Jason (jcreed) wrote,

_wirehead_ over on twitter linked to this blogpost which has some thoughts about "Genius Loci". I found it notable initially because it Baader-Meinhofed me by mentioning Seeing Like a State, a book I started reading recently (and am continuing to mostly enjoy --- though I feel like it could have probably been edited down to about half its length without great loss).

But then I started wondering what is the answer to that question, of what becomes of the sense-of-place when humans have better tools to make places less relevant for some things?

Even apart from the internet, humanity surely already has way better tools for partial place-transcendence than it did a hundred, a couple hundred years ago. Planes, cars, telephones, television. Did it eliminate loyalties to city, to region, to language? Certainly not --- but equally certainly, it must have altered them perceptibly, and I don't feel like I have the expertise to speak intelligently as to how. Probably would need to read other books.

But there is something the internet does that I have experienced, which is create senses-of-place. Just as you couldn't have predicted nyc street pizza from the geography of manhattan alone, or La Nouvelle Vague from the banks of the Seine, or Silicon Valley from Santa Clara Valley --- I don't think you could have exactly predicted the gestalt feeling of reddit, of tumblr, of hacker news, of pinterest, livejournal, facebook, myspace, twitter, etc. purely from the technical considerations of how they are constituted technologically. Maybe for some the technological circumstances are still pretty diagnostic (I'm thinking of twitter, mostly) but even then, there is significantly more to twitter literally what twitter's server code is capable of.

It's an enduringly interesting question to me why the literally spatial, euclideanly spatial "virtual spaces" of, say, second life still seem so hokey (but maybe oculus and pals may reinvigorate them, if the only issue was technological polish) when all the other spaces that do exist and succeed online feel so... spatial. At least in a sense similar to how I parse people being "from a place" in physical space.
Tags: books, genius loci, web

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