Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it, said Santayana. And those who confuse the map with the territory are doomed to get lost, we could add. The recent news that our erstwhile friend the Locative Urbanist had attempted to upload some malware on the city came as no surprise. His delusions that he had succeeded, however, are troubling. How could he mistake his simulation for the world? Has he finally lost his grip on reality?
The Game (that some call The City) is composed of an indefinite andperhaps infinite number of rules. It’s not a thing, but a process, not a beehive, but a swarm. Outside catastrophic colony decay, play acts both as the virtual substrate of the process and its immune system, healing the game as it progresses. The process that is the City is able to modify its own rules, changing the grammar of play in mid-sentence. So to speak. All relevant indicators point to normality. What, then, has the lunatic loon also known as the Locative Urbanist attempted to undermine?.
Here is a philosophical question for you: how do you know your reality is indeed real, and that you are not inside a simulation? Plato, Descartes, Putnam have grappled with the question, and failed to solve it. he reason is, of course, that if simulations can be made at all, you can’t tell whether you are in one or not. The British singularitarian Nick Bostrom has even suggested that the probability that we are living in one is very high. Extremely high, since there are “vastly many more such simulated minds than there would be non-simulated minds running on organic brains”.
But probability doesn’t trump fact. It only speaks to the degree of correctness of our beliefs about such facts. Working with available data, the lone undertaker has decreed he would infect the city with new rules carried out by selected operatives. Unfortunately for him, his data were nicely sandboxed inside a simulation. Like Michael Douglas in an overrated movie, he’s been schemeing with our confederates, isolated from The Game by a hermetic simulatory conspiracy playing high-stakes Nomic and determined to win.
Remember how happy our amateur was that he had managed to reestablish an uplink? “The next phase is The Game, and we have found a way to run the program through it,” he thought out loud, not knowing that all his interfaces were part of our conspiracy. That’s how a Big Con works: the markks are always prey to their own cupidity and hubris. Ours was a paravirtualized simulation where ordinary messages were let through unchanged, while his miscommunications were isolated, analysed and denatured in real-time. Our matrix of deceit had him all along.
Take this as a Public Service Announcement. Like a callus around a thorn, our Game has surrounded the Locative Urbanist’s would-be-virus. It has also released a vaccine, just in case his scheme manages to gain real-world privileges through escalation. Our players are schoolteachers, parents, couriers and escorts, shoppers and idlers. Immunity is now woven into the pattern of schoolkids taking the tram to St Kilda for a day at the beach, of used-car salespeople haggling their victims into overpayment, of baristas putting a regular client’s order under the spout before she has a chance to order it, of paramedics responding to a call. Nobody is missing a beat here.
Don’t congratulate us. The Game did it on its own. The CrossMedia Ecologist was witness to the beauty of the process, but we didn’t spend one brainwave on plotting or schemeing. We never had to meddle with the beautiful game. Nor did we want to — so much work! It’s summer, and we were too busy going to the beach, trying to buy a car, having coffee at our local and saving ponies from the flood.
“According to E. O. Wilson’s Biophilia hypothesis*, humans have an innate desire to catalog, understand, and spend time with other life-forms.”
Time for another story this one is about Dr Bug.
Dr Bug is the childhood nickname of game designer Satoshi Tajiri. He earned this name due his fascination for studying insects he had as a child. Tajiri grew up in Machida, a western Tokyo suburb which was then still quite rural with rice paddies, rivers and forests. As the suburb became more developed the insects were driven away. Tajiri laments that urban children today do not have the opportunity to explore and learn about nature that way he did as a child. He designed the Pokémon game to recapture the pleasures of collecting and learning about creatures he so enjoyed as a child.
According to Science Magazine zoologists at the University of Cambridge are now looking to Pokémon for ways to engage children with conservation issues. There studies with a sample of 109 UK showed that children over 8 years old were able to correctly identify nearly 80% of a sample drawn from the 150 virtual Pokémon creatures whilst struggled to identify their native wildlife such as a badger.
They were impressed by the children’s detailed knowledge of Pokémon. Noting that people care about what they know – they ask how can scientists uses games to re-establish links with nature?
How can game designers and urban designers work together to protect the future of all urban life? What is the potential of play?
Please collect and save the city’s ludic creatures.
*E. O. Wilson, Biophilia (Harvard Univ. Press, Cambridge, MA, 1984)
There is nothing the Crossmedia Ecologist hates more than a smug technocrat particularly when there is bite to their bark. So the Locative Urbanist sees our work as mere noise, a cacophony of competing ideas! We however see it as a smorgasbord an eclectic mix of possibilities, of pathways, of choices, stories of competing voices.
So the rules don’t always add up but it depends on which game ‘you’ are playing. To the rules you choose.
So we walk the city as protest. And this walk raises new questions for the city designers.
Should urban designers deliberately create better spaces for the exercise of democratic protest?
But surely the role of the protest is transform urban space to disrupt the hegemonic regime?
I do want to disrupt the commuter with my civic despair. What point a protest without appropriating the city, or perhaps conquering it but for a brief moment?
