topic) and you can find a good summary of the thinking, pro and con by Cowen’s student Eli Dourado here. In this view, advances such as the mRNA vaccine, the spread of electric, somewhat self-driving vehicles, the pandemic-induced rise of remote work, and huge drop in the cost of spaceflight are changing things radically and could lead to a real rise in Total Factor Productivity from the low level it has been stuck at since 2005. Is this a sign of the end of the Jackpot? Unlikely. That won’t come until a series of more massive technological breaks, probably (but not necessarily) involving breakthroughs in health (the end of cancer, heart disease, and dementia), the reversal of climate change, working nanotechnology, and artificial general intelligence. But still, there are signs that early inflection points are at hand.

Personally, we experienced one of these inflection points when we replaced our aging (and aged) BMWs with Teslas. I wound up getting a used Tesla Model S last January and then immediately turned around and ordered a brand new Model Y that we received in June. No more trip to the gas station, and while “Full-self driving” is both expensive and nowhere near fully self driving, it is a big change. Longer road trips—which under the pandemic have been to nurseries on either side of the Pennsylvania border to buy native plants—have become much easier, even if I still have to keep my hands on the wheel and fiddle with it constantly to prevent self-driving from disengaging. But harping on too much about the incomplete nature of self-driving is poor sport: in the last year, Tesla added stop light recognition to self-driving and a new update in beta promises to make city streets fully navigable. Less than a decade ago, self driving was only a theoretical project. Now I use it for 90% of my highway driving. That’s a sizable revolution right there. Also, the all-electric and connected nature of these cars makes getting takeout and sitting in climate-controlled comfort in my vehicle when on the road a delight. Electric vehicles were a big success this year and in our neighborhood which is a bellwether for the adoption of future technology (when I saw iPhones replace Blackberries on the bus and train into the city, I bought a bit of Apple stock and made a small fortune) and Teslas have replaced BMWs as the most common vehicle in driveways.

Back to the pandemic, which accelerated a sizable shift in habitation patterns. Throughout the summer, there was a lot of nonsense from neoliberal journalists and urban boosters about how cities are going to come back booming, but with more bike lanes, wider sidewalks, less traffic, and more awesome tactical urbanist projects to appeal to millennials. Lately, however, those voices have fallen silent and with good reason. In this suburb the commuter train platforms are still bare in the mornings and the bus into the city, once packed to standing room only levels every evening, hasn’t run in five months. A friend who works in commercial real estate says that occupancy in New York City offices is at 15% of pre-pandemic levels. Business air travel is still off a cliff. Remote work isn’t ideal for everyone and every job, but neither was going into the office. For sure, the dystopian open offices, co-working spaces, and offices as “fun” zones are done and finished. People are renovating their houses, or upsizing, to better live in a post-pandemic world of remote work. Another friend who works for a large ad agency told me that they did not renew their lease for office space and do not plan to ever go back to in person work, at least for the vast majority of the staff. When employees gain over two hours a day from not commuting and corporations save vast fortunes on rent, remote work seems a lot more appealing. Retail sales here and in the surrounding towns have gone through the roof, just as they have in many suburbs.

But it isn’t just suburbia that has prospered at the expense of the city, exurbia has returned too. Way back in 1955Auguste Comte Spectorsky identified a growing American cultural class that he dubbed “the exurbanites” made up of “symbol manipulators” such as advertisers, musicians, artists, and other members of what we today call the creative class. Spectorsky observed that many of these individuals eventually tended to drift back to the city. This time may be different. After two decades in the city, the creative class is turning to places outside the city with attractive older houses and midcentury modern properties, walkable neighborhoods (virtually all of Montclair, for example, has sidewalks), good schools (which generally mean high property taxes but are an indicator for a smarter, engaged populace), amenities like parks and places to hike, decent bandwidth, as well as independent restaurants, shops, and cultural attractions. There will always be variations in taste: some people really do want to eat at Cheesecake Factory and live in a Toll Brothers McMansion, but these will appeal to relatively few of the people fleeing cities at this point. Thus, the Hudson Valley—full of older, more interesting architecture, great natural resources and quirky towns—is booming. I predict some reversion to toward the mean after the pandemic ends and some of the people who fled to the country realize they aren’t suited to a place without Soulcycle, but this will be only a partial and temporary reversion.

I predict that even after the pandemic ends, there will be a greater interest in self-sufficiency among young people who move to suburbia and exurbia. Manicured laws will be less important than vegetable gardens. Homesteading, permaculture, and a drive back to the land not seen since the 1960s are under way. It would be a very good thing if the next generation was more in touch with their land and less prone to hiring “landscapers” who treat properties as sites subject to industrial interventions such as chemical fertilizer for lawns, a phalanx of gas-powered lawn mowers and leaf blowers to remove any stray biological matter.

