strange fortuitous timing. Earlier today I had a small epiphany in relation to my dissertation topic, Google Street View. I increasingly find myself attempting to bracket out a very particular position in which I find myself most interested in the phenomenon, and by far it has been easier to say ‘not that’ and ‘definitely not that’; but incredibly difficult to say ‘that’, ‘most definitely that’. I don’t think I’m simply channeling Anti-Oedipus here and the admonishing of the statement “I am one of you”, but it has been incredibly difficult to situate myself, given my bastard background: visual art, theory minded, urban nomad, in light of the increasing disciplinary demand of the various implications of GSV. But what dawned on me today, after reading yet another description of power (yawn), I stopped, said aloud, to myself “I reject this representation”.
My dissertation topic has been interested in the user practices of Google Street View, and there has been a long standing concern over how to ‘prove’ that GSV is changing how we understand the built environment. There are a host of innovative user practices, a whole history of theoretical explications with which these practices interface, and my own particular interest in both the visual phenomenon and the concepts that are complexified through this new navigational tool.
So earlier, I said, that’s what this is about. It’s about representations, and how GSV is challenging held representations, be it ‘cognitive maps’, ‘the other’, ‘agency’, ‘smooth or striated space’, etc. Coming full circle, listening to Sassen talk about data sets as an urban story, and the knowledge construction of the story or representation… That perhaps this epiphany of representation has some merit, that maybe, just maybe, it will allow me to situate myself academically in an appropriate place, to draw from these user practices in order to tell a variety of stories that enable a means to examine the implications of GSV. It also allows for a bracketing out of the ‘stories’ that perhaps I’m not so interested in, and instead focus on the common urban tropes and spatial theories, rather than examine the whole range of user practices. Interdisciplinary I may be, there is a limit to what we can know, and the depth that we can know them.
“If knowledge is about the city … then you are beginning to tell an urban story”
Great short video on how data is different from knowledge (“knowledge is not simply a data set”); getting knowledge from data requires an interpretation, an experience in a way that data does not. The video comes from the Picnic festival: Life in Readable Cities hosted by the European Journalism Center.
Here’s also her piece on “Why Cities Matter”.