Fahmi

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First Monday, Special Issue #4: Urban Screens: Discovering the potential of outdoor screens for urban society
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This paper provides an imaginary navigation with the camera’s eye to grasp the psychogeography of post-modern urban spatial fragments, whilst considering the proliferation and fragmentation in production and consumption of phantasmagoric other (‘unconscious’ and ‘hidden’) urban spaces. Through an 'imaginary' Urban Incubator, the paper proposes a (de)(re)constructive reading of a conflation of real cities under space-time compression, mapped into fictional terrain of heterotopian imagery and virtuality. Such urban experimentation within cit(y)(ies) involves a sequence of digital images and video stills, constructing spatio-temporal narratives as means of navigation between imaginary (sense of) place identity, and cognitive imaging. In an attempt to capture the spirit of the 'nocturnal city' as an 'urban navigator' or as a 'flâneur', other (unconscious and hidden) urban spaces in various metropolises are represented as digital collages, experimental diagrams, virtual installations, visual semiotics, and spatial narratives. Digital fragments and diagrams will bring urban images into sharp juxtaposition, 'de-solidifying' the physical and dissolving spatial distinctions between reality and mythical spaces, between the screen and the imagination, between the virtual urbanity of the information machine and the actual urbanity of the city. Such representation will call into play the possibility of a coterminous and dialectic merging of very real city of bricks and a conceptual 'city of pixels'.

Contents
Introduction Spatial (re)presentation Urban semiology Urban images/screens Heterotopias and (neo)flâneurs Urban disjunction The urban incubator and (de)constructive experimentation Urban futures between virtual diffusion and spatial 'being' Conclusion

Introduction
By splashing virtuality onto the real world, representation of digital culture has put people into a space of 'total flow', with juxtaposition of their mental images calling to attention the nature of those other (unconscious) and (hidden) spaces within post modern cities (Thrift, 2000). Virtual representation being a transmutation of the known, are thus interwoven into real urban life, thus symbiotically celebrating the new informational needs of our media – polis (Leach, 2002). This gives the new face of our cities a phantasmagoric character (Huang, 2000) wherein the global and local, the familiar and strange, the real and the virtual become inextricably intertwined, whilst creating a 'transnational urban experience' as the ideal of boundless and undefined spatiality predominates a digital age of fragmented post modernity. Under late capitalism characterised by space and time compression (Harvey, 1989; Jameson, 1991), alternative representational methods of post modern city landscapes are required with

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. Discourse expresses human thought. and with the emergence of cyberspace.39). fantasies.Fahmi http://firstmonday. and with the need to read spatial ’text’ in terms of the rhythmic occurrence of events. and with respect to consumption of contested city fabric that enact a variety of (re) (de) constructed local identities within emerging global urban spaces. challenging the stable institutionalised construction of space in terms of production of a new ‘hyper-real’ urbanity (Baudrillard. that people organise various aspects of their lives into a coherent assemblage through the medium of culture and consumption. 1993). and the city is regarded as 'a partially connected multiplicity which we can only ever know partially and from multiple places' (Thrift. fantasy. Designers' task has shifted. is emerging where boundaries between reality and virtuality are blurring. 2003b). with collision of signs and images (Sassen. 1998). and symbolic 'representational spaces' in cities. 1980). Derrida's (1976) work was modelled after literary criticism with the (double) reading of the text and interpreting the meaning of culture.php/fm/article/view. which Viler (1992) has described as 'the third typology': text and collage metaphors have been central to the re-conception of culture of consumption (Geertz. with emphasis on creating legibility and a sense of place. The post-modern age is characterised by the commodification of place. This has led to a loss of sense of place. dimensions. And our languages are our media.p. According to Gottdiener and Lagopoulos (1986) urban space is not a text but a "pseudo-text. nothing prevailing but discourses. drawing on shared experiences and interpretations of everyday 'spatial practices' of people. Meaning of representational spaces or discourses are never absolute. 1995). consisting of space-time. language games. 2000). Spatial (re)presentation In late/post modern societies local/global (glocal) tensions. is no longer modelled after nature or the machine. 1991. Boyer (1994) read space as a "text". homogenisation. images (Ellin.. Lefebvre (1991) distinguished between 'representations of space' engaged in by planners and cartographers. whilst examining potentials of digital technologies’ representation of emerging urban spaces. 1996 pp 328. but as our languages are. 1978). following Barthes' (1976) earlier proposition that 'spatial experience is a discourse and this discourse is truly a language' and that 'architecture of signifiers with no signifieds. the experience of time. in the information age. thus 'begin to provide a sense of a city that is constantly changing. privatisation of public space (mallification). where making space is very much a way of making meaning. with non-places proliferating transit and informational spaces. bricolage. that does not necessarily hold together'. Castells claimed that "we do not see reality as it is. For architects and designers. as an arena for (re)(de)constructing spatial metaphors (Fahmi and Howe. 2002). 1991). A fruitful avenue of exploration may well lie in the current article’s proposed experimental interfaces. and desire and thereby represents human ontologies (beliefs. is considered a pure play of language'. the unjust). (in)authenticity and universalism) have been instructive in terms of 'other cities' (the embodied. 372-73. Our metaphors create the content of our culture (. fragmentation of spatial experience . with the rise of new media. the learning.. Post-modern era implies a need to re-appropriate the urban in terms of our consumption practices and spatial tactics. and sites of exchanges and encounters (Leach. 1996). 1995). A series of spatial transformations simultaneously emerge as a simulation of urban experimentation in-between the local and global (glocal). imaginary and reality (Patton. 1999). largely replacing that of the functional city of modernism (Rowe and Koetter. for intervening in post modern cities’ future developments. texts.) Cultures are made up of communication processes and thus there are no separation between 'reality' and symbolic representation" (Castells. 375). or pastiche. globalisation of local culture. 1986). space and place identity has changed (Augé. The experimental procedure views post modern urban landscape. 2 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . Our media are our metaphors.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. and desires about how the world is) and epistemologies (how better understandings of the world might be achieved)." because it is produced by non-semiotic processes as well as semiotic and sociosemiotic ones. this collage. Post modern urbanism is conscious of the power of discursive production of urban representational spaces where "people not only live their space through its associated images and symbols. The ideal of boundless and undefined spatiality predominated an age of fragmented supermodernity (Ibelings. 1995). values. Visions and myths of the city (globalisation. 1996. but after cities of the past.. within emerging networked environment. becoming the collection and assembling of urban elements in Foucault's museum of knowledge. asserting that the world is constituted symbolically. respect to production of architectural signs and images (Bermudez. A new urbanity. with the notion of consumption as assemblage. they actively construct its meaning through cognitive and hermeneutical processes "(Lefebvre. With increased mobility and telecommunications. have created a 'transnational imaginary'(Dovey. Harvey (1989) viewed collage/montage as the primary form of post-modern discourse on spatiality. but always subject to translation and interpretation (Foucault.

