3One urgent part of a reconstructed social science project in the twenty-first century is toconceptualise anew the ‘socio-technologies of connection, resilience, mobility andcollapse in contemporary cities’ as the call for abstracts for this conference neatly puts it.In this paper I want to consider critically one example of a theory of the ‘accident’ or collapse or catastrophe in modernity. That theory is provided by French theorist PaulVirilio. Virilio’s theory of the accident is relatively little known and even less discussed.He is also a figure whose oeuvre has been generally imported into the English speakingacademic world as simply another social theory when Virilio has rightly characterisedhimself over the years as explicitly ‘against sociology’. Indeed as we shall see in this paper Virilio has gone further with this self-labelling process and described his enterpriseas a critic of the art of technology. His theory of the accident, then, not surprisinglyinvolves what I call here an ‘aesthetics’ of the accident. Virilio, however, in providing a perspective on the art of the accident in our increasingly accelerated and dangerousmodernities falls short of what is required in the contemporary urban sociological project.What is required, I want to argue, is in fact a sociology, not an art, of the accident.
The Art of the Accident or The Accident of Art(1)
Paul Virilio, French urban theorist extraordinaire and so-called high priest of speed, has been dropping ‘logic bombs’ on us for over thirty years. In these highly idiosyncratictales of accelerated culture, or what I have elsewhere called ‘accelerated modernity’, thespeed of mass communications as well as the speed of ‘things’ is what counts. In thisscenario we have all to some extent or other become historians of Virilio’s instant present