From Metaphysics to Metadata – #1. Introduction
Starting from today, I will publish my thesis From Metaphysics to Metadata. Aesthetics and Politics of Interface on this blog. Since nobody wants to read some 70 pages in blog format, I’m attaching it in four separate PDFs introduced by as many short abstracts. So here it goes, I hope to receive some feedback.
INTRODUCTION – ABSTRACT [Download full PDF: NicolaBozzi_MP2MD_Introduction]
This work is a conceptualization of the use of stereotype, as it is deployed as both an active and a passive tool to read people and space as information. Stereotypical tags are attached to professionals as well as immigrants, to particular places or whole neighborhoods. If people and space are data, stereotypes are then metadata, images extracted from a globalized imagery. Metadata affects the imagination of identities, leading them to adhere to certain pre-formatted formulas, and the perception of space, as it is constructed both physically and culturally.
Imagination, as a daily work practice, constitutes a creative and bottom-up process, but nevertheless the principles behind the circulation of metadata are subject to global factors. Such factors are, for example, politics of urban spacing, market fads, economic restructuring, mass-media. Although metadata is produced and shared globally, its circulation is asymmetrical and bound to two different layers: infrastructure and interface. The formats of metadata are shaped by the infrastructure that channels it and by the interface through which it is selected and combined, imposing significant constraints on identity.
I define infrastructure as the sum of the publicly-funded and established technologies and regulations that enable the global flow of people and information. Interface consists instead of the privately-designed filtering system (the media, the market), mediating the organization of metadata by giving an illusion of choice to the actors that interact with it. While infrastructure is more rigid and can be altered only by complex and large scale political action, interface can be subject to emotional perturbations.
Part of this work will focus on the recursive process connecting infrastructure and interface. The former is virtual and actualizes into the latter, in order to get in contact with metadata and filter it. I will take the example of XML as an ideological informational protocol, highlighting an isomorphism with the relational structures around the shipping container, an emerging element in contemporary architecture.
In discussing the properties of infrastructure and interface I will also expose the myth of the creative industries and the way they ignite processes of urban polarization and social segregation.
Through my analysis of the relationships between the three layers involved in metadata circulation (infrastructure, interface, and metadata itself) and the main types of metadata (structural, textural, body, and scale), I will discuss four main emerging figures and relative issues concerning urban spacing, community, and identity. These figures are: the Nerd, connected to the rhetorics of the Californian ideology; the Hipster, involved in the urban phenomenon of gentrification; the Comedian, dealing with stereotypization and racial profiling; and the Gangster, caught between urban fractalization and the global imagery.
After examining the four aforementioned figures, I will highlight examples of strategic uses of metadata, taking advantage of an alliance with the parasitical infrastructure to create new configurations in interface. In the conclusion, I will propose a mapping of such uses, in order to design future tactics to tweak interface and reclaim less stereotypical and compromised identities.