Fragments On Machines//Dubai

Emma Charles’ video, “Fragments on Machines” explores the architecture of New York City in relation to the city’s need for the Internet. While it is easy to conceive the Internet as something intangible something simply eternally present–something almost spiritual, Emma’s video illuminates the materiality and physical framework necessary for the Internet to exist. The video’s approach is extremely ecological–examining factors such as infrastructure, proximity, ventilation systems, and of course, the endless cable wires.

When we use and consume the Internet, we do not consider where it’s coming from or how it’s getting to us. But is this something we should be considering?

Earlier this week I was researching a company’s headquarters for work, the address I stumbled upon named the city “Dubai Media City”. Upon further researching, I came across Dubai Internet City on the map as well.

These cities, the largest ICT hub in the Middle East and North Africa, were built in the early 2000’s and designed specifically to host media and internet industries; Wikipedia reveals, “The groundwork for infrastructure (such as fiber optic cables) was already laid for firms to set up easily and its visa and operational procedures are relaxed for firms operating within DMC”. These cities are tax free, making them prime real estate for companies such as Microsoft, Facebook, CNN, Forbes, and IBM. Their website adorns them as an “environment that helps ICT businesses develop, innovate and grow”.

Is this what the future looks like in terms of architecture and environments? Was it a smart choice to congregate all of the media and internet outlets together in one city? Should infrastructure be considered in the development of land? How do cable wires and other necessary infrastructure effect the environment unto which it’s imposing?

Something about this doesn’t sit right with me. While yes, these cities are effectively working together as assemblages, these cities seem quantified and dividual, an environment for machines, not humans. These cities seem controlled, disciplined, and rhizomatic–as if the city was built to be an extension of the Internet.

There seem to be both practical and ethical problems associated with these cities as well. As seen in Emma’s video, what happens when nature rains down and destroys the unnatural. Or, what happens if the infrastructure were to collapse. Should Internet access be centralized in such a way that if one source fails, everything fails? –effectively eliminating information to the citizens it provides to? Lastly, and perhaps more importantly–are these sorts of questions the questions we need to be prepared to answer for the future?

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-Shira Feldman

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~ by Shira on February 25, 2014.