Urban Semiotics compress space and time under late capitalism ( Harvey. 374 ). as we emerge into a new global economy and into innovative high-tech society and culture. and value systems. Compression of time and space under late capitalism has created a situation where people as consumers overcome spatial barriers . as well as auditory. challenging or overthrowing modern paradigms and establishing new ones. There is no coincidence however that global networks appear simultaneously with the post-modern literary movement. 'a series of stages’. Urban semiology Barthes’ (1976) semiotic approach was concerned with the how of representation. which fractures our sense of urban totality. Such goods often take on the properties of sign value through the process of ‘branding’.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. Conceptualising the post-modern city as a collective collage or a "theatre of memory’ was based upon Harvey's (1989) diagnosis of post-modern representation of urban experience. and to map its position cognitively in a mappable external world (Jameson. Lash and Urry (1994) stated that post-modernity produced ‘semiotic’ rather than industrial goods. and uncertainty (Harvey. indeterminacy. or symbolic score (Liddament.. closed structure. in which marketers and advertisers attach images to goods. of the labour processes that produced them. or of the social relations implicated in their production. which uses the city as an 'organisational commodity'. verbal. working. with how language produces meaning. universal schemes and central authority. People perform various roles to (re)construct their urban imageries as conjuring up of various impressions 'in the mind'. olfactory. 1989). incompleteness.. or socially constituted worldviews of social subjects. with novel post-modern ways of life and identities. and multiplicity. consuming.poetics of space in terms of a system of signs. allows the construction of some limited and limiting sense of identity in the midst of a collapse of imploding spatialities" (Harvey. with the central value system being dematerialised . and the memory of things and events that have never and can reoccur in the present" (Boyer. with their mobility in flows changes their nature as they are progressively emptied out of both symbolic and material content and of their traditional local meaning. "Capitalist hegemony over space puts the aesthetics of place very much back on the agenda (. instability. Post-modern hyperspace has thus succeeded in transcending the capacities of the human body to locate itself.1989). As post-modern turn results in fragmentation. scientific modes of discourse. and as imaginary in a deconstructive sense. The interweaving of simulacra in daily life brings together different worlds (of commodities) in the same space and time. The post modern phrase 'The presence of the past' ". Such universe of signs includes conception.p. 2002). with the city being a theatrical space. as representation of urban experience to produce multifunctional hybrid spaces (Jameson.php/fm/article/view. 1979). and with shifting time horizons collapsing inwards upon us ( Harvey.303). no universal dogma.. as signified (context and meaning) and signifiers (forms and urban elements) (Leach. stimulated by urban structure to generate representational methods and narrative systems (Calvino. network principles renounce rigidity. 2003). 1988). which may be 'visual'. or of a notational.Fahmi http://firstmonday. here and there. intelligent cities) and through the installation of new physical. The post-modern context is semiologically represented as a theatrical space. servicing.. the rupture between then and now. there is no central authority. 1960). In post-modernism. living (technopoles. 2000).. offering plurality.. textual. no foundational ethic. With hypermobility and space/time compression. 1989. Cognitive mapping approaches arrive at the signification of the city through the perception of its inhabitants. Systems of signification (semiotics) encompass denotative signs and meta-linguistic systems in relation to culturally specific connotative codes. 1991).tends instead to draw our attention to the contextual and linear relations of new architectural forms as they relate to past urban images. 1994 p. This has called for a new aesthetic of cognitive mapping of a city with multiple meanings and images (Lynch. ambiguity. concealing any trace of origin. The past returns to urban space in its fragmented and imaginary form and creates the city of deconstructed spaces and images. implying a multiplicity of signs (deferred and never fixed). where individuals can assume different identities under space-time compression. The denationalising of urban space and the formation of new claims centred in transnational actors and involving contestation constitute the global city as a frontier zone for a new type of engagement (Sassen. The urban environment is reduced to a perceptual knowledge of physical form and urban Imagery.) The construction of such places. through introduction of new types of urban place or space for producing. the city has indeed emerged as a site for new claims and contestation: by global capital. to organise its immediate surroundings perceptually. differences.1989). Every major intellectual field and academic discipline has taken a post-modern turn in recent years. social and cybernetic infrastructures and through creating new forms of labour 3 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . contingency. the fashioning of some localised aesthetic image. rather than stressing the differences.

