Çarşamba, Mart 09, 2011

Retext(ur)ing the city #2

Imagining cities
Cities are not simply material or lived spaces, they are also spaces of the imagination and spaces of representation (Westwood, 1997).

The public imaginary about cities is itself part constituted by media representations as much as by lived practices. Ideas about cities, are not simply formed at a conscious level, they are also a product of unconscious desires and imaginaries.

Any representations and imaginaries are bound to be in a state of flux and will also be subject to contestation by those who feel excluded or on the margins of dominant imaginary.

Imagination is powerful and translated into policy and through the mechanisms of governance it has its effects.

The idea of the city as a crucible for ideas and imagination has a long history -back to the very origins of urbanism in fact.

What makes cities extraordinary is that they contain sites where the senses are bombarded and these can be read as a source of pleasure -the Spice Market in Istanbul or the street markets of Hanoi, or displeasure, as in the rush hour spaces of underground stations.

For pro-urbanists and city lovers, cities are imagined as spaces of opportunity, of the co-mingling of strangers, as spaces of excitement, difference, cosmopolitanism and interconnection, and as spaces of culture, engagement, enchantment, fluidity and vibrancy.
Anti-urban imaginaries…as a site of anomie, alienation, corruption, ill health, immorality, chaos, pollution, congestion and a threat to social order.

Urban designs and city plans have often embodied, implicitly or explicitly, some version of anti-urbanism which evokes the city as a place to be tamed and ordered and made predictable.

Gary Bridge & Sophie Watson, “Retext(ur)ing the city”, in City, vol.5, no.3, pp.350-362.

Retext(ur)ing the city

The economy if cities
Rather than consumer demand being the key explanatory variable in the form and location of the cities, Marxists looked to factors of production of commodities and the social relations that were involved in production processes.

[This] feeling of de-materialization of the economy can be explained in a number of ways. First, changes in production processes have led to the unbundling of the commodity. This happened in manufacturing, first of all with seperation of manufacturing functions, sub-contracting and just-in-time production -the flexible specialization of post-Fordism.

[Others] even see it as the coming of the post-metropolis where the degree of urbanization and decentralization is such that the world in some senses become a city.
The second sense of de-materialization comes from the growth of new commodities to be traded. The most important of these is knowledge.

Over the last 20 years there has been a rapid expansion in the production, consumption, and exchange of knowledge and information.

Especially important in this new mode of development are informational cities that act as hubs of knowledge-intensive activity and the infrastructure required to support it.

[This] proliferation of images in an economy of signs either increases the reflexive sense of self or adds to their sense of disembeddedness in an experience of hyper-reality.

Knowledge is traded, images are traded, images of images are traded. Economies become spectral. Cities become sites for the production of images and the cultivation of spectacle. The city as the of spectacle was recognized by classical urbanists. Walter Benjamin in particular suggested how commodification was mediated through practices of cultural representation. The siting and sighting of the commodity used the city as shop window. Now cities themselves as well as the commodities they ‘present’ are commodities to be sold. In the competition for inward investment they must market themselves as desirable places for business and tourism. They also sell their desirability to young professionals through the marketing of consumption landscapes of gentrification. The city is sold as a bundle of consuption assets.
A third sense in which the economy is de-materialized is the changed character of money. Money is increasingly disconnedted from material things. The advent of floating exchange rates, the expansion  of credit, and the futures and derivatives market means that money as a form of value is more and more distanced from commodity production, mode and more tied to forms of speculation. Money is more mythical.

The free and rapid movement of capital investment reduces the significance of territory in the ’space of flows’ as Castells calls it.

Gary Bridge & Sophie Watson, “Retext(ur)ing the city”, in City, vol.5, no.3, pp.350-362.