POST-EMPIRE SCAPES: MediaSCAPES studio & seminar

Professor: Ed KELLER
Assistant critic: Greg THORPE


In association with technology workshop:
DataScapes: Locative Media, Software Agency and Coding Interoperability
Professor: George SHOWMAN


Parallel Realities, Trans-national Archipelagos, New Urban Ambiences
"Sometimes reality is too complex for oral communication...
But legend embodies it in a form which enables it to spread all over the world..."

This voiceover from Jean Luc Godard's film Alphaville, spoken as the camera pans across nondescript post-war middle class high rise residential towers, identifies two kinds of global systems. The first is the wildly proliferating Hollywood mythmachine, which is able to colonize most of the world as America's most visible export, and which Godard satirizes directly in his film, by creating Lemmy Caution [E. Constantine] as a doppelganger of Bogart; and second, the global space which began to coalesce as the world recovered from World War Two, when urban centers were rebuilt and global networks of capital and materials intensified. The first problems of infrastructure, information science, highways, social housing on a mass scale, and systemic architectures in general emerged in macro-urban assemblies as the embodiment of such systems.

The core principles of the concept of 'MediaSCAPE' are defined through this set of catalyst conditions: the migration of vast numbers of people, caused by a range of geopolitical factors; and the emergence of a new set of infrastructures that ultimately merged the control of physical systems with the control of energetic and information systems: Media and Migration.

The city comes to life through the overlapping ambiences it hosts: as a kind of software, in cultural movements, or a kind of hardware, in the physical forms of the architecture of the city itself. The unique nature and identity of any urban location emerges in an irreducible resonance that is produced between that 'software' and 'hardware'. In the case of wthe contemporary global city, the intensification of this relationship has
produced a more radical set of bifurcations, no longer resolved as the outcome of a binary logic ('physical versus virtual'), but rather as a cascading construct of parallel realities, life worlds, and temporalities. Design of the city now has to ask how we can harness globally networked systems of capital, transnational entities, and technologically enabled relationships and use them to energize the city. In truth, design of the city today means more than ever the design and construction of an entire world.

The political theorist Fredric Jameson argues that in contemporary post-capital/post-national society, the task of creating 'cognitive maps' of urban space and cultural landscapes has become substantially more complex. Today's development of geotagging, locative media systems and the like are symptomatic of a developing genre of representation and communication that will radically transform the city. Likewise, a new paradigm in both theory and narrative provides us with glimpses of parallel realities which function as futures that we can anticipate with a mixture of dread and delight. The world that John Brunner depicts in his novel Shockwave Rider [1973] is almost impossible to distinguish from the one we live in today. The global spaces of contestation for resources, identity, infrastructure, military control, or desire that we see in films like Demonlover [Assayas, 2003], Syriana [Gaghan, 2005], or Code 46 [Winterbottom, 2003] are not science fiction speculations, but verifications of the wildly reterritorialized reality we inhabit today.

The 'time' and historical function of the institution, which organizes a kind of monolithic memory structure on a political and cultural level, contrasts dramatically with the time of the individual subject, which is filled with myriad unpredictable details. Similarly, the 'time' of the built fabric of the city provides an archetypal and shared memory which spans all cultures, while the individual subject in their chance encounters creates an absolutely unique memory which then cascades back into the urban form itself. Urban morphologies are now on fast forward, as they adjust ever more rapidly to global systems that provide individuals, collectives, institutions with constantly shifting ways to interact. New and unanticipated forms of mediation in the city [eg,Yellow Arrow], objects that participate in networks without human interaction [eg, Bruce Sterling's concept of the spime], maps available for the first time as the city is automatically notated and channeled into construction of a virtual parallel [Microsoft's Photosynth]: these all conspire to generate the new landscapes of agency and global contestation.

Architecture operates as a key link in this dynamic relation, in its capability to redirect, control, slow down or transform this monotlithic time, unlike many other disciplines tied into the practice of generating urban morphology. This studio and seminar will critically evaluate these emerging 'Post-Empire' landscapes of control, systemic tendencies, and new freedoms.


The Post-Empire Situation
"Are there still borders? More than ever! Every street has is border line. Between each plot there's a strip of No-man's land, disguised by a hedge or a ditch. Whoever dares will fall into the booby traps or be hit by laser rays. The trout are really torpedoes. Every home owner, or even every tenant, nails his name plate on the door, like a coat of arms, and studies the morning paper as if he were a world leader. ...Everyone carries his own state with him, and demands a toll when another wants to enter. So much for the border... but one can only enter with a password."
Himmel Uber Berlin, Wim Wenders and Peter Handke

SITE
There are a number of conflict zones and sites of contestation globally today.
We will consider the full range of these zones by studying the Just Jerusalem competition [www.justjerusalem.org] as an example. This studio and seminar argues that the
situation in Jerusalem is a prototype [even archetype] for a general global problem- which we will critically evaluate. The studio will use the Just Jerusalem competition
as a starting point for a set of global interventions, which ultimately aim to resonate back to
the question of Jerusalem, seen as a lever point for geopolitical action.