Contemplate Hausmanns’s famous redesign of Paris in 1852 – 1870 whose magnificent boulevards supported Napoleon III’s militaristic regime with the clearing of the narrow streets to provide streets wide enough for troops to march down and water cannons to be fired to suppress riots. In 1969 to the police used a bulldozer and the cover of a massive cloud of tear gas to move protesters who had felled trees across San Michel Boulevard – in France’s second most famous revolution against class discrimination.
But here for my friend, who may be yet my greatest ally I offer the chance to create a city in perfect harmony …
Isle of Tune: A musical sequencer for the modern colonial
Active in the city this week. Some rough field notes here. Thoughts and sketches as I work my way through fieldwork into something coherent and tangible for the urban planning proposal due next month for the City of Melbourne. And I was going to retire to the country for the summer. Or work on my other blog…
So, fieldwork journal entry 001.
1. What is the environment like?
The City of Melbourne is a dynamic urban environment characterised by the contrast between its iconic grid design (a planned city) and emergence of many human-sized networks (the laneways). This allows for the co-existence of large buildings supporting business and corporate entities alongside smaller communities of restarants, cafes, small businesses, bars and so on. It is a thriving community with an active (and well established) street art scene. Much of this is emergent (such as the ‘new’ Guildford Lane Art precinct) as much as it is planned – the partial closure of Swanston St for example.
My brief is to: Identify sites that provide suitable habitats for play by urban entities. In my view of the city I see play as the ‘immune system for the city’.
My approach to sampling was to consider the crossover between two sets of factors: firstly, organic ecologies versus social ecologies (two different types of habitat); and secondly, those with emergent properties versus those that are cultivated. On this second point, there seems to be an equal share of both and perhaps the unique layout of Melbourne provides a fertile environment for this to occur (shift that to data analysis).
So, this week I will find habitats for ecologies of play and tag them for people to find. The results so far have been published by the Urban Codemakers.
3. Finding more data
Are there other cities that have a similiar host environment? There may be something to be found in the archives of the Urban Ecology Institute. Useful data may be found in ‘Ecology of Cities and Towns’ published by the Australian Research Centre for Urban Ecology. However, all these are exploring organic ecologies – what of emergent ecologies of media that grow amongst the multitude of connections in the city? Across mobile phones, social networks, urban games – the ways people play in urban space – the potential of pervasive games and urban role-play. Or just old school games of hopskotch and tag?
4. Data analysis
My process is similiar to the other codemakers. Not as pretentious as the Codemaker or as dependent on technology as the Urbanist (who is threatening a virus?). Perhaps a little more random or chaotic? Anyways, here is the five step program:
[i] Identify sites that provide suitable habitats for play;
[ii] Tag those sites with IDEOTAGs denoting portals, ecologies or entities (signs of life);
[iii] Invite guild members to find these sites and observe them. Post their own findings…
[iv] Collate the resulting relationships to identify fertile zones in the city.
[v] Publish these findings to the authorities and propose rezoning (new zones?)
Ok, so this data is pending review. We will see what the players come up with. Two operatives are also in action on this one. The first operative was the first to start tagging.
And there are more sites to find later this week…
Don’t look at me like that, turning your head to the side al “aaaw” and ready to coo and comfort me. I am a bit distracted from lack of sleep, but that’s all. Not like I’ve had three weeks of dentist’s visits with extractions and root canals and the associated neck-spraining contortions or anything serious like that. I’ve been busy, is all.
So, the Wikileaks dipomatic cable data. Careful cryptanalysis of communications between Australia and Austria, uncomfortable neighbours in the Alphabetical Order, reveals that Canberra warned Vienna against synechdoche and contagion. The main thrust of the messages is the importance of protecting MittelEuropa from “circular patterns of play”, and I am guessing they don’t mean frisbees, hula-hoops and angle grinders, but something more sinister and primal.
Secondary analyses of tertiary patterns in the Australian-Austrian cables, however, draw a different picture. It appears that those texts have been planted by a mole, and they aren’t a warning but an invitation for Austrian infiltrees to take Melbourne’s urban codemaking and transplant it to their own Museum Quarter. There is a Fifth Column in their ranks, and it’s copying our game.
What, you say? All invention? Circular logic? Read the cables for yourself!
What, you say? All invention? The leaked cables are only from American Embassies? Oops, you got me there. Ok. But that doesn’t change my conclusion: there is going to be a ring of play this week in the Melbourne CBD, and the circles will confound you.
Sorry for the short post. I can’t sit here and type for long; the guy running this net cafe may have recognised me and phoned the authorities. Or maybe I am typing this from the beach, feet in the sand and head in a sunhat. How would you know?
I remember as a child looking at that sign for slippery when wet wondering how they got the tyre marks to cross like that?
Although it is words that the crossmedia ecologist has been asked to both mark and defend her territory with she has been considering what traditional media might serve her cause best on the warring city streets.
Or the myriad of possibilities offered by the collective and whimsical approach of the PANOS13 project in the city of Lyon.