Mitchell's City of Bits: Commentary and Discussion

A New Type of Dwelling-Place: Comments on City of Bits

Dan Stein (English 111, 1998)

William J. Mitchell presents us with a new type of dwelling-place. One which is "unrooted... shaped by connectivity and bandwidth constraints rather than by accessibility and land values, largely asynchronous in its operation, and inhabited by disembodied and fragmented subjects who exist as collections of aliases and agents."

Just who are these "diesmbodied and fragmented subjects?" Perhaps one of the most exciting (or chilling??) passages of Mitchell's work is the one which forces upon his readers the realization that We are well on our way towards becoming these complete cyborgs thanks to the overwhelming number of emerging technological breakthroughs:

We will all become mighty morphing cyborgs capable of reconfiguring ourselves by the minute-of renting extended nervous tissue and organ capacity and of redeploying our extensions in space as our needs change and as our resources allow. Think of yourself on some evening in the not-so-distant future, when wearable, fitted, and implanted electronic organs connected by bodynets are as commonplace as cotton; your intimate infrastructure connects you seamlessly to a planetful of bits, and you have software in your underwear. It's eleven o'clock, Smarty Pants; do you know where your network extensions are tonight?

As if to prove his point, Mitchell not only published an analog version of his book, but simultaneously produced a digital version which is asynchronously available to anyone with Internet access.

Mitchell has presented us with quite an exciting vision of our future habitat - one which is made of two worlds, a "real world" and a "virtual" one. Whether these predictions are right or wrong, imminent or far off, Mitchell certainly has been successful in painting a rich, vivid and beautifully complex picture.

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