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Re: <eyebeam><blast> The Politics of New Technologies

In response to Coco Fusco's statement concerning the politics of new
technologies, I submit the following quotation from a paper by Kevin

The idea of the virtual city is inimical to real (yes)
       urbanity, which must surely be about embodied and situated
       presence, proximity, contact - what the street has come to
       stand for. There is nothing significantly innovative in what
       simply extends the powers of ordering and rationnalisation.
       we should consider Richard Sennett's argument, developed
       most recently in Flesh and Stone, that modern planning
       and modern technologies have conspired 'to free the body
       from resistance...weakening the sense of tactile reality and
       pacifying the body'; they have achieved a 'disconnection
       from space' and a 'desensitis[ation] in space.' there has been
       a progressive withdrawal from the urban scene, Sennett
       argues, a loss of contact with urban culture, an evasion of
       encounter with the others in the city - it amounts to a
       fundamental disavowal of urban reality. 'The geography of
       the modern city, 'says Sennett, ' like modern technology,
       brings to the fore deepseated problems in Western
       civilisation in imagining spaces for the human body which
       might make human bodies aware of one another'. The idea
       of the virtual city is anti-urban in this sense. Paul Virilio
       thinks of it in terms of 'loss of the other, the decline of
       physical presence in favour of an immaterial, phantom
       presence.' At the same time, he observes, that it has become
       possible to relate to those at a distance (and who can be
       switched off at will), there is also a disengagement from the
       disturbing, and demanding reality of those whose existence
       is immediate (and who can't be switched off). The
       possibilities of tele-presence and virtual connection may be
       indissociable from the destruction of what the city means
       (or has meant). ' And in losing the city,' Virilio concludes
       'we have lost everything'.
       What is fundamental to urbanity, I reiterate, is embodied
       presence and encounter. It is a question of both the
       individual body and the collective body of the city. In
       considering this question of the body in, and the body of,
       the city, we confront that of implication and engagement in
       the city's difficult reality. While the technoculture values
       the comfort and security that can be achieved through
       virtual activities, I want to put a value on exposure and its
       discomforts. Consider Sennett's important argument -
       incomprehensible within the technocultural worldview -
       about the need for the urban body to be aroused by
       disturbance. 'For without a disturbed sense of ourselves,'
       he maintains,' what will prompt most of us...to turn
       outwards toward each other, to experience the Other?' The
       experience of pain is integral to urban living:' it disorients
       and makes incomplete the self, defeats the desire for
       coherence; the body accepting pain is ready to become a
       civic body, sensible to the pain of another person, pains
       present on the street...' Pain is an inalienable aspect of
       urban experience, precisely because conflict and antagonism
       are constitutive of urban culture. The crisis of
       contemporary urbanity is a crisis in dealing with this
       reality (allied with the fantasy of disavowing it through
       technological means). What is fundamentally at issue, as
       Joel Roman argues is 'a crisis in our representation of
       social conflict'; it is the growing inability to imagine the
       city as a 'structured conflictual space.' In this context, the
       virtual city project may be seen as deepening the crisis,
       rather than contributing to its solution. Why can they only
       make the assumption that new technologies solve problems?
       Kevin Robins "Global cities: real-time....and Byzantine" in
       City:Information, identity and the city London 1996


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