As far as cities go, the pandemic is triggering a necessary contraction. The massive annihilation of real estate value it has caused should go a long way to undo the foolish notion that urban real estate is always a great investment. It’s not, just ask anyone who bought a house in Detroit in 1965. Real estate in first and second tier global cities has become wildly expensive, disconnected from the underlying fundamentals. When individuals are paying rents that absorb over 30% of their salaries to investor-owners who are not covering their mortgage with those rents, something is very wrong. This broken system has been able to function due to the perceived hedonic value of restaurants, bars, and cultural events, but these things too have been failing over recent years. Long prior to the pandemic, the cost of rent decimated independently-owned restaurants and retailers, with the latter also hurt by on-line shopping. The golden age of dining out (if it really was the golden age… I would say that better food could have been had in other, less copycat eras) was already declared over in 2019. “High-rent blight,” in which entire streets’ worth of storefronts were empty due to ludicrous rents, has been common for some time now. Tourists made up more and more of the street crowds while loss-leader flagship stores for chains like Nike and Victoria’s Secret replaced local businesses. With the hedonic argument for staying in the city rapidly disappearing, it was only a matter of time before individuals began departing and, in New York, population had begun to drop by 2018 (see more on all of this in Kevin Baker’s piece for the Atlantic, “Affluence Killed New York, Not the Pandemic”). Perversely, this is a good thing as it will likely lead to a bust in commercial real estate prices and a decline in unoccupied or AirBNB’d apartments, thus making global cities like New York places that have potential again. Moreover, many second tier cities such as St. Louis, Kansas City, and Cleveland are experiencing new growth as individuals able to work remotely are looking for places that are less expensive—and thus have more potential—than New York or San Francisco.

These shifts are huge and for the better. As I tried to tell my colleagues at the university, there is no housing crisis, at least not in the US and Europe, there is only an appearance of one because of the uneven distribution of housing: a glut in some areas, a shortfall in others. The pandemic has likely undone this a bit. Of course, places that are too politically Red, too full of chains, too full of copycat McMansions are unlikely to come back anytime soon, if ever. The Jackpot continues.

Still, I’m observing a perversely rosy future for the urban (and suburban and exurban) environment is the Biden administration’s interest in infrastructure. Back in 2008, I shocked design critics when I stated that there would be no progress in infrastructure for the foreseeable future. “But, Obama,” they complained. “But, Obama,” I clapped back, “just appointed Larry Summers as his chief economic advisor and Summers will bail out the banks, not fund infrastructure.” I expect the opposite from Biden who has adopted a “nothing left to lose” position as purportedly one-term President, is a devotee of train travel and is eager to make great progress on climate change. Appointing Pete Buttigieg, one of his two smartest opponents in the primary (the other being Andrew Yang, of course), to Secretary of Transportation is a key move. This will be Buttigieg’s opportunity to prove himself on the national stage and he will fight hard to do that, just as Biden expects. Expect more electrification across the board and, I suspect, more advances with self-driving vehicles. Although certain measures—such as, in the New York City area alone, the Gateway Tunnel between New Jersey and New York, now delayed over a decade thanks to Chris Christie and Donald Trump’s vindictiveness against commuter communities that would not vote for them and the reconstruction of Port Authority Bus Terminal—will help cities, again, I predict more emphasis on decentralization and activity outside the city.

All this may have salutary cultural implications. The global city is played out. Little of interest happens in New York, San Francisco, London, Paris, or Barcelona. These cities are too expensive for the sort of experimentation that made them great cultural centers and the diffusive nature of the Internet, capitalism, and overtourism have made them all the same. Residents of cities that have been victims of overtourism have seen this as an opportunity to reset, while the physical isolation of cities is going to increase reliance on local institutions. With some luck, all this leads to a new underground, with greater difference creating greater diversity and potential. Of fashion, Bruce Sterling writes, “Fashion will re-appear, and some new style will dominate the 2020s, but the longer it takes to emerge from its morgue-like shadow, the more radically different it will look.” The same could be true of all culture. Globalization was an incredibly powerful force but has been played out. I don’t agree with the protectionist instincts of the Trumpenproles but today culture’s hope is to thrive on the basis of the difference between places and cultures, not on greater sameness. Architecture has been very slow to react to all of this, in part because many intelligent young people have drifted into other fields, like startups, but I am optimistic that we might soon get past the ubiquitous white-painted brick walls and wood common table (the architecture of the least effort possible, to match fashion and food driven by the least effort possible), the tired old Bilbao-effect, and quirky development pseudo-modernism.

So much optimism on my part! Even I am shocked that I am so positive. But why not? The end to this exhausted first phase of network culture is overdue. Time for a new decade, at last.

*The reason for this is that there is no Year Zero. 31 December 1BC is followed by 1 January 1AD.

Infrastructural Fields

One of my favorite journals, Quaderns has posted an essay that I wrote for them a year ago, entitled "Infrastructural Fields." There, I make the argument that architects need to embrace the new, invisible world of Hertzian space as they design. What are the tools by which we will do this? How will we create an architecture that, as Toyo Ito once stated, can float between the physical and the virtual world? If Ito set out to do this in the Sendai Mediatheque, why have architects been so reluctant to go further? 

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Terminal Condition. Spring 2012 Netlab Studio

 

Terminal Condition
Spring 2012

Columbia University
Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation
Network Architecture Lab

Professor: Kazys Varnelis, Ph.D.
Assistant: Leigha Dennis

Description

This studio explores the re-construction of a large-scale infrastructural element in the city, specifically the Port Authority Bus Terminal in New York City. A structure of 1.5 million square feet, passed through daily by hundreds of thousands of commuters, over seven thousand buses, and thousands of automobiles, providing parking for over 1,000 spaces for automobiles on top, surmounting a subway below, linked to the Lincoln Tunnel through massive ramps for vehicular traffic, and accommodating a significant shopping area, the PABT operates in a realm between building, city, and infrastructure. We are interested in this overlap as a venue for experimentation in programming and design.

