Path to the Possible

I have been thinking a lot recently about Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities (1972).  It is pretty common to see the last lines of the book quoted, the part where Marco says to the Great Khan,

seek and learn to recognize, who and what, in the midst of inferno, are not inferno, and help them endure, give them space.

I want to try to understand that line in the context of the book as a whole, and also to draw connections between the book and Henri Lefebvre’s Urban Revolution, which is a seminal book for me, and which was published in 1970, two years before Invisible Cities.

Calvino’s book is framed by a conversation between Marco Polo and the Great Khan.  The Great Khan has asked Marco to travel through his empire, examine its cities, and describe them to him.  Marco’s tales are wonderful to read for their poetry…

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Lefebvre-bot on the city: (1) Introduction

A robot possessing the urban knowledge of French philosopher and spatial theorist Henri Lefebvre (1901-1991) explores the multidimensional nature of the city.

[multi-authored project, submit your own…!]

Bodies, space, devices and culture

Thinking culture

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I’m currently writing a chapter for my book on popular culture about bodies and interfaces. As part of my research I returned to William J Mitchell’s Me++. I was surprised how fresh it still feels. It was originally published in 2003 and it picks up on the cyborg metaphor that was popular in the 1990s and attempts to situate it within the networked city. The vision it creates is of bodies that are open to the information flows of the city. The tension he describes is between boundaries and networks, these complete as bodies are implicated by flows of information. The use of a science fiction imagination to drive the text has meant that the content has not dated too much, although some of the imagined futures look a bit strange some 10 years later. But the central argument still feels pertinent, particularly as mobile devices have become even…

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Geography and Literature: Galdós “La novela en el tranvía” [in Spanish]

So I’ve been trying to have students do more technologically advanced projects for the classes I teach in Spanish, sometimes related to urban themes… This last semester I taught 18th & 19th-century Spanish literature, and included a number of literary essays/stories relevant to urban studies and I had them use iwork [a layout/magazine program for MAC] to create their own digital magazines on topics related to the class readings. In the future I’d like to assign a project where they make videos too, so I figured I’d better learn exactly how easy that would be for undergraduates. This video [in Spanish] on a short story by Benito Pérez Galdós titled “La novela en el tranvía” is the result (just a first effort, probably not ‘A’ material just yet…).

Madrid’s Retiro Park–linocut print image

Here’s an image which was published in the creative geography journal you are here at the University of Arizona some years ago… great venue for artistic creations dealing with space/place. The park figures prominently in the Spanish film Taxi by famed director Carlos Saura (although also, given its prominent location and lengthy history in a great number of films, novels, etc.). See also this article.

In Star Wars, cities are evil

Per Square Mile

Mos Eisley, the wretched hive of scum and villany

George Lucas hates cities. At least that’s what I gather from decades of watching and rewatching the original Star Wars movies.

The Star Wars movies are famous for hewing to archetypal stories—hero sets out to save galaxy from evil warlords, hero confronts his (familial) past, hero grapples with his role as a savior. And the movies’ portrayal of urban agglomerations is similarly archetypal, drawing on a long tradition of damning the city while praising the countryside.

Let’s start from the beginning…

Read more at the new Per Square Mile.

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Lineposters: Subway Maps of Cities Around The World

LeFors Design

Check out these works of art created by graphic artist Cayla Ferari and engineer John Breznicky.  What started out as a clever way to jazz up the walls of their NY apartment turned into a full fledged entrepreneurial endeavor.

The first version was a minimalist take of the NY subway system.  Today Lineposters.com has versions representing transit systems from all over the world.

Check em out.  I’m tempted to buy a few myself.  If only Indianapolis had a  transit system worth emulating in poster form.  Aw shucks.

Thanks to the Huffington Post for first tweeting this story.  Can I send you the bill for the money I’m going to spend on this art, because of reading you tweet 🙂

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