php/fm/article/view. challenging concepts of presence. new forms. and time. the real and the virtual whilst re-inscribing these motifs within new practices.through sales and branding have developed a new niche of 'fluxus community' based on image consumption.. Multiple selection and combination of 'products' allows a unique spatial experience. qualities that pertain to their non-embodiment. ensuring that the same epistemological system governing Western thought will continue to operate. 1994. with the juxtapositioning of their mental images calling to attention a line of conflict (Jameson.. "There is no real and no imaginary. Media culture has nevertheless put people into 'a space of total flow'. information. 1997. but an array of sentences spelling out the consciousness of a city. which have become invisible. with the virtual city being at once a transmutation of the known. distance. whilst standing alongside and being interwoven into real urban life (Fahmi. Urban images/screens Urban Images/screens (or architecture of images) (Bermudez. it is "a place and a mode of being". of glass and light. the dark of nature into neon abstraction and codes (. 1995). sustaining. whilst being a transmutation of the known. In addition to a symbolic equivalence between the physical and the virtual. cyberspace prompts humans to "be" differently. objects into signs. is a declaration of ideals (. the parameters of which are the ingredients (materials and images).. and that suit the demands of virtual architecture and virtual physics. of electronic spheres imply that Cyberspace is more than a space. the inhabitants of cyberspace are described as developing non-physical qualities. heterotopias (places outside of all places). This is concerned with the nature of those other (unconscious) spaces. 4 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 .Fahmi http://firstmonday.9-10).. being interwoven into real urban life. 1996). consume its goods. consuming methods (production techniques and spatial diagrams). Society's dependence on image and the perceived value of goods has created unprecedented control over people's choices. Although media may conjure up almost anything into presence. virtuality can only displace but not replace reality. splashed over with the insignia or characters of logos. they overlap and interpenetrate one another. whilst seeking to reaffirm the true meaning of being embodied. Accordingly importing. except at a certain distance. not just Las Vegas but any [post]modern city.). and technological artefacts. global companies . As such. and 'splashing' virtuality (e. cinema. Reflexivity is partly based on aesthetic judgments and stems from the proliferation of many forms of real and simulated mobility (Lash and Urry.2003a). Whilst sociologists maintained that post-modern society was becoming increasingly fragmented as community groups become less clearly defined. 1993) offering (un)built forms with virtual layers.. New spaces emerge and disappear. daily news. Urban images can be seen as both the celebration and critique of the media/information post-modern society. In a world of ever-faster change and growing abstraction the process of reflexivity opens up possibilities for the recasting of meaning in work and in leisure and for the heterogeneity and complexity of space and everyday life. 1994 p.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. art work. it appears that value and meaning also have been lost in the transformation" (Baudrillard (1993) in Boyer. The city's language of buildings and streets. 1991). stone and iron. 1994). with "digital-space" being made commensurate with "real-space".the architecture of the post-modern commercial take-away.) the mediascape devours the literal materiality around it" (Christensen. spaces constantly juxtapose themselves one against the other. "Here we are in Robert Venturi's [post]modern city. Themes of aestheticisation in today's post-modern society reflect the increasing role of consumption as an art form. with hybrid interface between electronic and built media (Pile. Metaphors of cities. there is an ontological equivalence. Urban images are therefore the natural symbiotic result of the new material and information needs of our environments. 1993. p. what a city means when we enter it and use its services. Because 'reality' or the world now seems to be cybernetically organised continuum of kinetic images. market relation (Lash and Urry. bringing together the material and the informational. with hybrid interface between electronic media (broadcast or wired) and built media (encoded in the urban environment). environmental scenes. In turn this will invite a refocusing of spatial design.g. Often couched in evolutionary terms. Buildings are no longer mass and weight. 1996) and mediascape (Christensen. Not only physical axioms. similar to Lefebvre's (1991) image of interpenetrating spaces. the tectonic and the abstract. video-games. However with information technology bringing various areas into proximity of one another. a mediascape of office buildings and stores transformed by their corporate identities into the new language of consciousness: the sign moulded in glass and light..) which the city achieves by transforming things into words. virtual worlds) onto the real world will nevertheless lead to hybrid interface between electronic media (broadcast or wired) and built media (encoded in the urban environment). Mitchell. but also metaphysical axioms are sustained. is considered the natural extension of mediatecture (Riewoldt.492).