As the largest commuter facility in the city, the PABT is a necessary part of everyday life for hundreds of thousands of workers in the city. The PABT was constructed in response to growing traffic congestion in midtown produced by the operation of eight independent bus terminals in the area a decade after the opening of the Lincoln Tunnel in 1937. Costing $24 million, the PABT bus terminal started operations in December 1950, consolidating eight independent bus terminals located in the midtown area. The building has been expanded twice to accommodate growing bus traffic: in 1963 a $30 million expansion added new decks and in 1979 a north wing was built at a cost of over $160 million, integrating with the original structure with a bridge over 41st street through a series of massive X trusses designed by Port Authority chief structural engineer Eugene Fasullo.

Bringing over 50,000 sightseers to the city daily, most of whom stop at Times Square, the PABT has been a key player in midtown, caught up in a longstanding crime problem that only abated during the last decade. With a new, modern exterior and a tiled interior resistant to vandalism, the 1979 reconstruction was intended as an architectural solution. But the expanded space quickly wound up serving a growing population of hundreds of homeless people, drug dealers, and male prostitutes while the “Minnesota Strip” on Eighth avenue outside became a site where newly-arrived runaways of both genders, particularly from the Upper Midwest, would be pressed into prostitution. Soon, the brutalist trusses became seen as a symbol of the decay of the Times Square area. In response, the Port Authority invested significant funds in the redevelopment of the neighborhood and implemented crime prevention strategies. The building is now vastly safer, but with the successful redevelopment of Times Square, the PABT is one of the last vestiges of an older, less commercialized New York. Over the last decade, the Port Authority was working with the Vornado Realty Trust to construct a skyscraper over the north wing, which was built with the possibility of exploiting its air rights in mind. Plans for a forty-story office tower by Richard Rogers including a rooftop garden and eighteen new bus gates came to naught when the Chinese developer pulled out this past November.

In this exercise, we set out to develop new hypotheses for the future of the PABT which we see as needing to respond to a world in which mobility is as much a matter of portable networked telecommunications devices as travel. With the resurgence of bus travel, the Terminal has the opportunity to become an even more significant gateway into the city for both commuters and visitors. Containing significant retail space, the PABT is a major center of commerce in the Times Square area. How do we make a building that embraces civic, commercial, and infrastructural spaces while remaining secure?

Semester Plan

This studio understands the architect as a builder of not merely physical edifices but also social, conceptual, and technical structures. Our interest is to use architecture and the most advanced thinking in network culture to construct new and better ways of life. In doing so, this studio is engaged first and foremost with institution building and shaping of social behavior.

We will begin the semester with team-based based scenario plans. Students will identify the drivers in society, technology, economics, ecology, and politics likely to impact the building over the next generation. These scenario plans will be communicated through the technique of architecture fiction. A review exploring these scenario plans will be held in mid February.

Students will individually develop detailed proposals for the reconstruction of the building by mid-review in March. These proposals will take the form of books that define the mission and goals of the reconstructed PABT and a preliminary idea for an architectural program.

Cloud

As a Netlab studio concerned with the topic of mobility, this studio will be the first prototypical studio in the GSAPP Cloud. To this end, students will be expected to maintain Tumblr blogs of their research and to keep up with the online work of other students. All student work will be posted online and aggregated to the emerging GSAPP work site.

Program

Students will be responsible for devising programs for a 21st century PABT. With the scenario plans from the first part of the studio in hand, students will be asked to identify the programmatic direction of the new PABT. Crucial to this will be a balance between city, building, and infrastructure. How can the building maintain its own identity while integrating better with the urban environment surrounding it?

In the wake of an era defined by the attention-seeking strategy of shaping, it is only appropriate to ask if architecture shouldn’t lose its singularity and obsession with performance. Can we develop architectural strategies aimed at producing less individualistic works that operate in a more ambient register, embracing formlessness instead of shaping, works that build intensity more subtly rather than giving it away all at once, works that question the boundaries between the city and the building rather than affirming them?

With regard to the site, students will be encouraged to consider the extension of the PABT into New Jersey through the Lincoln Tunnel and the dedicated Exclusive Bus Lane (XBL) that stretches from the New Jersey Turnpike onto Route 495, underneath the Times Square area through the underground subway station and the subway routes beyond.

Engineering

Students will work with roving engineers from ARUP during the semester to address the immense requirements of the PABT and the prospects for the construction of their project without disrupting the terminal’s operation.

Representation

Ultra-realistic perspective and Photoshop-based montages are banned in this studio. We propose that this sort of representation is inappropriate, corresponding to what Mark Fischer has dubbed “capitalist realism,” a condition in which we are offered nothing but the present the eagerly wait for the next thrill the system has to offer.[1] Evacuated of any critical intent, such work only cements the false notion that modern technology has made communication transparent.

But more than that, if all architects produce a form of science fiction, then to paraphrase William Gibson, we need to remember that as we construct futures, all we have at our disposal is the moment that we are currently living in.[2] The moment we construct a future it starts to age rapidly. Since the crash, along with the development of technologies that were formerly consigned to an endlessly deferred proximate future such as near-universal wireless Internet, locative media, tablet computing, and touchscreen interfaces, it seems that we have exhausted the era of the next new thing, of rapid technological and cultural development and obsolescence.

Thus, envisioning the future through architecture forces us to follow Alex Galloway’s suggestion that “all media is dead media,” to understand that appropriate representational strategies that might resist capitalist realist representations might emerge out of a new understanding of what Gibson calls a “long now,” a temporally stretched condition out of which we can freely recombine material and representational motifs.[3]

We will look at forms of representation immanent to our topic at hand, from schedules to traffic engineering plans, flowcharts, to exploded axonometrics for vehicle parts. Such diagrams not only offer rich territory to mine for representational strategies, their close study allows us to better understand the topic we are involved in. Precise, unshaded hidden line drawings, plan, section, elevation, and axonometric offer us a carefully and logically articulated system of delineation appropriate for a bus terminal.

