Foggy, further to Flusty’s five

We’ve spoken before about geographer Steven Flusty’s concise and useful taxonomy of defensive spaces – those intentionally designed to confound ready access and comfortable use.

I’m finally beginning to wade into the real work of writing The City Is Here, gathering my notes and so forth, and right at the outset I’m realizing there’s scope in Flusty’s taxonomy for a sixth type. So I’d like to propose a new category of foggy spaces: buildings, services or features of the landscape perfectly self-evident to visual inspection, but (intentionally or otherwise) opaque to informatics. Absent from your tomtom, from Google Maps, from networked databases and visualizations of all sorts.

I think the implications raised by such spaces and how we might approach them, theoretically and literally, differentiate them sufficiently from Flusty’s stealthy (those “which cannot be found”) to justify their own category. We’ll be confronting this sort of situation increasingly, as well as the extent to which it will color how we know and read cities. What’s more, unlike most defensive-space tropes, it’s already been recognized and parodied in pop culture: I’m thinking of a scene in The Simpsons Movie last summer, in which the entire town Springfield is erased from a driver’s in-car GPS even as he watches.

It hardly needs to be said that I’ll write more about foggy spaces here, as the spinal arguments of the book develop over the next few months. You know you’ll be the first to know, and that I’ll be curious to hear your reactions.

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  1. - 11 December 2007

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