08 November 2010

the invisible city

One Wilshire in downtown Los Angeles, a prominent colocation point on the west coast/eastern shore of the Pacific Ocean for global telecommunication providers. photo by Xeni Jardin, via flickr source

Kazys Varnelis's work, especially The Infrastructural City:  Networked Ecologies in Los Angeles, is extremely useful for conceptualizing the space of telecommunications.  In looking over his essay on One Wilshire in The Infrastructural City again, I found this quote:

If the [Disney] Concert Hall represents late capitalism's obsession with the visual, One Wilshire represents the rise of invisible networks and unmappable forces in our lives.  The invisible city that grows from telecommunications is, by and large, a privatized infrastructure, its possession by private forces making it impossible to map.  Although the postmodern hyper-space of the Bonaventure [Hotel] is unmappable by the body, a legible floor plan can still be found.  No such plan exists for networked capital.  Diagrams of the Internet and of fiber optic lines are hard to find: the data is proprietary, a matter too important for corporations to allow free access.  Moreover, the complexity emerging along with the massive proliferation of connections increasingly makes it hard for even corporations owning the networks to understand their dimensions.  A floor plan of One Wilshire tells you little about what happens there.  Even for the corporate hive mind, the map is exceeded by a hypercomplex reality.  The space of global technological flows does not desire to become visual or apparent:  perhaps only some spray-paint [on asphalt] or a flag in the ground marks the presence of fiber below, and sometimes even that is elusive.  (pages 128-129)
Increasingly, conceptualizing the spaces of this invisible city require searching through pages upon pages of planning documents unearthed on the websites of municipalities to infer where a fiber-optic cable is run underground and which global corporation is putting it there.  This research is done more through identifying the spaces where conditions come together than by identifying the direct points or locations of the telecom infrastructures.

Telecommunication networking equipment inside One Wilshire. photo by Xeni Jardin, via flickr source 

1 comment:

  1. Making my way through The Networked City right now.