Grading:

20% Attendance and Participation

Students are expected to attend studio sessions, be on time, and ready to discuss their work at every session. Students are expected to participate in group discussions, to cooperate with other studio members by offering criticism, advice, and good spirit.

Group meetings, regularly scheduled once per week allow us to share our research and constantly re-tune our method and approach to the material.

Students are expected to be at pin-ups and reviews on time with work ready to present. Students who are not ready at the beginning of the pin-up or review forfeit the right to receive criticism. Students are expected to contribute to pin-ups and reviews, both in terms of criticism and questions as well as by working in a team to ensure that rooms are ready to present in (adequate chairs, projectors, and so on).

40% Concept

Students will be graded on the originality and rigor of their concepts. All students need a coherent thesis in this studio.

Columbia teaches in English. There is help available for difficulties with the English language in the university, but lack of understanding is not an excuse.

40% Execution and Presentation

A good concept means little if it is poorly executed or presented. Presentation and execution are not trivial, nor are they mere “polish,” rather the choices made in presentation and execution should inform, and be informed by, the concept.

Students are expected to render and present their work clearly, succinctly, and elegantly.

Work should be thoroughly and represented.



[1]
Mark Fisher, Capitalist Realism. Is There No Alternative,  (Hampshire, UK: Zero Books, 2009).

[2] Scott Thill, “William Gibson Talks Zero History, Paranoia and the Awesome Power of Twitter,” Wired Underwire Blog, posted September 7, 2010, http://www.wired.com/underwire/2010/09/william-gibson-interview/all/1.

[3] Alex Galloway, “Cory Arcangel (Beige) and Paper Rad’s The Mario Movie" (2005)http://www.deitch.com/projects/press_text.php?pressId=29. Michael Parsons, “Interview: Wired Meets William Gibson,” Wired UK posted October 13, 2010, http://www.wired.co.uk/news/archive/2010-10/13/william-gibson-interview.

Continue reading “Terminal Condition. Spring 2012 Netlab Studio”

Driving in the Smart City

I recently had the opportunity to speak in a session on "Driving in the Smart City" at the Smart City Expo in Barcelona. Below is a recording of an expanded version of the talk that I gave.

As I said in the video, I don't have any specific expertise in the issue of driving in the smart city, but what I have to say in the talk is absolutely crucial to the issues covered in the session, the conference as a whole, and all forms of design.

My thinking about complexity and the dangers it poses for us has been evolving fast lately and I am convinced that this is some of the most important work I've ever done. The message is simple, but the implications are profound. To say "hope you enjoy" would not accurately describe my feelings. Let's try "hope you are moved to action, dialogue, or further reflection" instead.  

 

A Manifesto for Looseness from Kazys Varnelis on Vimeo.

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Infrastructural City, New Jersey Style

Although the final nail hasn’t been hammered into the coffin, New Jersey governor Christopher Christie has unilaterally cancelled ARC (Access to the Region’s Core), new tunnel to connect New York City to New Jersey.

Now, ARC itself is a damaged project. Instead of ending in Penn Station or having any hope of exiting in a future Moynihan Station (the plan to reconstruct the Beaux-Arts post office across the street into a 21st century version of the glorious old Penn Station that used to greet travelers prior to the 1960s). But instead, due to politics and complexities of existing infrastructure, ARC was to terminate off-site and deep underground, making arrival at Moynihan station impossible and complicating connections to other rail lines. 

The Infrastructural City‘s lesson is that, if you give constituents and politicians enough power and you build a complex enough civilization in which notions of civil society are replaced by ideas of property rights, you are going to bring future growth to a crashing halt. So Los Angeles strangles on itself.    

The creative destruction of the New York City of consensus and big projects by a succession of mayors since Ed Koch certainly helped its recover. Finance has done very well and the city has become a playground for the wealthy even as manufacturing and the middle class have been eviscerated. But for now, the city is still unsustainable without the large numbers of commuters that work in the towers throughout Manhattan. This is a dirty secret that Manhattanites—including all too many architects and urbanists—don’t want to admit. I haven’t found a comprehensive source of statistics this morning, so my figures are a little cobbled together, still, at least 900,000 commuters enter into Manhattan every day via New Jersey Transit, Long Island Rail Road, the Port Authority rail lines, and the buses that go in and out of Port Authority. In contrast, only some 628,000 workers from Manhattan work on the island (what do all the rest of the 1.2 million people do?) and some 880,000 workers from the other boroughs commute in. Now again, don’t rely on these figures too much, but still they seem to be roughly on target in suggesting that the majority of community into the city comes from the suburbs.

But infrastructure in and out to the suburbs is at a breaking point. Amtrak has been starved of funds for decades and its tracks and tunnels are in a horrific state of disrepair. Since New Jersey Transit has to share the Amtrak train lines in and out of the city, it has to face congestion caused by constant technical glitches on the aged, overstressed Amtrak lines. But since Amtrak owns the lines, it gets priority when only one of two tunnels is running in and out of the city.    