in the sense that it is a type of reality for which the boundary between imagination and fact is not absolute (Raban. Patton (1995) draws attention to the ways in which imaginary cities are written with respect to 'reality'. The fate of the flâneur constantly invites us to consider whether or not the era of globalisation allows the kind of walking space that might liberate the contemporary (neo) flâneur from traditionally defined social space and social relations. In the aestheticised perception of consumers.10) And "…the city as we might imagine it. though incommensurable orders or worlds. It is not simply that urban life has become more superficial. where spatial changes often outpace the revisions of maps due to its constant space-time compression ( Harvey. the soft city of illusion. 1973) as a multi-layered narrative in post-modern conditions will enable us to a reflexive (and cognitive) understanding of epistemologies. in terms of Foucault's (1986) heterotopias (places 'outside of all places') (Soja. but rather that the city in itself has become an imaginary space. to the inside of buildings and malls (the aesthetic cocoon) (Leach. The flâneur has been displaced by the post pedestrian type of driver. Gennochio's (1995) interpretation revealed two different kinds of heterotopias: the extra-discursive one which is the absolute Other. To grasp the interaction between urban planners’ spatial theories and individuals’ perceptions of the lived space of the urban. 1989). The experiment of reading and decoding post-modern cities is based on a number of actual cities. 1974).and consumption-based under conditions of late capitalism. is as real. 'external' spaces’ and 'heterogeneous site' capable of juxtaposing in a single real place (with several spaces that are in themselves incompatible). nightmare. possible. This dynamic has affected our sense of ourselves and our lives.. 1991). There is tendency to capture the 'logic of the place' in the post-modern city. "Cities. Foucault's (1986) concept of Heterotopias (places outside of all places) could nonetheless lead to a more fruitful unpacking of the epistemological and logical factors relating to imagery and semiotics and 'reassertion of spatiality’ (Soja. Post-modern images of the urban self do more than entail an increase in the distancing defence strategies. 1974.is a type that is out to take its artistic or aesthetical distance from its consumerist urban surroundings.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. than the hard city one can locate in maps and statistics. More importantly are the attempts at adapting the nineteenth-century figure of the flâneur to a post-modern context (neo-flâneur).php/fm/article/view. they paradoxically involve the post-modern phantasmagoria of an absence of distance.The flâneur as an alternative 'vision' and an image of movement through the urban spectacle of (post)modernity is the "botanist of the asphalt" who walks through the city while exploring shifting social space. with different representational methods. are plastic by nature. 1974. whilst witnessing the fetishism of commodification and aestheticisation of image consumption in post-modern metropolis. in monographs on urban sociology and demography and architecture"(Raban. 2001) with the 'outside' being a 'traffic-flow-support-nexus'. (Raban. it is essential to examine the way our flâneur’s gaze and cognitive mapping mediates the walker's experience within post-modern spaces. aspiration.Fahmi http://firstmonday. more image. shape us by the resistance they offer when we try to impose a personal form on them"…. The city itself is ‘soft’. Whilst investigating possibilities for (re)(de)constructing the meaning of post-modern space. p. For some writers real conditions of urban existence underlie the signs they describe. encounters and reflections oriented by the metaphor of shifting images. 1996). in their turn. We mould them in our images: they. or urban imageries. maybe more real. the conceptual approach tackles inscriptions of difference. Cognitive mapping of the post-modern city takes on the characteristic of a Baudelairean (neo)flâneur whilst approaching the reality of the vast terrain of city spaces with his investigative gaze. Heterotopias and (neo)flâneurs Past decades have seen the rise of 'a new society of the image' in which consumerism and market frenzy are not the issue so much as 'consumption by the eyes' (Jameson. for a critical reading of the utopian discourse. An attempt to conceptualise the Baudelairean flâneur (Benjamin. with the vehicle serving as a cocoon in which the individual finds protection from the dangers of the urban jungle and the phenomenon of 'fried urban nerves'. The neo-flâneur. as an absorbent recipient of post-modern imageries. and the discursive other coexisting in an 'impossible space' of a large number of fragmentary. 10). What is of concern is the possibility of reading cities in relation to production of further signs. no form of distance imposes itself. The metropolitan flâneur has also been relocated. myth. 1995). 5 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . with the self being collapsed into its manner of (re)presentation with the border between the 'self' and 'city' becoming fluid. for others there is no distinction between the imaginary and the real (Burgin. rather than the excavation of a foundational real city (the decoding of the urban imaginary). unlike villages and small towns. p. as being engulfed in the signs and stimuli of the global flows.. belonging and sensory experience of navigating the post-modern metropolis attempts at weaving anecdotal observations. 1989).

