“Of Mud, Media, and the Metropolis: Aggregating Histories of Writing and Urbanization,” Cultural Politics 12:3, Special Issue on Geological Media, edited by Jussi Parikka (November 2016) [images available here]
An interactive map of New York’s historical media infrastructures – from newspaper publishing and delivery, telephone networks, radio antennae, and the electrical grids they depend on, to video arcades, carrier pidgeon cultures, and countercultural zine communities – in order to demonstrate how these material media landscapes have evolved over the course of the 19th, 20th, and 21st centuries; how contemporaneous networks overlap, complement, or compete with one another; and how older media may have laid a foundation for newer media networks. With Jessica Irish, Jane Pirone, Rory Solomon. As with most digital projects, this one proved very difficult to preserve. Sad.
Going beyond current scholarship on the “media city” and the “smart city,” Shannon Mattern argues that our global cities have been mediated and intelligent for millennia. Deep Mapping the Media City advocates for urban media archaeology, a multisensory approach to investigating the material history of networked cities. Mattern explores the material assemblages and infrastructures that have shaped the media city by taking archaeology literally—using techniques like excavation and mapping to discover the modern city’s roots in time.
In April 2016 I was invited to participate in the LaFargeHolcim Forum on “Infrastructure Space” in Detroit. The workshop to which I contributed focused on the city scale of analysis; my fellow presenters and I were asked to address the issue of infrastructural invisibility, the challenges of infrastructural representation, how our understanding of infrastructures impacts the ways we conceive of scale and the limits of the “urban,” and how infrastructure can foster the development of new communities, economies, and forms of collectivity. I chose to focus on “intellectual infrastructures.” You can find my talk and slides here.
Abstract: I begin this paper by describing the growth of interdisciplinary interest in infrastructure and the methodologies and pedagogies employed to cultivate infrastructural “literacy” and intelligence. The proposed consequences and benefits of this intelligence, I explain, include the engagement and emancipation of diverse urban publics, who, armed with new technical knowledge, are potentially empowered to advocate for more just and accessible services, or even construct their own alternative infrastructures. I then examine the urban institutions that both cultivate and collect this infrastructural intelligence; public libraries in particular play a critical role in establishing an urban infrastructural and intellectual commons. I close by proposing how libraries, as part of a larger urban network of knowledge infrastructures, can provide structures and communities of learning, and cultivate forms of intelligence – experiential, dynamic, practice-based – that are uniquely well suited to grappling with our complex, over-determined urban systems.
I published a new article in Places on data science, aesthetics, and politics, and the fetishization of method in urban research. Check out “Methodolatry and the Art of Measure: The New Wave of Urban Data Science.”
Theresa Lang Student and Community Center, Arnhold Hall, 55 West 13th St., 2nd floor
Jessica Irish (Parsons The New School for Design), Victoria Marshall (Parsons The New School for Design), Shannon Mattern (The New School for Public Engagement), Jane Pirone (Parsons The New School for Design), Vyjayanthi Rao (The New School for Social Research)
This panel discussion plans to articulate the possibilities and challenges of urban research in utilizing mobile formats for participatory engagement both inside and outside the classroom. As Urban Research Toolkit (URT) is being developed to maximize the benefit of two primary interfaces – web and mobile – panelists will present and discuss how information can be gathered, cross-reference and annotated amongst a wide community of citizens and researchers. The panel will showcase a collaborative, interdisciplinary project being developed both on mobile/web platforms to support the urban themed curricular, pedagogical and research at the New School University, as well as specific examples of student engagement and multi-disciplinary application.
Presentation at the 2011 International Communication Association Conference (which, I must admit, also functioned as a workshop for the personal statement in my tenure dossier)
For decades scholars and critics have been examining design as communication. Their work has addressed the symbolism of the manufactured object (Barthes 1957; Candlin/Guins 2009), the means by which a built space communicates its function (Venturi 1966; Eco 1968), even the communicative action of the design process (Alexander 1987; Mattern 2003). Methodologies emerging from the relatively new field of design studies, as well as new theoretical approaches—including the “new materialism” (Gumbrecht/Pfeiffer 1994; Miller 2005), “thing theory” (Appadurai 1996; Brown 2001), and media archaeology (Huhtamo 1997; Zielinski 2006)—offer models through which communication scholars can study the design of communicative objects, from codices to ebooks, from pencils to joysticks. In my own work for over a decade, I’ve drawn on these various traditions, focusing specifically on the relationships between media and communication and spatial design practices – at the interior, architectural, urban, and, occasionally, national scales. In what follows I’ll provide a brief overview of the projects I’ve undertaken in an effort to highlight the concepts and theoretical frameworks, the methodologies and interconnected scales of analysis, that I’ve developed for this work. And then for the last few minutes I’ll home in on a recent article that focuses on an under-the-radar 1000 square-foot room in a library not far from here: the Woodberry Poetry Room at Harvard’s Lamont Library.
You can find the full presentation, including text and slides, here.