Now Christie’s constituency is residents who don’t commute to New York. On paper, his motivation is the opportunity to use ARC funding for highway repairs. Still, he’s a Republican and when they’re involved its hard not to imagine conspiracy theories. In particular, its plausible that part of the economic mess the country is in is due to the "Starve the Beast" policies of a generation of conservatives. Using profligate tax cuts, stave the beast was meant to create fiscal conditions that would force massive cuts in government services. The impossible situation that we face today is arguably the result. No matter how utterly incompetent the Obama administration has been, there is little question that their hands have been tied by the massive deficit and debt incurred by the Bush administration. If one applied this sort of reasoning to Christie’s move, its plausible to imagine that it’s an anti-city project, aimed to make commuting in and out of the city so much more difficult, thus forcing workers and—more importantly—corporations to either move into the city (unlikely, given current demographic flows) or to move further out into exurban areas. These, in turn, have historically been more conservative in nature (this has a bit to do with the lack of shared infrastructure, roads aside, and the insulation that exurbanites feel from the poor). So, in other words, canceling ARC is a foresighted move that will likely make it impossible for Christie to get re-elected (given the money and votes concentrated in the commuting suburbs) but will make it possible for a shift further rightward in state politics over the next several decades and, in turn, help undermine Manhattan’s future. 

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On Hipster Urbanism

Over at Fantastic Journal, Charles Holland writes about hipster urbanism, comparing the High Line, which turns infrastructure into tourism with the reopening of a train line in east London as…get this: a train line.

Hipster urbanism is hardly rare anymore. A short while back, I enjoyed a stroll on the Walkway Over the Hudson, a former railroad bridge in upstate New York. Near where I live in New Jersey a project is underway for a train line that leads into Hoboken. The idea of building a bike path to the city is laudable. After all, I could get a Brompton and ride to the PATH train and head to Studio-X. But note that not only do trains still use the line, the train company that owns it expects that use will expand in the next few years. So is riding my bike to the city really the best use of the line? Maybe industry is old hat? 

[Walkway over the Hudson]

In the countries once known as the developed world, we’ve replaced productivity with tourism. This is a prime difference between modernism and its successors, postmodernism and network culture. Few modernists could have understood relinquishing production. Think of Tony Garnier’s fabulous Une Cité Industrielle, for example. Today, however, industry plays little role in (formerly) developed economies like the United States or the United Kingdom. In the case of the former, where finance generated roughly 12% of the GDP in 1980 and industry generated around twice that, today the figures are reversed… and this has only been exacerbated by the economic crisis. 

Remember the Roger Rabbit conspiracy theories that General Motors paid to destroy the train system to favor the automobile? It’s hardly so simple, but surely as we are heading into a new century, we wouldn’t want to exacerbate those mistakes, would we?  

 

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Complexity and Infrastructure

Yesterday’s New York Times has a piece by David Segal entitled "It’s Complicated: Making Sense of Complexity." It’s nice to see the New York Times reading my blog—and even using the same Thomas Cole image (The Course of Empire) that I’ve used before in discussing the topic to lead off the piece.

But it’s no surprise: the topic’s very much in the air now and I predict that by the end of this decade it’ll be commonly understood to be as big an issue for network culture as rigidity was for Fordism. 

If you’re interested in complexity as a problem—particularly with regard to infrastructure—please come to the next Netlab event, which takes place tomorrow, May 4 at 6.30pm EST at Columbia’s Studio-X Soho. For those of you outside of the city, no worries, there’ll be a ustream feed. Please find more here.   

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Read the Infrastructural City

I’m delighted to announce that the good people at m.ammoth.us have organized an online reading group to read the Infrastructural City. Find out more at their site

Like Networked Publics, the Infrastructural City has become a long-term project that goes beyond the bounds of Los Angeles. I’m currently immersed in the Network Culture book, but I have some plans for a follow-up article to my introduction in Infrastructural City later this year and maybe even a book some time later. 

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Complexity and Contradiction in Infrastructure

I gave the following talk on Banham’s Los Angeles, non-plan, and infrastructure in the Ph.D. lecture series at the Columbia Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation in November, 2009. 

Most of us are prone to hero worship. This talk sets out to address one a major problem in the work of one of the contemporary heros of architectural and planning historiography, Reyner Banham, and his advocacy of a (mythical) laissez-faire form of planning based on his reading of Los Angeles.

Below the talk I have embedded a video. Although today its considered bad practice to read lectures, I’ve started doing it again even if my delivery seems more stale. When you give ten lectures a term outside of school and when nearly every venue insists upon something custom, the practice of keynoting ex tempore from notes becomes a bit of a drag. Eventually you realize that with a little more work—and granted, a little worse delivery—your project could convery more, have more theoretical meaning, and be generative toward other projects. At the level of production that I’ve been trying to stay at lately, the only way to produce content is to follow the advice that Slavoj Zizek gave in the movie about him: everything either needs to be a spin-off or work toward the next major project.

This talk, then, is a spin off of my work toward the Infrastructural City but also sets out to tackle Banham critically (something that I’ve also done here), something I intend to take up soon.

Complexity and Contradiction in Infrastructure

The title of my talk refers to Robert Venturi’s 1966 Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, generally accepted as an inaugural text in postmodern architecture. For Venturi, the modernists failed because they strove for purity of form in. Venturi wrote:

“today the wants of program, structure, mechanical equipment, and expression, even in single buildings in simple contexts, are diverse and conflicting in ways previously unimaginable. The increasing dimension and scale of architecture in urban and regional planning add to the difficulties. I welcome the problems and exploit the uncertainties. By embracing contradiction as well as complexity, I aim for vitality as well as validity.”

In other words, Venturi suggested that architects rather than trying to sweep messes under the rug, architects embrace complexity and contradiction by introducing deliberate errors in their works.

Venturi concluded that an appropriate architectural response “must embody the difficult unity of inclusion rather than the easy unity of exclusion. More is not less.”

