Tuesday, 16 December 2008

The Space of flows

In The Rise of the Network Society Castell's reports on the cancelling of the proposed World City Fair in Tokyo in 1997 when a Japanese TV comedian got elected as mayor on the sole issue of stoppping its construction.

For Castell's, "The local logic of civil society was catching up with, and contradicting, the global logic of international business."

He continues, "Thus, people do still live in places. But because function and power in our societies are organized in the space of flows, the structural domination of its logic essentially alters the meaning and dynamic of places. Experience, by being related to places, becomes abstracted from power, and meaning is increasingly separated from knowledge. There follows a structural schizophrenia between two spatial logics that threatens to break down communication channels in society. The dominant tendency toward a horizon of networked, ahistorical space of flows, aiming at imposing its logic over scattered, segmented places, increasingly unrelated to each other, less and less able to share cultural codes. Unless cultural, political, and physical bridges are deliberately built between these two forms of space, we may be heading toward life in parallel universes whose times cannot meet because they are warped into different dimensions of a social hyperspace." 458-459

Basically consciousness raising. And what does that entail? Harvey at the end of his book on Post-Modernity quotes Poggioli,

"...the present is valid only by virtue of the potentialities of the future, as the matrix of the future, insofar as it is the forge of history in continued metamorphosis, seen as a permanent spiritual revolution."
(R.Poggioli The Theory of the avant-garde 1968 pp73)

Spiritual revolution : consciousness : awareness

Sunday, 14 December 2008


In the final part of his book "The Condition of Postmodernity"
David Harvey quotes Jurgen Habermas:

"The new value placed on the transitory, the elusive and the ephemeral, the very celebration of dynamism, discloses a longing for an undefiled, immaculate and stable present."

Is that another way of reporting ataraxy?

Castells on value

"Value making, under informational capitalism, is essentially a product of the financial market. But to reach the financial market, and vie for higher value in it, firms, institutions, and individuals have to go through the hard labor of innovating, producing, managing, and inage-making in goods and services. ... The new economy brings information technology and the technology of information together in the creation of value out of our belief in the value we create." ( Castells The Rise of the Network Society pp160)

If we were to stop believing then what would happen? We would have an existential crisis. Hence the cyclical experience of the necessity to understand our belief structures and meaning if exisitence!

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Webiography: has its time come?

This idea for a blog entry came about because of the UK Grocer magazine carried an article on 29th November this year mentioning "webnography" and suggesting that some fmcg companies were now starting to employ semioticians to analyse the whole signifier structure surrounding a company/brand/product.

This word and also, "webography" are creeping up on the zeitgeist radar. See the Google Zeitgeist entry for webography.

Webography is defined on Wikipedia as:
"...a list of websites that pertain to a given topic. A webography is much like a bibliography, but is limited to a collection of online resources rather than books and academic journals. Research has been conducted comparing them to traditional bibliographies."

Whilst Webnography is defined not by Wikipedia as they do not have a listing (!) but a useful review is suggested by FBI Innovation where they state:
"Webnography, which is also known as Online ethnography or Virtual ethnography, is a new development in the field of Ethnography. Online ethnography is an online research method which extends the traditional notions of field and ethnographic study from the observation of co-located, face-to-face interactions, to technologically mediated interactions in online networks and communities.

In doing so it challenges the traditional concept of a field site as a localized space and moves it into the direction of online or computer-mediated communications and interactions.

In Webnography researchers study e.g. online communal forms, including blogs, web-rings, chat, SMS, gamespaces, bulletin boards, and mailing lists."

I wonder if these are not too narrow a definition and actually it may worth considering this research in terms of a biography, especially when you consider the utility to marketeers of gathering information on the life and times of a company, brand or product. What is the biography of your brand? What is, was, the social capital of the brand and business? Where is the potential to add value in the near and medium term?

Through new media can the reporting of webnography research actually deliver something I would term a webiography? Something to deliver the authenticity of the experience of your brand/company/product; something more deeply embedded in the global everyday? Maybe in a few years time webiography might actually move toward just "biography of the business" as the new media becomes the everyday. All part and parcel of the growth and development of the web and organizations.

Monday, 1 December 2008

Simplicity of a single line

Great, the latest issue of Monocle is out now. Already the adverts have stopped me in my tracks.

Castell's (again!) had made mention of architecture in the Network Society:

"...the architecture that seems most charged with meaning in societies shaped by the logic of space of flows is what I call "the architecture of nudity." That is, architecture whose forms are so neutral, so pure, so diaphanous, that they do not pretend to say anything. And by not saying anything they confront the experience with the solitude of the space of flows. Its message is the silence."

He goes on to give examples including Barcelona airport....
"...the new Barcelona airport, designed by Bofill, simply combines beautiful marble floor, dark glass facade, and transparent glass separating panels in an immense, open space. No cover up of the fear and anxiety that people experience in an airport. No carpeting, no cozy rooms, no indirect lighting. In the middle of the cold beauty of this airport passengers have to face their terrible truth:they are alone, in the middle of the space of flows, they lose their connection, they are suspended in the emptiness of transition. They are, literally, in the hands of Iberia Airlines. And there is no escape."(pp449-453)

So to, "confront the experience of solitude" what is that essence that perfection that is being sort? Back to Monocle and thanks to Laurent-Perrier Champagne for drawing attention to the work of French artist Antoine Watteau with a quote from him:

"All my life I have sought the simplicity of a single line."

Whoa!! Yes.

And then the fine contributors of Wikipedia report that:
"in...[Watteau's] treatment of the landscape background and of the atmospheric surroundings of the figures can be found the germs of Impressionism".

So Steve Reich, "...the pioneer of minimalist music" informed Roxy Music who informed punk who informed etc. etc. How much further do we go before the subconscious drives, essences, beliefs actually become manifest? Exciting times ahead me thinks and feels.