We have been told that, like our minds and memories, our computers’ hard drives are palimpsests—that even when we delete files, traces of our activities remain as encoded fragments of personal data digitally persisting unto posterity. The Internet is similarly awash in the ripples created by our surfing, with search history, purchase history and various personal histories all entwined in the comet-like trails of our virtual movements. These data, which we are continually producing, are mined by government entities and private corporations for a variety of purposes, ranging from law enforcement to marketing.
And what of our physical movements, from home to work to play? Of course, they, too, are tracked, monitored and archived, by surveillance video in the public realm and our own smartphones glowing benignly in our pockets—making the built environment a social palimpsest writ large. Individuals’ movements become mass motion, whittling dirt pathways into park greenery and carving underground transit tunnels beneath our cities. Infrastructure, hardscape and greenscape change with the tides of human movement, and buildings reflect generational shifts in taste, fashion, and technology. Meanwhile, data is constantly being generated and collected.
The stuff of many a dystopian nightmare, these facts are also the subject of much intellectual debate. Join the conversation at a panel talk co-organized by MAS Context and The School of the Art Institute of Chicago on Thursday, April 23. Moderated by architect, urban designer and MAS Context editor Iker Gil, “Sensing and Sensibility: Politics and Technology in the Contemporary City” will feature Javier Arbona, Ingrid Burrington, Laura Forlano and Douglas Pancoast, whose diverse practices converge at the interstices of design, theory, urbanism, power, and politics.
The talk will build on the ongoing work of each panelist to explore the intersection of politics and technology in the contemporary city. The discussion will address questions like: What patterns are uncovered by data mining, and who owns that data? How can this vast amount of information be useful in shaping our cities? How do these technologies change how people use space? What are the unintended consequences? So far, no word yet on a betting pool as to who will reference “Metropolis” first, or what the over-under might be on “Brazil” vs. “Blade Runner” mentions. For more information about this free public event, visit the website. (Brook Rosini)
Thursday, April 23, 4:30pm-6:30pm at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, 280 South Columbus, Room 203. Free.