Justin Hodgson (Kairos): Walking in the Electra(City): A Fevered and Frivolous Spectacle

Read the abstract in its original context here at Kairos: A Journal of Rhetoric, Technology and Pedagogy (and below)

Watch the project here:

Walking in the (Electra)City: A Fevered and Frivolous Spectacle

Justin Hodgson


“What is no longer archived in the same way is no longer lived in the same way”

— Jacques Derrida, Archive Fever, 1995.

In 1984, Michel de Certeau, writing about the practices of everyday life, exposed us to a different way of thinking about our movements through (and our relationships with) the city as the center of cultural activity. While governments, institutions, and other structures of power designed the city according to particular strategies, for de Certeau it was the “tactical” movements of “passers by” that gave meaning to spaces and places of the city: that is, the walkers, wanderers, and window-shoppers created new paths through and new uses for the cityscape. They defined and redefined the city, and, in so doing, transformed (if not transcended) the strategic imposition.

Move forward nearly 30 years. The center of cultural activity now resides in the digital ether, the electra-city (here offered as a metonym for electrate culture); and it is ferried to you (rather than you to it) by tele-technologies, mediascapes, mobile devices, social networks, and so on. Given this shift, how might we need to rethink or even reconstitute de Certeau’s position in light of the 21st century? For not only are the ways we move through space itself notably altered (morphed by the cellular and computation prosthetics that aid in our daily activities), but the very notions of walking and city have also been transmogrified.

This project, then, is an attempt to engage these considerations and to allow something of their essential qualities to emerge through the production.

First, this work situates us in the summoning or calling forth (Heidegger, 1977) qualities of what traveling means in the electrate age. In the electra-city, the traveler and the hermit are one in the same: representations of the world brought to us at the speed of light (rather than our going to it) and done so in multiple streams. We cannot help but feel the weightedness of the layered and juxtaposed, palimpsestual, simultaneous hyper-saturation of media that guides our everyday electrate travels.

Second, this project focuses on the electra-city’s fevered and frivolous qualities (as Jacques Derrida explored them in 1973). Which is to say, this project attempts to situate us in the frivolity that makes the expansiveness of the electra-city possible. And it does so via a kind of hyper-fevered practice: the “fevered” condition of which Derrida spoke might be seen as evolving into what I’d call an archive delirium in the electrate age because the spatial constraints that contributed to the archon’s desire (and need) to sort, to sift, and to exclude in his/her collecting has given way to the seemingly infinity of digital storage. E-archons have the (memory/storage) capability of recording, storing, and ordering every utterance, and this shifts not only how we archive and what we archive, but the ways in which we produce (and live and experience) the archivable. Now, everyone can become archontic—contributing to an emerging culture of hoarders. As these drives, desires, and fevers infect us completely, we can’t help but feel the effects of (if not become) the emerging delirium.

This project, then, is an attempt to not only demonstrate some key ideas in association with these changes, but to make viewers feel the pleasures and tensions and demands of living (in) this hyper-saturated, delirium-induced state. The project includes five steps in the (electra)city; that is, it includes five short videos, each no longer than two minutes, and a references section (a different kind of step).

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