and being mapped into fictional terrain of perceptive imagery and virtual reality. human experience and contemporary culture.Fahmi http://firstmonday. the experiment(s) acknowledges the conflict between imagination and realisation as a driving force for creating and structuring virtual spatial orders. a vivid generation of visual life focused in the depth of its boulevards and avenues. unity. His aim was to produce hybrid situations for consumption of a conflation of various commodities and urban images. to shape new spatial experiences and representations. accumulations of patched-up. Urban experimentation produces spatial possibilities which are subjected to functions of (trans)forming. The city of pixels is understood as a collection of urban fragments being (re)sorted. philosophy and psychoanalysis (Fahmi. suggesting enigmatic purposes. which are collections. overlapping and developing forms. distance. fields. The Urban Incubator deals with images. extendable. and networks. which represent multiple and continuously changing interfaces that transcend the nature of physicality by offering built forms of multi-dimensional virtual layers. differed. where built and un-built environments intertwine. Urban disjunction Eisenman (1999). screens (Deleuze. 2001). 1996). homogenous conception of modernist space with post-modernist figuration of overlapping urban images. A deconstructive procedure further re-engages analytically in city imaging and new urban installations in public spaces as noted in Lebbeus Woods' visionary work. whilst employing such representational techniques as (Pile and Thrift. Therefore urban disjunction overcomes aesthetic borderlines and familiar structural principles. a change in visual habits and a creation of an experimental link between visionary architecture and electronic media. from its traditional elements such as harmony. 1999). (re)assembled and 6 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . and evoking a new sense of time space (Noever. multiplicity. 1999). Lefebvre. Urban disjunction emancipates architectural thinking from the hegemony of functionality. displaced by 'superimposition and transformations'. whilst delivering an architecture of singular simultaneity. aggregations.The speed of driving creates a cinematographic effect that results in a loss of sensible referents and a decay of architectonic markers. 1982). 1997. This is an attempt to replace the neutral. symmetry). (in)forming and (per)forming (Eisenman. 1989). 1991). A (de)constructive reading is (re)presented of the city of pixels as intermediary (in-between) spaces. 1978). With the need to suture elements of the splintered post-modern urban. thus operating on the boundaries between virtuality and reality. and between real and virtual spaces (Cooke. The experiment allows for (re)(de)construction of new spatiality. The immediateness and multiplicity of these (hyper) environments challenge the traditional concepts of presence. In Cinegramme Folie at the Parc de La Villette. In the peripheral world of the highway. and time.. and Tschumi (1988) both dismantled the conventions of architecture by using concepts derived from cinema.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. the urban experience is reduced to a visual spectacle. 1979). new forms. Considered with analogous comparison of virtual space. 1995). 2000). Tschumi (1989) dislocated and de-regulated the idea of meaning as emerging from built form. the complexity of the building mass is imperceptible as it fades into a faint image which hardly persists in our memory. rendered irresolute'. as constantly 'deferred. and enclosed within the façade of its buildings. The urban incubator and (de)constructive experimentation Urban experimentation views proliferation and fragmentation in production and consumption of spatiality as superimposed and juxtaposed layers of (de)constructive imageries. diagrams (Eisenman. including built and unbuilt elements. Urban Disjunction rejects the notion of 'synthesis' in favour of juxtaposition of contradictory forces (Tschumi. that is an architectural version of Augé's (1995) non-place where anything and everything is (re)presented at least in theory.. thus producing dissociation and difference in space and time (Derrida. collages (Rowe and Koetter. and re-inscribes these motifs within new spaces. An imaginary Urban Incubator is conceptualised in order to produce images of new space configurations.php/fm/article/view.With the cinematographic experience conferring on perceived objects a certain plasticity. and intricacy whilst collecting and moving along its principal arteries an immense flux of trajectories. City’s imageries invest representation with texture. as influenced by history. similar to Tschumi's event city (1994) and Coates' ecstacity (2000). literary criticism. Woods' work produced visual effects. 1991). montage and narratives (Benjamin. and between deconstruction of institutions and institutionalisation of deconstruction (Wigley. whilst unravelling the relationship between cognitive imaging and virtual forms.

Cairo 2000. Moscow 2003.Fahmi http://firstmonday.1995) offer multiple and continuously changing interfaces whilst transcending physicality by offering buildings of multi-dimensional character. In 'montage' independent urban fragments are juxtaposed thus permitting 'a multiplicity of combinations'. buildings) (Tschumi. fields. applied in Tschumi's (1989) Parc de La Villette and developed as part of film technique by Eisenstein. The experiment opens into prior images and earlier signs. and perceptions. with urban spaces being mapped into fictional terrain of imagery and virtuality. presenting 'urban montage'. infrastructures. with historical and topographical factors generating contradictions and tensions (Fahmi. Cairo 2004).. 7 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . narratives. 1988. Urban screens: collages and fragments Urban images/screens (Bermudez. whilst emphasising the use of spatio-temporal mapping.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. substitutions. Berlin 2003. and fantasies to signify an identifiable and imaginary (sense of) place identity. by producing psychic echoes and reverberations that enliven the senses. and individual people's lives. with their proliferation enriching our imaginative experience of the city.php/fm/article/view. 2000). together with repetitions. digital images. influencing. London 2002. The current urban experiment suggests tangible forms for understanding spaces in-between.1989). modifying. changing city's structural concept whilst producing fragmentary urban patterns. and people's cognitive mechanisms within urban spaces. mediating overlapping images. whilst implying superimposition and interchange (Fahmi. They make these qualities into dialectical forces. networks (where built and unbuilt environments are revealed). Deleuze's (1997) screens become a means of expressing affects of the city by placing images together. Helsinki 2000. geographical and historical milieus.. 2005). with overlapping layers of (virtual) spaces. mirroring the way in which the city juxtaposes different possibilities. emotions. (re)connected continually unsettling and disturbing established spatial orders. and insertions. which are actualised in determinate space-time relations. representing a different and autonomous system (a text). Screen interfaces are seen as indices of possibility. sensations. The post-modern Urban Experience is represented as consisting of series of superimposed layers of programmes (functions. and by accessing a hyper-environment . creates symbolic representations. The Urban Incubator. digital video stills and diagrams. by means of texts. Barcelona 2004. geometries. This is a conflation of existing real cities (Shanghai 2000. Manchester 2004.

