LIFTs, not separates/Kiss kiss, 방 방

(OK, enough stupid puns for post titles.)

So it seems like the LIFT evening here in Seoul was a real success. Certainly, if we can judge by the amount of people who came up to me afterward to express their enthusiasm, as well as the magnitude of that enthusiasm, we need to be doing stuff like this more often. You could actually feel the connections personal, professional and conceptual in the process of being made, and it was a wonderful thing.

Specifics? My talk, I thought, went well enough, although it was clearly compromised by my desire to fit the entire hourlong sweep into the twenty minutes I actually had. I had wanted to suggest that new overlays of ambient information in the metropolitan context, designed with care and sensitivity, may actually bring to life some of the most cherished notions of ’60s and ’70s humanist urban thought, from a Jane Jacobian “eyes on the street” to the spontaneous, ad-hoc use of space we see in Christopher Alexander, Bernard Rudofsky and certain tendencies within Situationism. It was ambitious, perhaps overly so; I stepped off stage feeling as though I had set up the framework of a potentially interesting argument, but then never actually plugged any supporting datapoints into it. So it goes.

Bruce was up next, and he gave a (literally) animated version of his spimey fabject talk. I buy a lot of his argument – that manufactured objects are well along the way toward being instances, shadows in the real world cast by something both digital and immanent, perpetually becoming-actual – but it was quaint to hear him refer to the human actors involved in the specification of such objects as “information architects.” If only any actual information architect had an interest in this sort of thing! My god, give me ten such people and I’d almost wager that the community in question might stand half a chance of remaining relevant.

Jake Song then gave us an interesting overview of how space works in online gaming. Jake started by showing how geography was deformed in early, text-based MUDs – where the landscape seemed to be perpetually in danger of failing to plug back into itself – and drew a line forward through successive generations of ever-more-dimensional MMORPGs. By the time he got to talking about dynamic weathering and self-generating flora, I was put in mind of the Borges story about the map that bears a 1:1 relationship to the world; I’ll even cop to having a stoner-freshman whoah moment as I thought about what all that might imply for the city outside the walls of the conference space.

Wrapping up was architect Yoo Suk Yeon, who left us with some provocative meditations on the present and future state of urban informatics; the most intriguing of the projects she showed concerned the “city of bangs.” That’s 방, meaning “room,” not “bang!” as in “gun,” and it refers to the heterogeneous flowering of single-use spaces that limn the outlines of the Korean city the way nematodes might a human body: PC-bangs for social gaming, noraebangs (“singing room”) for Korean-style karaoke, and so on. If I understood her properly, the project was an attempt to devise a new, networked urbanism on the basis of these nodes of intense activity – I sure would have liked to have seen more of this project in greater depth, and I’m especially curious to see how ideas like these find purchase in her built work.

At any rate, swellness all around. I just want to congratulate the LIFT folks, their colleagues at Bread and Butter, and Daum’s Jaewoong Lee for having had the imagination and foresight to plan this long-overdue event. As ever, it was great to see familiar friendly faces – Heewon (congrats on the book!), Jaz, my brother-in-law Noda and his wife Sanyoung – and even better, so many new ones. I can’t wait to see what we all come up with together for the Big LIFT here in Seoul next June.

3 responses to “LIFTs, not separates/Kiss kiss, 방 방”

  1. Bruce Sterling says :

    *Okay, I’ll buy in — if they don’t call themselves “information architects,” then what do they call themselves?

  2. speedbird says :

    “Designers”?

  3. Bruce Sterling says :

    What, like hair designers? That won’t do!

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