death to the hipster

If there is anything that has struck me the most about coming back to the Northeast after a decade of exile in Los Angeles, it is the nature of sociality here.

In what would no doubt come as a massive surprise to any Angeleno reading this post, New York and its environs are intensely social. Whether hyper-scheduled playdates for kids in suburban Montclair (or the city for that matter) or a relentless barrage of events in the city (I swear that you could go to one super-cool architecture event every night of the year), the area is relentlessly filled with a pursuit for activity. In contrast, L. A. is a city that exists virtually without any social interaction. This is a city which in the eve of the millennium could do little more than turn the Hollywood sign green, after all.

But let's not let the Northeast off so easy. What it has to offer instead is massive social division. If people see each other at orchestrated and semi-orchestrated social events, they see not so much individuals as representatives of micro-clusters. In L. A. whether you live in Paris-Hilton-infested Bel Air, polka-dot Silver Lake, or the pseudo-city of downtown is ultimately irrelevant, just a subtle inflection within a diffuse urban field. By contrast, New Yorkers take their lifestyles seriously…whether you live in Tribeca, Park Slope Montclair, or the Upper West Side is a decision of grave importance. Identity, it seems, is real. Or is it? in an amusing—but biting—special issue, Time Out NY addresses the "Hipster," a particular, highly contrived urban breed. A quote should entice you in…

The mouth of a real-estate agent is rarely the source of truth, but Mr. Desjadon knows his territory (and is no doubt cashing in on this knowledge). He has unwittingly explicated the transformation of the hipster into the “indie yuppie,” an avatar we might imagine as the fusion of Kurt Cobain and Adam Gopnik. The indie yuppie is (literally) the child of the bobo, and just as his father the baby boomer did, he has learned to simulate rebellion while procuring and furnishing a comfortable two-bedroom.

Read more at The Hipster Must Die.

So what interests me about this is the need of individuals to fit into certain molds and the question of whether the NY or LA model of socialization is more future-forward…

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design for the other 90%

The New York Times carries a brief review of a show at the Cooper-Hewitt, "Design for the Other 90%," which the Times refigures as "Design for the World's Poor." To be fair, I haven't seen the show, but the web site generally corroborates the Times review. Both suggest that the focus is on how designers can help the world's poor. I realize that the Cooper-Hewitt is the National Design Museum and, by its very mission, has to maintain an inordinate faith in the capacities of design (take a visit to their online store for another view), but I wonder where the Architecture Without Architects of this kind of culture is? Where is a show on the kind of work being shown on Afrigadget? Not to knock the well-meaning efforts of designers (I'd rather they design for the developing world than for the museum store) but I'd rather see a common ground established between the kind of things in Make Magazine and Afrigadget than to hear yet again about how first world ingenuity solves third world problems.

But again, I haven't seen the show and perhaps I am just being led astray.

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amsterdam is code

I've previously argued on this blog that architecture is code. Today I ran across an insightful piece "On Dog Shit and Open Source Urbanism" by Merijn Oudenampsen at Merijn explores how the neoliberal remaking, of the city, in this instance Amsterdam, recodes individual behaviors in specific ways. Two other articles by Merijn:"Extreme Makeover " and "Back to the Future of the Creative City" form a series on the topic.

Hmm… this makes me think that an essay on architecture as code is coming sooner rather than later. It seems increasingly urgent to understand that an entire generation of urban "heroes" from Jane Jacobs to Guy Debord to Reyner Banham to Gordon Matta-Clark were either directly involved or have been refigured as the intellectual justification for a neoliberal urbanism that purports to turn the city into a pseudo-cultural theme park in which the everyday is remade in the image of Williams-Sonoma. Since so much of this came as backwash to the U. S. from the Netherlands (think of the Right-wing "post-critical" young Dutch urbanism of the late 90s), it would be great to imagine that American urbanists would listen to this criticism too. Nor is Merijn's article merely critical, it advocates an open source urbanism, still vaguely defined, but I suspect we will hear more soon. Worth reading now.

