Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Blog 4: Land Use, Suburbanization, and Navigable Cyberspace

During the early to mid-19th century, census data began to show a gradual sprawling of the population across major British and American cities (Briggs, 1963). Interestingly, according to Morris and Rodger (1993), a leading driver of this sprawl was a desire among the elite to separate work and home. Unlike the city, the suburbs offered the promise to privacy, domesticity, and the nuclear family. Meanwhile, as Bobic (1990) might argue, the suburbs empowered man to exert control over his rhythms as well as space-time relation. With the rise of the automobile, the 20th century gave rise to suburbanization en masse (particularly in the United States). This suburbanization could be read as a drive to exert control over physical place and as the expression of a desire for permanence or security (as opposed to the transience and insecurity of urban life).

Cyberspace fundamentally disrupts and destabilizes the security of place promised by the suburbs. Yi-Fu Tuan notes, "place is security, space is freedom: we are attached to one and long for the other." As Professor Chun explains, space then destabilizes place by catching it 'in the ambiguity of an actualization.' In describing our relationship to cyberspace, Manovich coins the term 'virtual flaneur' (16). As Baudelaire explains, the flaneur is home only when moving through a crowd, where he is both "away from home, and yet [feels] at home." Similarly, the virtual flaneur, Manovich notes, "is happiest on the move, clicking from one objects to another, traversing room after room."

I'd like to continue exploring and thinking about this interesting relationship between place (and the human desires that lead to its physical forms) and navigable cyberspace.

Texts: Manovich, "Navigable Space"; Bobic, Milos. (1990) The Role of Time Function in City Spatial Structures Past and Present; Morris, R.J. and Richard Rodger. (1993) The Victorian City: A Reader in British Urban History 1820-1914; Briggs, Asa. (1963) Victorian Cities; Baudelaire, "The Painter of Modern Life"

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