Cyber City Mesh

Akihabara (The Cyber City)

Akihabara (aka the The Cyber City)

Theory Reference Statement

Cyber City Mesh
2011, photographic installation, light table, inkjet print of enlarged detail of Arkihabara satellite image, wooden photo frames, inkjet prints on Kodak translucent plastic paper
Permanent link:

A “dromoscopic” view of Tokyo’s Electric Town functions as the background surface of this photographic installation. Upon this glossy luminous surface are placed portraits of Tokyo and Sydney commuters. The portraits are printed on translucent paper so they appear to glow upon the surface of the light table. This is a work which responds to – and critiques – the notion of the 21st Century urban citizen as network node and appears in a discussion of manufactured social networks and utopian futures by Nokia, Ericsson and Microsoft and the idea of “context collapse” as proffered by researcher Michael Wesch (see thesis, pages 128-131).


Some Background

“We’ve grown up thinking: ‘Over here is the Internet, over there is cellular telephony, and here are iPods.’ It’s not going to be like that. That stuff is all just one cloud of stuff and it works together and you can’t just get a little piece of it. The kids being born today will grow up finding the quaintest thing about the past was that people had these different devices that had discrete functions.”

–    William Gibson (2007) in William Gibson Hates Futurists on

The prefecture of Akihbara is a grid.  But unlike Le Corbusier’s geometric Cartesian enclave this grid presents a more complex navigation – an information matrix, a repetition of space both physical and virtual.  Wired for data and humming with electricity its atmosphere is thick with vectoral spectrums of push, pull and exchange.  A home page of RSS feeds, semicodes and AdWords, a hive of resource and reference structures with more exit points than entry points – a network ecology for the internet imaginaire. [1]

A hybrid of 20th century silicon technology and mass entertainment marketing, the streetscape and its many sidewalk bazaars peddle a unique pop cultural blend of western megatainment and Japanese iconography.  Writ large, this meta-narrative pulses, while within its midst the rhizomatic structure of the network hive shifts its associations replicating themselves within screens within screens.  On the periphery, evidence of this abounds and yet the origins of this collision are rapidly dissolving as new techno-cultural forms emerge. Nothing here would appear to have a beginning or an end, looking back is looking forward, this is the network’s Big Bang.

Akihbara is the physical and temporal manifestation of this network culture.  The mediascape made real.  If there is such a thing as a digital native this is where they gather their content and like McKenzie Wark’s ‘vectoral technologies’, channel their dreaming across the grid beyond the society of control and into a heaving array of interconnected nodes of disruption and reproducibility (Wark 2002.  See also To the Vector the Spoils interview on Roy Christopher’s site).

Although the habitat maybe fashioned from concrete and steel manifestations of popular entertainment and, on the surface at least, enclosures of societal organisation may appear to prevail, disruption is embedded into this place.  Multi-core processors, social enterprise software, content mash-ups, three-axis accelerometers and the semantic web have their testing beds up and running in this market square of user centred contextual computing.[2]  Beneath the gaudy facade of its most ostentatious LED expressions – the Toshiba, Sega and Sony dream machines – the mechanisms of action and the plot points of departure are embodied into the shifting coordinates of the user.  For the user, this space is an access point, an informational exploit, a portal; for them their navigation of the space, their involvement in its construction is the embodiment of the grid.  As illustrated by William J Mitchell, the “city of bits” is not the mechanism alone but the method by which the cyber city dweller communicates – both presently in the physical and telepresently via ICT mediated means.  His argument for a subtle and intuitive approach to urban design hinges on the ability of the user to operate within the cities’ interior, not as enclosure, but as an open network of synchronous and asynchronous networked interfaces.  The outcome of this use and the sharing of its networked potential are the hallmarks of the cyber city enclave (Mitchell 1999).

[1] What does this space look like? Patrick Lichty in his contribution to Networked: a (network_book) about (networked_art) a collaborative text on net-art, uses Deleuze’s concept of the vector to illustrate the cultural space as defined by the user’s interaction with the network.  Here ‘information flows’ are mapped to reveal ‘shape’, an evolving vectoral construct whose “acceleration or change in speed and direction” reveals a larger trend (Lichty, 2009 ongoing). These large scale maps of digital narratives and social interactions can be magnified to reveal macro layers and tighter bindings of the hypernarrative constructs.  The vector moving through space intersects with a variety of resources and tracks in a multitude of trajectories as dictated by the user and the network’s response to that data.  Although Lichty prefers the index and mapping method to visualise this construction and negates the analogy of the city, for the purposes here the city remains the most useful venue for the physical and virtual representation of the network. (See also Patrice Flichy’s 2007 text, The Internet Imaginaire).

[2] See Top Ten Disruptive Technologies for 2008 to 2010 press release at Gartner Research, Melbourne, Australia, May 28, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s