TECHNOLOGY
The competition brief suggests that the contested space of Jerusalem may be resolved by a range of interdisciplinary tracks [Physical, Economic, Civic, and Symbolic Infrastructures]. We will begin by extrapolating the kinds of network technology which are facilitating an emerging 'society of control', and we'll develop Foucault's critique of biopolitical networks along a line which assumes that technology can both enable freedom or radically infringe upon it. We will study the ways that profiles and personalized identity are increasingly becoming onionskins around us- agents surrounding each citizen, activating urban space and networks, and interacting autonomously with the world on behalf of each person. A range of contemporary softwares will be tested, running from common usage tools like SKYPE, MySpace, Google Earth, Flickr, delicious, and UPOC, to less common or emerging tools, such as Panoramio, TOR, BitTorrent/Azureus/Vuze, PhotoSynth, Croquet, and Tribler.


STUDIO PROCESS
The first weeks of the semester will be devoted to a study of films, texts, and global case
studies [historical and contemporary]. Students in the Post Empire Scapes seminar will also
participate in several quick HighDef video mappings of the city, using LA as a base.
The studio will act as a Design Research Thinktank: group meetings will be used to focus in on a range of sites, responses, and operational theaters. We will use the links between the studio, the Post Empire seminar, and George Showman's DataSCAPES workshop to explore software/hardware/everyday life connections. The accompanying seminar and workshop will provide a theory/tech/practice base for students in the studio; although not required, it is strongly recommended that students taking the studio enroll in at least one, if possible both.

SCHEDULE
Studio: Studio will meet Mon/Wed/Fri. Ed Keller will be in every other week.
Greg Thorpe will be in studio one day each week. Online crits will take place weekly.
Additional meeting times TBA.
Post Empire Seminar: every other week, Thursday, 1 PM AM- 4PM, room 141
DataSCAPES workshop: 4 meetings, 3 days each, schedule TBA

CINEMA & TEXTS
“…every use of the media presupposes manipulation. The most elementary processes in media production, from the choice of the medium itself to shooting, cutting, synchronization, dubbing, right up to distribution, are all operations carried out on the raw material. There is no such thing as unmanipulated writing, filming, broadcasting. The question is therefore not whether the media are manipulated, but who manipulates them. A revolutionary plan should not require the manipulators to disappear; on the contrary, it must make everyone a manipulator. All technical manipulations are potentially dangerous; the manipulation of the media cannot be countered, however, by old or new forms of censorship, but only by direct social control, that is to say, by the mass of the people, who will have become productive.”
- Enzensberger, Constituents of a Theory of the Media, 1969

CORE FILMS and READINGS
Code 46, Winterbottom
Demonlover, Assayas
Battle of Algiers, Pontecorvo
Syriana, Gaghan
Medium Cool, Wexler
Man with a Movie Camera, Vertov
Videodrome, Crash & Existenz, Cronenberg
Alphaville, Godard

Shockwave Rider, Brunner
The Geopolitical Aesthetic, Jameson
Means Without End & The Open, Agamben
Modernity at Large, Appadurai
Empire, Multitude, excerpts, Negri and Hardt
Diamond Age & Snow Crash, Stephenson
PostScript on the Societies of Control, Deleuze
Weak and Diffuse Modernity, Branzi

ADDITIONAL FILMS
Nashville, Altman
Lessons of Darkness, Herzog
Element of Crime, Lars Von Trier
Ghost in the Shell, Ghost in the Shell 2, Oshii
Chungking Express, Fallen Angels, WK Wai
Sans Soleil, Chris Marker
Red Desert, Passenger, Antonioni
London, Patrick Keiller
La Haine, Kassovitz
Underground, Kusturica
City of God, Meirelles
Polygraph, LePage
Children of Men, Cuaron
BABEL, Inarritu
Minority Report, Spielberg
Bourne Ultimatum, Greengrass
Casino Royale, Campbell

ADDITIONAL READINGS
Enduring Innocence, Keller Easterling
UBIK, PK Dick
Invisibles, Grant Morrison
Crying of Lot 49, Pynchon
Clash of Fundamentalisms, Tariq Ali


ADDITIONAL MEDIA
Computer Games: Deus Ex, Grand Theft Auto 3, A Force More Powerful
Software, Networks, and the like: TOR, BitTORRENT, MIT Viral Communications Lab
Online: websites, TBA