Note, however, that Venturi’s argument is historically specific:
“today the wants of program, structure, mechanical equipment, and expression, even in single buildings in simple contexts, are diverse and conflicting in ways previously unimaginable. The increasing dimension and scale of architecture in urban and regional planning add to the difficulties.”

This text, then, comes about at a transition point between late modernity and postmodernity and its virtue is that Venturi not only diagnosed a condition, he also suggested an architectural approach. Both of these suggested a schism from the modern, a move into a new condition. Today I want to talk about another phase in the era of complexity, which is why I cite Venturi at the outset. 

Along with Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour, Venturi’s next book, the 1972 Learning From Las Vegas would tackle issues of signage, semiotics, automobility and the commercialization of the American city, flipping the valence on landscapes that had been roundly derided as degraded by architecture critics. But for the purposes of this talk, its worth noting that the authors original interest was in Los Angeles and the Yale studio that resulted in Learning from Las Vegas visited that city first. It may be that the more smaller and more picturesque of the two cities (unlike Vegas, Los Angeles has no central strip) proved more easily explainable.

For architects and historians of architecture (I file myself in the latter category), Reyner Banham’s 1971 Los Angeles. The Architecture of Four Ecologies took on the urban conditions in a more total approach. Banham set out to dissect the city as a total landscape—both geographically and historically, both physically and psychically—as well as in terms of its infrastructural, social, and architectural systems. In this, Banham’s work has been pathbreaking and The Infrastructural City uses his book as inspiration and as a point of departure, something that my subtitle Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles alludes to.

But Banham’s foremost innovation was to flip the valence on the historical evaluation of Los Angeles, praising precisely those qualities that others listed as irredeemable failings: its posturban sprawl; its lack of an overall plan; its chaotic, untamed signscape; its comical roadside architecture; its ubiquitous boulevards, parking lots, and freeways. 

Although we could ascribe this to a characteristic British fascination with the degraded, Banham also had a theoretical impetus. By the mid-1960s, he had become fascinated with the possibilities of what he called “non-plan,” a laissez-faire attitude toward urban planning, part of a larger project that he undertook along with Paul Barker, deputy editor of the magazine the New Statesman. In 1967, Barker ran excerpts from Herbert Gans’s The Levittowners “as a corrective to the usual we-know-best snobberies about suburbia.” At roughly the same time, Barker and Peter Hall set out with a “maverick thought… could things be any worse if there was no planning at all?” The result, strongly influenced by Banham’s writings in the magazine, was a special issue publshed in 1969 and titled “Non-Plan: An Experiment in Freedom.” Barker recalls, “We wanted to startle people by offending against the deepest taboos. This would drive our point home.” To this end Hall, Banham, and architect Cedric Price each took a section of the revered British countryside and blanketed it with a low-density sprawl driven by automobility. According to Barker the reaction was a “mixture of deep outrage and stunned silence.”

For Banham, Los Angeles stood as the greatest manifestation of Non-Plan to date. “Conventional standards of planning do not work in Los Angeles,” he wrote, “it feels more natural (I put it no stronger than that) to leave the effective planning of the area to the mechanisms that have already given the city its present character: the infrastructure to giant agencies like the Division of Highways and the Metropolitan Water District and their like; the intermediate levels of management to the subdivision and zoning ordinances; the detail decisions to local and private initiatives; with ad hoc interventions by city, State, and pressure-groups formed to agitate over matters of clear and present need.”

Now there’s some question as to how well Banham’s Los Angeles worked in the first place: it was in its worst period of air pollution in history, the freeways were wreaking devastation upon the city and the Watts Riots had just shaken any lingering mirage of Los Angeles as either a progressive metropolis or as paradise for the white middle class. Still, in his evaluation, Banham felt that the city—in his mind epitomized not by the Watts Riots but by the individualistic exuberance of Watts Towers— worked because it had no central plan. Rather, planning was left to the competing forces in the city, public and private.

If Banham set out against modernist urban planning, non-plan gave a theoretical basis for neoliberalist planning. Reducing the modernist ethical imperative to a question of fascination with the bottom-up to embrace “a messy vitality” (this is not Banham but Venturi’s term), modernism would be reduced from a question of morality and rational planning to a question of desire, both individual and institutional. The result parallels Manfredo Tafuri’s observation in Architecture and Utopia that the avant-garde’s singular accomplishment is not so much a physical change to the metropolis but rather an adjustment in how it is viewed. We can see this quite literally in Banham’s own role in his book: what remains at the end of the modern project is the experience of the city and the observer’s voyeuristic pleasure in the psychogeographic experience of drifting on the boulevards and freeways of the city.

But things have changed. For one, the 1970s were an era of limits for the city, the state, and country with the first large-scale economic recession since the war, the OPEC  energy crisis, Vietnam, and finally stagflation. If the late 1960s were a period of great social unrest, by the mid-1970s, such unrest had largely been reshaped into concerns with individual rights and self-realization, above all the right to property and to dispose of one’s wealth as one wants. Thus, the system of non-plan that Banham lauded would be institutionalized in California in 1978 with the passing of State Proposition 13, reducing property tax by 57% and mandating that future tax increases require a two-thirds majority in the state legislature. Two years later former California governor Ronald Reagan would become President and set out on a draconian program of reducing non-military governmental spending at a national level.

By the time that Reagan took office, with a decade of cutbacks caused by the combination of economic crises and funds being siphoned off for defense, due to dwindling urban tax roles caused by outmigration since the 1930s and due to the more natural phenomena of age, infrastructure was coming undone nationwide.

