Something strange is happening to space. At every level a transformation is taking place; from the traditionally intimate space of love, finding a partner, to the panoptical mapping of the whole earth by Google; the reorganisation of global cities, the urbanisation of China and the emergence of the extra national space of the cloud. A material infrastructure of cables feeds an invisible infrastructure of wireless signals, whilst the triangulation of satellites attempts to locate everything from an item in a global supply chain, to a future partner, to an extra-legal combatant to be targeted by drone strike assassination. The construction of data networks is complimented by the streamlining of supply chains. Shipping makes up more of the UK’s GDP than restaurants, takeaway food and civil engineering put together. Data, information, money, goods, all travel relatively freely across the globe, whilst many people are increasingly subject to restrictions on movement as immigrants are blamed for economic collapse and the body itself becomes both ID and interface. Fingerprint, Iris scanning, facial recognition, analysis of the body’s gait, biometric ID card, passport, right to travel, Google glass. The digital is leaking into physical space and reconstituting it. Digital space, once confined behind the screen of the monitor, is finding its way beyond the screen and embedding itself into every aspect of everyday life. Phones, shopping habits, withdrawal of money, RFID entry systems and city transport networks. Everyday social practices create data shadows, materialising rhythms, flows, habits and deviations. Fundamental to this reorganisation of space has been a shift in the means of production in the industrialised nations, driving the development of planetary-scale computation, all overseen by the political and economic ideology of neo-liberalism. For far too long this mass transformation of space has been treated as a series of isolated fragments. These seemingly unrelated phenomena all represent elements of the total shift in the production of space and only by bringing them together into an open and dynamic totality can we hope to map and understand our own position in this emergent landscape.
We are currently experiencing a period of convergence between digital space and physical space. The digital should not be viewed as a separate, alternative or virtual space in opposition to the physical. Digital spatial practices that developed alongside the Internet are currently converging with the physical space of the city. Physical space is dematerialised and re-materialised as digital representations, either overtly through representational models such as Google maps, street view and the open data streams such as those representing city transport networks, or less visibly through data capture, storage and processing. ‘Software matters because it alters the conditions through which society, space and time and thus spatiality, are produced’ (Kitchin, Dodge 2011). Data and its processing via software now plays a fundamental role in the construction of the social space of institutions and reacts back to play a role in the production of the space of cities. Cities, such as London, are experiencing increased digital expansion either by the use of smart phones or by environmentally situated software and data capture devices. Algorithms, data collection and sensors are been embedded into the city. Kitchin and Dodge (2011) have noted that, ‘Software is thus actively shaping sociospatial organisation, processes, and economies, along with discursive and material cultures and individuals’ construction of identities and personal meaning’. This convergence of digital and physical space coincides with a reorganisation of globalised cities in general and London in particular as the inner zones are socially cleansed to make room for a hipster digital elite and intensified property speculation. A contemporary psychogeographical practice can neither ignore the impact of the digitally expanded nature of the city or the reorganisation of the city, and space in general.
Psychogeography is a practice that has been developed by activists as a method of engaging with the city, purposefully traversing away from the predictable paths, discovering and mapping the hidden processes through which the emotional space of the city is constituted. CODED GEOMETRY extends this practice, developing techniques to explore, map and détourne the hidden processes that are involved in constituting the digitally expanded city. It aims to create a subjective and embodied cognitive mapping of digitally expanded space. A form of ambulant research towards a FUTURE COMMUNISM.
Kitchin, R. Dodge, M (2011) CODE/SPACE, MIT Press.