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week of transitions

It's a week of transitions, as the urgency of spring gives way to the languid days of summer (must resist at all costs through bike rides and caffeine). When I run into my readers they often ask what's new, so here's a brief summing up…

The Networked Publics book (unfinished revamped website preview here ) is once again moving forward. Reviews are in and we hope to have it in print by this time next year at the latest. When I've redone the site and have had a chance to put my thoughts together a little more, I will be posting a more enthusiastic call to comments in hopes of getting input in the final draft stages of this networked book.

Our previous networked book, Blue Monday is finally hitting the bookstores. It's in St. Mark's and, as my friend Mark Lee just informed me, at Hennessey and Ingalls. To ACTAR's credit, the object is far more beautiful than anything we have done on the web. But it is worth mentioning that I redid the AUDC web site last week.

Finally, it looks like we'll be using the Studio-X space sooner rather than later. This is a major initiative at Columbia that I'm delighted that the Netlab is a key stakeholder in, along with C-Lab and David Benjamin's Living Architecture Lab.

So all is good, very good indeed.

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Data Mining Goes Mainstream

In Reaping Results: Data Mining Goes Mainstream, found in today's New York Times, Steve Lohr explores how, for the first time, data mining is being broadly employed throughout society. From police forces looking at historical data to understand how payday brings on crime to tracking communications within corporations to analyzing transaction data, the 1950s dreams of operations research and cybernetics have became part of everyday life under network culture.

Where is this going? To be sure, control becomes ever tighter within a framework of artificial freedom. The current regime has been amassing information for its own dubious purposes. That much is obvious. But what strikes me is that the stats packages that allow me to examine the behavior of the thousands of visitors this site has every month may be the beginning of personal data mining. What other tools might emerge in the future? Share your OMPL allow you to co-relate your micro-clustered media consumption patterns with others like yourself. But what iif I could turn Big Brother's surveillance against itself? With locative media (supposedly) right around the corner—or even with Google Maps—wouldn't it be possible to tag the physical and means of surveillance and choke points as the NYC Surveillance Camera Project did, for example? Might merely be a precursor to a massive counter-movement that employs the same techniques Big Brother does?

Utopian? Dystopian? But of course.

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the end of the long tail?

In the Guardian, Nicholas Carr suggests that "The net is being carved up into information plantations ." He observes that more and more Google searches are returning less and less sites—"if you Google any person, place or thing today, you're almost guaranteed to find Wikipedia at or near the top of the list of recommended pages"—and that traffic is increasingly consolidating in sites like Myspace. Carr's article is based on "The Shrinking Long Tail " by Richard MacManus at Read/WriteWeb. Indeed, this is a danger to the Long Tail, that no matter how much we obsessively fetishize our micro-cluster of consumption, for the most part, we all do the same things, or at least similar things.

On the other hand, does this mean we should lament the demise of the Long Tail? By no means. Rather, it suggests that yet again, we've been too simplistic in valorizing the meshwork over the hierarchy, something that Manuel de Landa so aptly cautioned we should not do in the introduction to his 1,000 Years of Nonlinear History. Since that is not available on the Internet, if you don't have it handy, you might find his piece on Meshworks, Hierarchies, and Interfaces worth a read. I'll cite the last few lines to tempt you:

Hence, demonizing centralization and glorifying decentralization as the solution to all our problems would be wrong. An open and experimental attitude towards the question of different hybrids and mixtures is what the complexity of reality itself seems to call for. To paraphrase Deleuze and Guattari, never believe that a meshwork will suffice to save us.

Time to work this into the network culture essay more directly, I suspect.

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Russia Unleashes Cyberwar on Estonia

The BBC reports that Russia has unleashed cyberwar on Estonia in retaliation for the Baltic country's moving of a Soviet-occupation era memorial that the Russian government says symbolizes war dead but that for Estonia symbolizes occupation. Unlike Russia (or LIthuania for that matter) Estonia is one of the most networked countries in Europe. Is this the first case of cyberwar? Politically acceptable dirty tricks? Well, I suppose it's better than the U.S.'s debacle in Iraq.

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