Over at architect.com, John Jourdan posted a link to an interview with historian and filmmaker Suzanne Wasserman and geographer Neil Smith on the suburbanization of New York and the recent book that they wrote essays for, the Suburbanization of New York. Go to WNYC or use the flashplayer below that I lifted from archinect (who in turn lifted it from wyc) to listen.
Tomorrow I have the honor of speaking in the PSFS building at George Dodd’s ACSA session on scholarly research. If all goes well, I’ll have a podcast of the talk up here (a first for me!). But first I have to prepare so there is no time for the blog post that I painfully want to make. I will, however, point my readers toward Adam Greenfield’s post at Speedbird "On New York City Soul." Adam, too, asks what is becoming of the city.
So that said—and I suspect Adam and I will be talking quite a bit about this very soon—I will briefly ask what IS becoming of the city? In his seminal 1938 essay "Urbanism as a Way of Life," sociologist Louis Wirth suggested that urban life was fundamentally a question of density and diversity that produced a sophisticated, hybrid culture. Yet, by 1969, Andrea Branzi of Archizoom could suggest, in the group’s project for No-Stop-City, that the colonization of the world by late capitalism together with the simultaneous spread of telematics everywhere combined to undo the city’s distinct identity. Instead, Branzi suggested… and I quote from him at length here:
the social organization of labour by means of Planning eliminates the empty space in which Capital expanded during its growth period. In fact, no reality exists any longer outside the system itself: the whole visual relationship with reality loses importance as the distance between the subject and the phenomenon collapses. The city no longer ‚Äòrepresents’ the system, but becomes the system itself, programmed and isotropic, and within it the various functions are contained homogeneously, without contradictions.
AUDC, in Blue Monday (now being printed, if not already printed!) certainly reinforces Branzi’s conclusion. I hope this isn’t too depressing, particularly to the New Yorkers. For, if anything has been most striking about coming back to my East haunts after a decade in L. A., it’s the distinction that city dwellers still make between the suburbs and the city. To be fair, New Yorkers like Adam seem well aware of the contradiction, on the other hand, there is the issue of Volume by Bostonian Alexander d’Hooghe on New Jersey that simply took the premise of the suburbs as an evil requiring destruction while a colleague who lives in L. A. (downtown L. A. to be precise, which as a fabrication of the late 90s is the least authentic part of the city, if such a condition can exist in any way anymore, perhaps better to follow Derrida’s strategy of putting a word under erasure and say
authentic) and commutes to teach at Columbia (is the jet stream the new highway one commutes to work on?) thought that I was living in New Jersey because it was ‘ironic’…irony, of course, is a postmodern trope…there is very little irony in network culture. As Branzi suggests, we need to figure out just what this new condition is, not lament a past that was already past 40 years ago.
Well there you go, I’ve spent a lot of time that I didn’t have to spend. But at least it gets us going on this question of urbanity today. There’s going to be a lot more where this came from.