or billboard. The blurred tracks of the semiotic matrix of post-modern spaces of the nocturnal city’s articulation represent a spatial memory (Boyer... where cinematography was exploited to offer new perspective on the city.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. with an exhibition of images actively permeating and flexibly saturating the real city. through the flow and distribution of images. Figure 1: The city of pixels as a collective collage. thus creating a hybrid identity for its inhabitants (Fahmi. This is similar to Tschumi's (1989) follies at Parc de La Villette. a different picture of the post-modern city . logos deliquesce.php/fm/article/view. Urban semiotics: signs and images The semiotic matrix of city of pixels ’at night’ forms a text of aesthetic representation. with its souvenirs and its myriad connections to 'other' places. where signs coagulate. There is an attempt to recuperate and reassemble from the fragments. a postmodern representation under space-time compression This stage of the experiment pulls together a spatial narrative evoking journeys to 'other cities'. 2003b). 1994). which will mark place as well as represent chosen brand identities. 8 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 .Fahmi http://firstmonday. and by using multimedia to capture the urban experience. revealing the fragmented nature of post-modern space (Harvey. Cities will increasingly be seen as brandscapes. with such juxtapositions being a montage of urban images. whilst being regarded as arenas for urban experimentation in-between the local and global (glocal). where each building markets itself as a distinct sign. 2005). 1989). by bringing many images into sharp juxtaposition. by establishing connections between apparently disconnected elements. the imaginary and reality (Fahmi and Howe. representing corporate identity and globalisation. The notion of the branded landmark is explored as a major public structure.

1999). inside-outside. methods of diagrammatical layering.php/fm/article/view. is being employed in the experiment. Diagrams offer experimental interfaces for intervening in complex urban processes within emerging networked environment to refresh 'ways of seeing' through the metaphorical (re)(de) construction of space. with literary narratives being used to dramatise the meeting of the ‘fictional’ and the ‘real’. and visual elements within urban systems. scaling. producing a fractal representation of the built environment. solid-void.Fahmi http://firstmonday.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.. superimposition. point-plane). 9 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . Image diagrammatic technique lies between spatial and structural analysis and assumes a language founded on the articulation and contradiction of dialectics (centre-periphery.. and displaces it from its relationship to meaning. (in)forming and (per)forming (Eisenman. vertical-horizontal. whilst being subjected to functions of (trans)forming. cognitive codes. Figure 2: Semiotic matrix of postmodern nocturnal city forms a text of aesthetic representation where signs and images create a hybrid identity for its inhabitants Urban diagrams Drawing upon Eisenman’s Romeo and Juliet project for Venice Biennale (1985). Such technique detaches form from its programmatic concerns.

10 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . searching for design language that communicates with the public that manipulates simple combinations and patterns that are part of our collective memory. and fantasies through plot formation and characterisation within fictional landscapes. multi-physical. Urban installations do not monumentalise established institutions of culture. our environments grow increasingly hyper-real.Fahmi http://firstmonday. which everybody experiences physically and perceptually. commercial operations but rather explores new possibilities of urban life and human experience. With the text remaining central. movie locations or souvenirs. considering the complex centripetalcentrifugal space. taking on this mediated space and anticipating a destination seen through the fragmented myths. flipping and compressing both virtual and real experiences (Baudrillard.. The experiment then casts the experiential tools to explore the city as an individual construct.. myths. cranking up. 1993). letting go. respond to events and initiatives to formulate hyper-spatial conditions which are multi-dimensional . Urban installations Urban installations are introduced. corporate headquarters. Figure 3: Pursuit of pleasure and sights (sites) of highly charged encounters Urban narratives Boyer (1994) pointed out that the return of post-modern aesthetic to narrative forms.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. weaving into existing fabric of the city and becoming a hidden city of entirely unknown purpose or meaning.php/fm/article/view. regarded as urban icons. including built environment and conceptual (unbuilt) image diagrams as inserted within or superimposed on the fabric of the city of pixels. each installation however presents the clichéd images which advance real place. with people generally exchanging their role as users and becoming readers and consumers (Bergum. flipping out). These installations. 1990). Corresponding to Coates' (2000) series of possible urban interfaces (tuning in. Narratives have formulated architectural fiction whilst binding together stories. locking on.