Thus in 1981, precisely at the instigation of the nation’s Californization (or, and I hesitate to suggest it, Californication?) economists Pat Choate and Susan Walters published a pamphlet for the Council of State Planning Agencies titled America in Ruins: Beyond the Public Works Pork Barrel. The pamphlet soon attracted a large amount of press attention, including a Newsweek cover story on August 2, 1982 entitled "The Decaying of America.” (August 2, 1982) and a US News and World Report story To Rebuild America: $2,500,000 Job, September 27, 1982. Literature searches suggest that is at this moment that infrastructure begins to gain popularity as a term. Infrastructure enters into the national consciousness during crisis.

But a Californicated America would have no room for public infrastructural spending. Instead, the exemplary infrastructures of the 1980s and 1990s—telecoms after deregulation, the mobile phones, the Internet—are privatized. Here, Richard Barbrook and Andy Cameron describe the legitimizing narrative for such ventures as the Californian Ideology, a union of hippie self-realization, neoliberal economics, and above all, privatization advocated by Silicon Valley pundits like Stewart Brand editor of the Whole Earth Catalog and founder of Wired Magazine. As Barbrook and Cameron suggest, the growth of Silicon Valley and indeed, California as a whole, was made possible only due to exploitation of the immigrant poor and defense funding. Los Angeles, after all, became the country’s foremost industrial city in the postwar period, largely due to defense contracts at aerospace firms. So, government subsidies for corporations and exploitation of non-citizen poor: a model for future administrations. 
But there’s more to infrastructural crisis then neoliberal economic policy. Once again Banham and Los Angeles provide a reference point. Banham describes the ecologies of Los Angeles as dominated by an individualism that allows architecture to flourish. But such a model of the city is insufficient. In the Reluctant Metropolis: The Politics of Urban Growth in Los Angeles, William Fulton describes Los Angeles as an exemplar of what Harvey Molotch calls “the city as growth machine.” In this model, certain industries—primarily the finance and real estate industries—dominate urban politics with the intention of expanding their businesses. Newspapers too endorse the growth machine as a way of expanding their subscription base and selling real estate ads. Moreover,  arts organizations such as the symphony, opera, and art museums are also beholden to the model of the city as growth machine.These interests promote a naturalized view of growth in which we are simply not to question that cities will always get bigger or that they should always get bigger.

By the 1960s, however, homeowner discontent about encroaching sprawl led individuals to band together to form homeowner groups. The first of these was the Federation of Hillside and Canyon Associations, which protested the construction of a four-lane highway in place of scenic Mulholland Drive. Soon, homeowners teamed with environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club to create a regional park in the Santa Monica Mountains to prevent further development in their back yards. By the time that Proposition 13 passed, Angelenos were set against the growth machine and with it, too, the big infrastructure necessary to drive it or even the projects necessary to repair it.   

The result, then, is a long, steady process of infrastructural decay, privatized infrastructure acting as a layer or retrofit onto a decaying public infrastructure.
    
It’s in this context, then, that we must situate both Venturi and Banham, as transitional approaches to the material, reducing questions of complexity to form matters, which of course is not too uncommon in architecture. In Venturi’s case, complexity is produced through form, in Banham’s case formal complexity is produced by the laissez-faire city.

Now I’d like to turn to some contradictions that emerge out of this condition. First, we could sense a threat to the vaunted neoliberal individual rights from failing infrastructure.  Some of these are quite obvious: the inconvenience of traffic and long commutes but also the potholes that (in Los Angeles) cause an average of $746 of damage annually per automobile, collapsing bridges, energy crises caused by privatization such as electricity grids failing and refineries going offline indefinitely (here the city of Los Angeles, which has not privatized its power wound up ahead of the rest of the state during the crisis that brought down Gray Davis during Enron’s salad days).
  
Neoliberalism thus exacerbates what sociologist Ulrich Beck calls “risk society.” Banham’s autopia isn’t a risk free world, but rather a condition in which risk and threat are everyday factors, creating a contradiction within capitalism. Beck:

“… everything which threatens life on this Earth also threatens the property and commercial interests of those who live from the commodification of life and its requisites. In this way a genuine and systematically intensifying contradiction arises between the profit and property interests that advance the industrialization process and its frequently threatening consequences, which endanger and expropriate possessions and profits (not to mention the possession and profit of life).” (Beck 1992: 39)

* * *
Now if environmentalism was in part, a movement created by homeowner desires to protect their rights, we would expect that infrastructural collapse (or for that matter the state of California schools) would also be of concern to homeowners and corporations, but in California, Proposition 13 and a politics of stalemate make it impossible to act. Even as voters seek mandates to restore services, the state is hamstrung by the legislature’s terror of touching Proposition 13, which is known as the “third rail” of state politics. Last month the Guardian asked “Will California become America’s first failed State?”

I want to be stress that in other respects conditions have intensified, moving postmodernism to another phase. Take risk. Environmentalism has been thoroughly capitalized as the green movement, with the Californian ideology now promising to save us from global warming through technological means. Crisis becomes profitable.
Crisis becomes profitable.

On to my last two points. Profit, as Robert Brenner tells us in the economics of global turbulence has become a problem, in part because of some of the problems that face infrastructure. Massive investment in fixed capital make it impossible to abandon when more efficient structures elsewhere threaten. The most familiar aspect of this, of course, is the rise of Chinese industry and the evacuation of American production. But infrastructure is of equal concern. Infrastructure, like other technologies, follows a classic S-curve, in which initially steep returns per dollar invested are followed by diminishing returns as the curve flattens.

