September 19, 2018


Thoughts on Easterling´s An Internet of Things (Task 1):

”Spaces and urban arrangements are usually treated as collections of objects or volumes, not as actors. Yet the organization itself is active. It is doing something, and changes in the organization constitute information. ”

”Action is not necessarily movement but is rather embodied in relationship, relative position and potential in organizations.”

”…it could be strategic to think of democracy’s constitutive ”emptiness” as a void that democracy can ”call its own” precisely because this is a space that cannot be owned by any one of us. It is for this reason that democratic architectures are simultaneously impersonal and intimately ours (all of ours). As such, whilst we may not have chosen the colour of the linoleum in a hospital corridor the same way we would have if it were our own kitchen floor, we can walk its length knowing that the architects who designed that space did so on our behalf—with us (all of us) in mind. /Helen Runting, Desire for Democracy, in Aiming for a Democratic Architecture exhibition catalogue


Since freedom can only be exercised when the material conditions allow, it is not hard to accept that our built surroundings take active part in our lives; they influence us, they prohibit and allow, they separate and bring together.

As mentioned in Task 2, infrastructure is rarely dwelled upon until at its moment of failure. The designer of the systems making life in the city possible is irrelevant, or, taken further, the ’we’ behind these active objects/spaces is trusted, until the systems have to be reclaimed and the ’we’ reveals itself as an ’I’ that can be criticized. Possibly, considering our surroundings as actors in the city rather than objects that are simply acted upon, makes the question of their authorship fall into the background even more.

The absence of the singular author of public space might be a necessity for a well-functioning democratic society.

An ”I”, being human, can be flawed, whereas the invisibility of the power behind public space allows it to function as a supporting structure, providing people with a sense of stability and protection. The gliding scale between infrastructure and architecture might then be one of support or comfort. When public architecture does not have a stamp with a name on it, it both appears less as an object and more trustworthy, a supporting structure among others.

“…the switch is the thing that is not except at the moments of its change of setting, and the concept ‘switch’ has thus a special relation to time. It is related to the notion ‘change’ rather than to the notion ‘object.’”

There is no doubt of the authorship of the gates to the metro, but travelers carrying a prepaid SL-card rarely need stop to consider it. The gates are less neutral than the switch, as the sole purpose of their construction is to limit access to an important infrastructural network. They are simultaneously a symbol and administrator of a power relation, making the infrastructure follow the rules of the market by ensuring only customers enter. However, as soon as the gate is forced open, the availability of the network is exposed, together with the power relation, creating a dissonance. The customers can no longer accept the space as a given truth but are forced to see themselves as active participants following a set of rules constructed from above. As the power revealed is interconnected with the infrastructure and might even be considered necessary and/or good, this realization might not make a difference for the customer, or ”only” in their attitude towards their fellow travelers.

”…this “deviation” was one sense of the word queer, understood less as an identity than as a movement of thought and language contrary to accepted forms of authority, opening up spaces for desire that would not always be openly recognized.”


Thoughts on Butler´s Inhabitable Ground (Task 2):

”…the street is not always the site that we can take for granted as the public ground for certain kinds of public assemblies; the street, as public space and thoroughfare, is also a public good for which people fight – an infrastructural necessity that forms one of the demands of certain forms of popular mobilization.”

”…the body, despite its clear boundaries, or perhaps precisely by virtue of those very boundaries, is defined by the relations that makes its own life and action possible.”

”We cannot talk about a body without knowing what supports that body, and what its relation to that support – or lack of support – might be. In this way, the body is less an entity than a relation, and it cannot be fully dissociated from the infrastructural and environmental conditions of its living.”

Physical manifestations of power relations are abundant in the space by the gates of a metro station. Besides the gates themselves, there is the coffee chain, placed conveniently for anyone passing, behind glass walls and doors covered in the latest bargains. It is placed outside the gates, as if not quite with it (on the platforms there are no cafés and on the trains there are no trash bins). Yet there is a constant flow of people between the two and the advertisments on their walls are similar in message and presentation.

The club at the end of the corridor is another neighbor contained within the metro station´s network yet not officially affiliated with it. It transforms the space on weekends, when the music and the line is impossible not to notice for anyone entering the station.

There is also the flower shop and locksmith, both hiding behind glass, barely noticable except as something that is almost in the way, the doors are hardly visible.

The space in the station is cramped, next to a bucket filled with roses of different colours are police officers watching the gates, with their presence making one third of the travelers turn back, take the stairs to the streets and make their way to another nearby stop. On weekday nights, the glass doors are locked. But outside, just below the stair, is the most important place. Here, someone have forgotten to leave out a few square metres when planning; there is just enough space for two or three human bodies to lie down against the wall and rest.

Åse Skaldeman


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