Reflecting trends in poststructuralist theory.Fahmi http://firstmonday. transactions. Cyberspace is established as an "other" place to enact the deconstructed self. but their logic and their meaning become absorbed in the network. one is a navigator. and repressing the plethora of inputs. immerse the user in a self-conscious form of ritual bearing little relation to any actual time or location. gated communities. this exchange between the individual and the electronic media and telecommunications environment is discursively represented as the achievement of a polymorphous. it operates on a surface that is ephemeral and mediated. adorned with signs and riddled with the inscriptions and prescriptions of culture. filtering.php/fm/article/view. The 'as if you are there' is truncated to a 'you are there'. cultural difference is absorbed. One is in cyberspace. office blocks. and goods. theme parks. people. with this shift being in line with modernist ambitions of eliding the gap between signifier and signified. heterogeneous subjectivity. a 'liquid identity. As intense uniformity is produced via the rigorous programming that commercial interests demand. for ever screening. a self whose multiplicity and ambiguity is continually reinforced as the body seems to increasingly inhabit the dematerialised world that technology creates. Subjectivity is performed as a new kind of text while the body becomes a permeable surface. the bland shopping malls. Screen culture inhabits neither place nor ground: it is fragmented and dislocated. In the high modernism of virtual rhetoric this ambition travels with its own ideology: the 'being-in' of cyberspace which does not allow the subject-object distinction to interfere with the cybernaut's mythic immersion in what is 11 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . viewer and viewed. information and demands for action that absorb his or her private space and individual time. functioning as signs rather than places. In this context. and the poststructuralist framework dominated by the mediated image. not a viewer. not watching it. and managed and coifed "wilderness" areas that. The proliferation of 'non-places'. ignoring. Figure 4: Experiencing the cityscape phenomenologically Urban futures between virtual diffusion and spatial 'being' Castells (1996) argued that power resided in the network. becomes another kind of interface. and it has a four second attention span. indistinguishable airports. The body-as-text elides the distinction between the screen and its viewer by ignoring the actuality of the screen and elaborating instead the metaphor of virtual space. real and representation.. Seeing. a post human' freed from the bonds of the autonomous subject. old-worldly villages. accepting. Places do not disappear. continuously on-call individual. and the supposedly unmediated experience of immersion. the hinge between cyber and space conveniently slides between ontology and post-modern "body-as-text". as places cannot exist outside of flows of information.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. The ever-expanding.. with the global reach of networks saturating world screens with homogenous stream of images and flows. is replaced by being.

near and far. creating an indeterminate. virtuality rhetorically expand ever outwards. unmediated presence. but a transmutation and a transgression of the known. profiling. Conclusion The experimental procedure has allowed for the (de)construction of public spaces and for the presentation of diagrams that identify the relationships between cognitive image and virtual forms (Fahmi. 'being-there'. We tend to operate in topographies that weave between actual and digital space. Virtuality is considered a psychological mechanism and cognitive adaptation in a less 'userfriendly' living environment. with these representations being products of particular notions of spatiality. indicating the change in the notion of collage images by the multiplication of screen installations. under and through the local concrete and 'hard architectures' of our contemporary cities. freed from a fixed geometry. collage sketches and screen installations led to 'de-solidifying' things and dissolving spatial distinctions. having sufficient ambiguity to enable the discourse to drift between reality and mythic spaces. proto-tying and manufacturing software.. in a post-industrial age. space provides a means of negotiating the ontological status of virtuality. buildings can now be fully formed in three-dimensional modelling. three-dimensional 'physical space' (Davies. to authentic being rather than mediated seeing. the appearance of solid permanent buildings is challenged by virtual representation of abstract systems (electronic images). Whilst a non-local trans-urbanism is in the making. and distributed globally in various forms and embodiments. 2002). and literal. which is repositioned as the locus of techno-institutional forces. fragmentation over unity. 'floating' environment. everyday experience is mirrored in another reality.php/fm/article/view. Beckman (1998) argued that globalised liquid 'soft architectures' of digital media flow over. technologies of communication and computation. habitation. The use of image diagrams. reworked. and reintegrated into functional networks. section and elevation. represent an ever-accelerating world (Beckman.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index. 1998). times. 'outer space'. The power of space lies in the possibilities it implies: immersion. 'the space of the imagination'. Fahmi. real-time connectivity and interface. production and construction. often represented as a mystical space. As the city of pixels represent interfaces to the net. and modes of transcendence. these experimental diagrams promise to occupy the coterminous territories of the real and the virtual. 2001. The icons that comprise this new landscape of difference are essentially mediated reflexes of similarity and diversification (constructs that are mirrored endlessly over computer networks. As based on appeals to ontology rather than epistemology. as we are increasingly relocating activities to digital spaces and locating digital capacities in the human body (Latham and Sassen.Fahmi http://firstmonday. 'cosmic space'. madness and play over careful management. Heidegger (1977) wrote that "the essence of modern technology is by no means anything 12 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . 2004). As a central metaphor within the notion of 'being'. The boundaries between urban conditions are blurring whilst being influenced by forces of global capitalism. Iconographic assemblies are absorbed. According to Castells (1996) such emergent dimensions and new communication system radically transforms space and time. between 'the space of the screen'. inside and outside. Instead.. The experiment intended to unsettle ‘memory and context’ by rejecting both ‘contextualist’ and ‘continualist’ approaches. an interface between public and private. interwoven into real urban life. 1998). thus shifting from a mode of manipulating representation to manipulating ontology. Architecture of cities needs no longer be generated through the static conventions of plan. There is a need to revisit the post-modern subject. geographic meaning. 'the annihilation and manipulation of time by electronically managed global capital markets'. mythologies. the virtual city will not be the post-physical city. Today. encompassing an infinity of spaces. interfaces and hardware. collective and subjective. and favouring conflict over synthesis. In the information society the dominant form of social time is what Castells (1996) called timeless time. Localities become disembodied from their cultural. historical. advertising campaigns). with imaginative space being used as a medium for 'bringing forth' or manifesting abstract ideas into the realm of virtual place (Heidegger. televised imagery. With navigation into a trans-urbanism in terms of turning-inside-out of cyberspace. between the virtual urbanity of the information machine and the actual urbanity of the city. where corporeality and environment has been literally infiltrated by cyberspace. to (de)constructing perceptual shifting between figure and ground. with these evocative diagrams intensifying the cognitive process. calling into play the possibility of a coterminous and dialectic merging of very real city of bricks and a conceptually experienced 'city of bits' (Mitchell. Zelner (1999) illustrated that in (re)(de)construction of the virtual and the real. 1977). appropriating inner space. thus collapsing the stages between conceptualisation and fabrication. provincial and planetary. home pages. 1996). or into image collages inducing a space of flows that substitutes for a space of places.

