Cityscape Aesthetic

Much of my work for the Internet has combined user participation, databases, and a sense of the Internet as a vast architectural space in which the participating mind, entering into it, is always at a center from which it can only imagine what is beyond itself.

My sense of the Internet as spatially organized is reflected in locative media. David McCallum (www.vagueterrain.net) defines locative art in terms of its technologies, which connect ‘information to geography’:

microphones, cameras, RFID, GPS, wireless communications protocols, and a host of other sensors and technologies. . . are allowing devices to understand their places among people, within space, and among other devices. This technology. . . allows us to better understand our place within, and our relationships to the spaces which we inhabit.

Locative media is not only ‘techno’.  Lori Ann Napoleon, in ‘mapsproject(www.subk.net/maps.html) collects hand-drawn maps as marks of how personal place is. On the technological side, GPS devices have been used to make trace drawings that map the movements of artists and animals. Brett Stalbaum uses algorithmic selection and geographic databases to send participants over vastly separated spaces to perform aesthetic acts, such as drawing (www.paintersflat.net). This is related to the kind of project Kate Armstrong describes as “generative psychogeography”, where “algorithms. . .inspire movement through urban space” (www.katearmstrong.com).

In Cityscapes camera and descriptive text are the locative technologies, and the pyschogeography consists of the urban spaces we inhabit as a global community. Cityscapes is a browser-based application. It embeds mapping software and geographical locating services in a wiki framework, which enables multiple users to contribute texts and images to a common project.

Google Maps, the mapping software, enables contributors to identify precise locations, right down to street and street number, and to mark these locations with clickable icons. The icons are linked to wiki pages where contributors can enter texts and/or images related to the selected locations. Visitors to the site can then explore the maps by country, click on the icons (or on menu items), and bring up the wiki pages linked to the locations. Presumably, these locations will be in cities where the contributors are currently situated; but there is nothing stopping people from creating pages about locations in other cities that they know about, even cities where they have never been. For both contributor and visitor, Cityscapes becomes a shared imagined space: it exists only in the architectural interiors of the Internet and only as we have imagined it.

Finally, Cityscapes uses only open source elements, as described in the Credits. This freedom of technical access contributes to the sense that the project inhabits a shared imaginative space made possible by the Internet.

Myron Turner 2008/04/08 09:06

aesthetic.txt · Last modified: 2008/04/08 11:08 by
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