Note — Oct 18, 2020

The City as Page One

Seen in → No.146

Source → kneelingbus.substack.com/p/the-city-as-page-one

I’d probably file this under thought experiment, as it’s still (to my eye anyway) an incomplete framing from Drew Austin but an attractive exercise nonetheless. He parallels the transformation of newspapers’ front page physical constraints by the digital, with the current reframing of cities during the pandemic. “Maybe a city is fundamentally a system for organizing information rather than an inherently physical object,” he says, citing architecture theorist Sanford Kwinter, to argue that “‘urban,’ then, is a phenomenon as fluid as other media, distinct from the cities where it has historically been found.“ To ponder.

According to McLuhan’s expansive definition, cities themselves are media: Not only are they stuffed full of every conceivable kind of “content,” but they are also, increasingly, the content of other media, particularly the internet. […]

[T]he internet has also evolved into the operating system for meatspace, furnishing more of the navigational tools and information systems that the built environment once exclusively provided via features like wayfinding signage and grid layouts. […]

As information becomes more and more fluid, the physical objects—the media—that formerly transmitted it become less and less functional, until symbolism is the only role left for those objects to perform.