The results, for the country have been devastating. California, together with Soho and Boston appeared to enjoy massive growth in high technology, particularly telecommunications and digital technology, during the last three decades. But much of this growth happened not in terms of production, but rather in finance, both in the lucrative financial instruments that accompanied public offerings and in terms of technology that made ever more complex financial operations possible.
Traditional profits, in this context, were considered devalued in comparison with the profits obtainable. Jeffrey Nealon in Foucault Beyond Foucault suggests that in this sort of operation, the classic equation that Marx observed in Capital of M-C-M’ is now rewritten as M-M’, in other words, capital leads to capital growth without any intervening commodity.

The result, then, is a bit of what we saw this spring when, after President-Elect Obama made a YouTube speech calling for a WPA 2.0 as an economic stimulus, he turned away from infrastructure in the actual stimulus bill. Blame has been laid on Obama’s chief economic advisor Larry Summers.

But how the Democrats (or in California, Schwarzenegger) are going to get out of this mess is entirely unclear. Economic indicators suggest that the country will endure a long term period of stagnation, different from, but reminiscent of the 1970s and 1980s. This month, the New York Times reported that unemployment and underemployment now stands at 17.5%, the highest level since the Great Depression. Official unemployment in California now stands at 12%. These are staggering numbers. The state is making cutbacks while raising tuitions at the University of California system, leading to mass student protests and the regents macing students. California leads the nation again, it seems.

If the restructuring of the 1980s destroyed manufacturing, this decade’s recession has mowed down the creative class and the financial sectors. In the latest New Left Review, Gopal Balakrishnan suggests that we have entered into a stationary state, a long period of systemic stagnation. As he points out, Adam Smith never expected the wealth of nations to improve perpetually but rather expected it would come to an end in the nineteenth century as resources were exhausted. Capital’s perpetual growth would have been a mystery to him.
 
To conclude then, I want to return to where I started, the theme of complexity. I’ve been thinking about these issues a lot lately, re-reading archealogist Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies. Tainter’s thesis differs from Jared Diamond’s (and also precedes it by a decade). Instead of turning to the external forces of ecological catastrophe (as Diamond does) or to foreign invasion (as other commentators do), Tainter sees complexity as the downfall of societies.

As societies mature, Tainter observes, they become more complex, especially in terms of communication. A highly advanced society is highly differentiated and highly linked. That means that just to manage my affairs, I have to wrangle a trillion bureaucratic agents such as university finance personnel, bank managers, insurance auditors, credit card representatives, accountants, real estate agents, Apple store "geniuses," airline agents, delivery services, outsourced script-reading hardware support personnel, and lawyers in combination with non-human actors like my iPhone, Mac OS 10.6, my car, the train, and so on.

This is the contemporary system at work, and it’s characteristic of the bureaucratized nature of complex societies. On the one hand, in a charitable reading, we produce such bureaucratic entities in hopes of making the world a better place, keeping each other honest and making things work smoothly. But in reality, not only is this dysfunction necessary for the operation of the service economy, these kinds of entities rub up against each other, exhibiting cascading failure effects that produce untenable conditions.

In Tainter’s reading, complex societies require greater and greater amounts of energy until, at a certain point, the advantages of the structures they create are outweighed by diminishing marginal returns on energy invested. The result is not just catastrophe but collapse, which Tainter defines as a greatly diminished level of complexity.

Just as rigidity was the failure point for Fordism, complexity is the failure point for post-Fordism. In this light, the culture of congestion valorized by Koolhaas is undone by the energy costs of that complexity.

Now I agree with Tainter when he concludes that the only hope to forestall the collapse of a complex society is technological advance. I’d argue that this is what’s driving the field of networked urbanism at the moment. But, I’m not so sure we can do it. This is where my optimism rubs up against my nagging feeling that urban informatics, locative media, smart grids, and all the things that the cool kids at LIFT and SXSW are dreaming up are too little, too late.

Technology itself is already all but unmanageable in everyday life and adding greater layers of complexity can’t be the solution. It’s in this sense that the Infrastructural City was more Mike Davis than Reyner Banham, something few have caught on to yet.

We should have taken our lumps when the dot.com boom collapsed and retrenched for five or six years. Instead we added that much more complexity—take the debt and what is required to maintain it or the impossible war or the climate—and now our options are greatly limited.

So we need to develop a new set of tools to deal with the failures of the neoliberal city and the impossible conditions of complexity today. This is hardly an overnight task, if it can be done at all.

Now Tainter holds one other card, suggesting that most of the people who experience collapse don’t mind it too much. Many of them seem happy enough to just walk away from the failing world around them, much like owners of foreclosed homes do today. Eventually a new civilization springs up and with it, perhaps we can imagine a better future.  

I want to conclude by talking about whether I’m a pessimistic or an optimist since I’m apparently being accused of being a pessimist at all my talks recently (parenthetically, I’ll add, I suppose that’s better than being accused of being an optimist). Back to Los Angeles: anyone visiting Hollywood Boulevard is accosted by attractive young men and women asking if one is an optimist or a pessimist. The next step is being lured into the Scientology Center to take a test. Maybe we’re better off not taking that test, but rather looking at reality, not a future scripted by a science fiction writer.

Second, I’m afraid that academe is a bit infected by Prozac culture these days. Hope would be fine if we had a President who seemed to have an ability to deal with the issues or if the alternative to this one wasn’t so deeply frightening.

End   


 

Complexity and Contradiction of Infrastructure from kazys Varnelis on Vimeo.

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