Bruce Sterling and Breach

“Locative Media can now be categorized under one of two types of mapping, either annotative (virtually tagging the world) or phenomenological (tracing the action of the subject in the world). Where annotative projects seek to demystify (see all the Google Earth Hacks), tracing-based projects typically seek to use high technology methods to stimulate dying everyday practices such as walking or occupying public space.”
You’re Geolocative, He’s Geolocative, Everybody’s Geolocative,Bruce Sterling. Sept 2007.

In 2007, Bruce Sterling asks the question:

“Are Locative Media only a new site for old discussions about the relationship of consciousness to place and other people?”

He continues to state that “in the early days of sea travel, it was only the navigator who held such awareness of his exact position on Earth. What would it mean for us to have as accurate an awareness of space as we have of time? In the same way that clocks and watches tell us the exact second, portable GPS devices help us pinpoint our exact location on Earth.”

This is particularly interesting when pertaining to Miéville’s The City & The City – in this narrative, in this world, each inhabitant has a shockingly acute awareness of space, perhaps more so than time. Awareness of pace is what defines their relationship to their surroundings. They don’t need (don’t use) any form of GPS or location tagging to know where they are, what space they are in, because it is embedded in their social practices, their understanding of the urban landscape – perhaps similar to the way in which we interact with, and understand time – it is not an inherent sense, present from birth. Clock time must be learnt, and it must be learnt as a constraint and control, oftentimes in direct opposition to, the body clock. Waking up, eating, working, drinking. All these social practices must be timed by the clock for acceptance by society, they are understood, sometimes punished if breached, and strict adherence to them leads to conformed social positions.

Similarly, the Ul Qoman/Besźel understanding and awareness of space must be learnt, integrated, in opposition to the more “natural” sense of unified space, present in children and animals. Any breach is punished (but only if explicit) – but the punishment, vague and threatening, perhaps a metaphor for society – is no longer this once it happens.

Though Breach perhaps stands as a metaphor for societal punishment of refusal to conform, there is nothing metaphorical about the threat and punishment inflicted on Besźel and Ul Qoma citizens by Breach.



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