infrastructure.Vienna University of Technology –22-25 February. Digital Spatiality has emerged with five forces of change transforming culture. where history becomes a product which is packaged and consumed. Such scenographic representations repress the mystery and disorder of urban life. 1989). technological. 1977 in Dyson. or overlapping regions of nonexclusivity: an architecture capable of addressing and choreographing . and 'consensual hallucination' (Gibson. egalitarian energy. and at Planning Research Conference 2003. political. With decentralisation. as seen in the shopping malls and housing enclaves. and meaningless territory.. The key role of future city designers is to deploy creative imagination in the public interest. redefined time. existing not side-by-side but through and across each other.Oxford Brookes University 8-10 April. as well as normative and utopian visions that contextualise technology within a social. and new media forms of electronic agora and 'virtual reality (VR)' (Graham and Marvin.The Tenth International Conference on Information & Communication Technologies (ICT) in Urban Planning and Spatial Development and Impacts of ICT on Physical Space .. 1998). digital photo imaging. constantly mapping and regulating perceptions of new communications technologies such as Internet. 'information superhighway'. With investigations into a topology of relational. yet it must be divorced from Plato's ideal forms' and authoritarian politics." the issues he raises are fundamentally ontological. the human and the technological. The crisis of collective memory provokes a desire to reframe the past in urban scenography.php/fm/article/view. He teaches architecture and urban design as an Associate Professor of Urbanism at the Architecture Department. Utilizing complexity theory and concepts fashioned on the paradigmatic logic of biological systems. E-mail: uders2004 [at] yahoo [dot] co [dot] uk Acknowledgements This article is based on two conference paper presented at CORP2005. the real-actual and the virtual-imaginary are akin to oscillating forces in a shifting field. dealing with the 'being' of being human as much as the being of technology (Heidegger. Indeed. which regards technology as the agency of a new economy.Fahmi http://firstmonday. 13 of 16 17-09-2011 17:00 . and that assess implications of new technologies. 1998). mediated human. a shared disjunction of our relations to the past. The ontology of cyberspace signals the attempts to assign 'being' as an attribute to these new forms of media and communication. If they are entities at all. post-modern spatiality and representation of city imaging employing narratives. and economy and lifestyles: global imperatives. Kelly (1995) envisioned a technologically deterministic future with radically different forms of social and organisational control. the two sides of this purported dialectic. globalisation. He demonstrated a paradigm shift whereas everything ranging from literary texts to market institutions are seen as 'complex' and/or 'self-organising' systems (Kelly. whilst aiming to unpack and reconstruct the life world and its spatial programs. in terms of turning-inside-out of cyberspace. ideal but never abstract. Negroponte (1996) presented the post-information age or the future digital life of mediating technologies in terms of bits. This link between two essences. or 'trans-architectures'. 1996). 'hypersurface' experimental forms promise to occupy the coterminous territories of the real and the virtual. Forms of knowledge demand critical theories of power. Negroponte's (1996) description of the growth of digital technologies as 'almost genetic in its nature' evoked the organic metaphor of exponential growth to describe the dynamic rate and self-organising character of change. which is collapsed into 'scenes'. According to Boyer (1994) a 'crisis of collective memory'. is linked to rapid urban change as modernism and industrialisation disrupts the myriad of ways in which cities house a collective sense of history. they share functions and space over coterminous territories.Helwan University in Cairo. and economic framework. Through his studio Urban Design Experimental Research Studio (UDERS) he explores deconstructive experimentation within urban space. About the author Wael Fahmi was trained as an architect at Cairo University and received his PhD in Planning and Landscape from the University of Manchester (UK). a play within the field of metaphor. The virtual is real but not actual. The deconstructive task leads to a play of formal imagery. is articulated in the popular discourse on cyberspace. interface and digital life. and harmonisation. video stills and architectural diagrams. size polarities. fantasy.org/htbin/cgiwrap/bin/ojs/index.the dance between the doubled worlds of the real-actual and the virtual-potential is beginning to (re)present itself. culminating in a transition from a hierarchical social order to a 'network culture based on counter-intuitive principles.

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