The problem with ideas you get in the shower is that real-world impracticalities and such scupper any chance of acting on so many of them before you’re even quite fully towelled off. Given the magnitude of the commitment involved in realizing this particular brainstorm, I’d sure like to get a sense of what people think before proceeding any further with it:
How interested would you be in a one-day event focused on the infrastructure of New York City, in every sense of that word?
We’d be exploring the hidden, the latent and undernoticed systems that undergird our experience of New York, from the geological and biological to the technical to the human. I’d want to get people from Con Ed, the MTA, and 311, of course, but also representatives from the New-York Historical Society, the American Museum of Natural History, the Lower East Side Tenement Museum. Maybe get graffiti artists, the Infiltration folks or Miru Kim to talk about their experiences down in the subway tunnels and switchyards.
I’m willing to bet this would be hella fun, not just because I know there are infra geeks galore in my extended friendship network – the Flickr group on Urban Markup Language is only one salient example – and not merely because it’d help me with important aspects of research for The City Is Here For You To Use. It’d also address, in part, some of the concerns Mike Migurski’s recently been raising about design conference burnout, and also some of my own boredom with same – I mean, this event would be about something, not more conference-circuit logrolling 2.0 wankery.
Actually, my interest is doing this is so completely overdetermined that it’s hard to suss out just what led to what. It’s also motivated by some of our Urban Computing students’ projects; by Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ work, specifically Touch Sanitation; by Cassidy Curtis’s Graffiti Archaeology. More recently, my reading of Richard Louv’s curious book Last Child in the Woods, and his diagnosis of contemporary society as suffering from “nature-deficit disorder,” have been especially influential: I’m determined to learn more about the ecological underpinnings of this place I call home, learn the names of the trees lining the streets and the species thriving in the river, the park and the sewer.
Perhaps less abstractly, my interest is also driven by infrastructure default events like last month’s steam-pipe explosion and last night’s bridge collapse in Minneapolis: as citizens and voters, we could all stand to learn more about the systems whose smooth functioning daily life of the city is utterly predicated on, and about the patterns of disinvestment that are manifestly putting us at risk.
Anyway, what do you think? Would you attend such a thing? What would you want to see discussed? And how much do you think it’d be reasonable to pay for such an event, assuming it had fairly tasty production values?