On Mobile Cities, Archigram, Invisible Networks and Ubicomp

  • I gave an informal presentation on my research to some fabulous engineering/art/technology students this morning. I started out by talking about Archigram’s take on mobile cities, and specifically Peter Cook’s 1963 Plug-in University (a version of the Plug-in City) and Ron Herron’s 1964 Walking City. In stark contrast to the historical and material heaviness of Trinity’s campus, the plug-in university would comprise skin-covered frames and decks, or a sort of temporary ‘nomadic plain’ on which students would move from place to place. The Walking City is probably my favourite Archigram project, not least because it provides a means to contextualise our current mobile technologies and shifting landscapes.

    The one concern I keep returning to when I use Archigram to help me manoeuver mobile cities is their focus on expendable architectures. Now, don’t get me wrong: I think the idea of modular and adaptive cities is brilliant. But Archigram wasn’t considering global scales of production, consumption and disposal of mobile technologies. These networks include – but are not limited to – tantalum mining, international telecommunications policies and recycling and disposal procedures. You may be familiar with thinking about technologies from cradle to grave – or from cradle to cradle – but I think it is also important to look at technological intimacies in terms of the people/objects/places/activites/ideas are brought together – brought into intimate relationships – in the design and use of mobile technologies. Like African mining communities, American manufacturers, EU telco regulators, and Japanese cell-phone users. Read the full article on Purse Lip Square Jaw…