PICNIC 08 – The Long Here, The Big Now, and Other Tales of the Networked City

On: September 26, 2008
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About Bram Nijhof
Bram Nijhof is a master student of New Media at the University of Amsterdam. He has a bachelor degree in Art & Technology and a bachelor degree in Media & Culture with an expertise in New Media.


Adam Greenfield talked at Picnic about how new technologies changes our perception and experience of cities. According to Greenfield the networked city is no science fiction anymore, it is becoming reality. We live in ubiquitous cities where information systems are linked. Information data of the city will be captured, stored and visualized.

Greenfield explains how our experience and decisions are changing, because of new layers. A place can be determined by two categories: architecture and psychical realities. An example is that people are watching to the screen of their telephones. They are in the space of their phone. Architecture is changing when sunny weather changes into rain. So it is with our experience when there is an information layer over it. Architecture will be shaped by computing.

The Long Here and the Big Now

Greenfield gave a few examples of “The Long Here”. Places are accessible from everywhere. With a map of crimes in cities, for example Crimespotting and Misdaadkaart in Dutch, people can feel not save anymore. But the map doesn’t have to be a good representation how save a neighborhood is. With geotagging people can watch pictures over the whole world. A drawback is that the picture you made from a building doesn’t feel exclusive anymore. With “The Big Now” he gave an example of Twitter. When you know what your friends are doing to do you take other decisions in what you are going to do. You see what everyone is doing also in other places than your place.

Like the map of crimes information about cities can be visualized in new ways. Earlier at Picnic there was a presentation about Nike+ where information about running can be captured and visualized for example in Google maps. We experience our running in new ways. People also take other decisions in traffic because we know via mobile devices that there is a bridge open or there is a queue of cars. They take another route instead of waiting in a queue. The navigation system is a good example. Some people who where afraid of driving can now drive good with such a system.

But Greenfield is critical in how we should use the information. For example if the police will report on screen on Time Square that there is a shooting accident in a parallel street then the citizens on the square would be in panic. Also there are networked walls. Some psychical places cannot be reached, because there is a port with a RFID chip. Also virtual places can be blocked. But I think these walls have always been there. People can only access a company when they work there or you only get into a festival if you have paid for a ticket. But I think Greenfield is inspired by Deleuze’s “access-spaces”. Individuals become cyborgs. Their body is partly physical and code which gives the ability to give access or deny access. But maybe there will become new forms of boundaries when using new technologies.

The city is browsable and searchable. Cities become “cities that responds to the behavior of its citizens”. Greenfield talked about a benefit of the new technologies. When searching for a restaurant all restaurants where full. He called a friend for the name of a restaurant he didn’t knew and searched it on Google maps. He then had a delicious dinner at that restaurant.

Greenfield on Wikpedia
Greenfield’s blog

Deleuze, Gilles (2002), “Postscript on Control Societies,” in Thomas Levin, Ursula Frohne and Peter Weibel (eds.), Crtl Space: Rhetorics of Surveillance from Bentham to Big Brother, Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 317-321.

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