Mitchell's City of Bits: Commentary and Discussion

Some Questions about Digitally Mediated Environments

Laura Lee

The invisible reconfiguration of space is described as a recent intervention, but hasn't the work of the city planner always resulted in the restructuring of time relationships (ie. circulation and interaction within a city) in the historical context? How do computer-controlled information systems affect the way we interact with other humans in terms of our labor system? "The most crucial task before us is... one of imagining and creating digitally mediated environments for the kinds of lives that we will want to lead and the sorts of communities we will want to have" (5). In terms of the creation of our communities and cities, how much of the digital revolution is visionary, emphasizing the fabrication and planning cities and communities before they are created; to what degree does the importance of the plan of these cities/communities increase with the described revolution? So the net eliminates a tradtional dimension of civic legibility (10). What are the legal implications of this increased unaccountability?How will this affect our legal system, our laws and regulations in terms of our private rights and values? class construction? Is our personal identity on the net an increasingly dispersed, schizophrenic one or are we more capable of existing truthfully in these subdivided realms? Are we more able to express ourselves as strangers than in person?You get from place to place in cyberspace by following logical links rather than physical paths (23).

If cyberspace is a much more controlled environment with preconstructed choice constraints, how does this affect the concept of urban boundaries? (freeform circulation, logical vs. random paths, an enclosed system?) Kevin Lynch's description of the fundamental relationship between human cognition and urban form, the importance of learned mental maps that provide orientation within the urban fabric: As '"Cyborgs," are we unable to comprehend the cybercity, due to reliance on electronic extensions? All this talk about the creation of another environment through cyberextensions--- but doesn't the human mind naturally exist in realms of thought previously thought to be separate from all environmental concerns, ie. to dwell on memories, ideas, separate and distinct from your present physical environment? Is the increased distribution and therefore availability of information reconfiguring individual power within social systems? How is the move to suburbia a reflection of information restructuring?

In a digital age, how will institutions or corporations demonstrate their power if not by the visual and physical presence of actual towers or buildings that give form to power?

With the aim of being as logical and efficient as possible, functionalist modernists of the twentieth century have often derived their less regular layouts directly from empirically established requirements of adjacency and proximity among the necessary spatial elements... The constituent elements of ... tightly packaged architectural and urban compositions can begin to float free from one another, and they can potentially relocate and recombine according to new logics. (104)

What does this new logic consist of? How is it less regular, and chaotic? Is it based on rationality? "This is the organizing framework from which all else grows. In cyberspace, the hyperplan is the generator" (121). If the hyperplan is the generator of all relationships within cyberspace, who is responsible for creating the plan? How is our freedom to make our own decisions and choices within cyberspace tempered or limited by a set system of choices and narratives in which we participate? How is the physical domain of a real city different from the imagined or cyberspace domain? How are they similiar/different?

City of Bits discussion Cyberspace OV Main Overview for Website