May 26, 2006

Mike Davis on William Gibson

I've been thinking about and studying regions for 40-some years, man and boy, and I've done serious scifi/cyberpunk time too, but this bit from Mike Davis [Late Victorian Holocausts, Magical Urbanism, City of Quartz, Planet of Slums, others...] is the clearest link between those worlds that I have ever seen:

The ongoing crisis of the Third World city is producing almost feudalized patterns of large slum neighborhoods that are effectively terrorist or criminal mini-states – rogue micro-sovereignties. That’s the view of the Pentagon and of Pentagon planners. They also seem quite alarmed by the fact that the peri-urban slums – the slums on the edges of cities – lack clear hierarchies. Even more difficult, from a planning perspective, there’s very little available data. The slums are kind of off the radar screen. They therefore become the equivalent of rain forest, or jungle: difficult to penetrate, impossible to control.

I think there are fairly smart Pentagon thinkers who don’t see this so much as a question of regions, or categories of nation-states, so much as holes, or enclaves within the system. One of the best things I ever read about this was actually William Gibson’s novel Virtual Light. Gibson proposes that, in a world where giant multinational capital is supreme, there are places that simply aren’t valuable to the world economy anymore – they don’t reproduce capital – and so those spaces are shunted aside. A completely globalized system, in Gibson's view, would leak space – it would have internal redundancies – and one of those spaces, in Virtual Light, is the Bay Bridge.
(from William Gibson's blog, but see BLDGBLOG for the whole [and totally EXcellent] interview)

Posted by oook at May 26, 2006 08:06 AM

Castells talks about the 'black holes of globalization', places that are just irrelevant to the political economy of the the network of 'global cities' (Chiapas is such a black hole). Also, recall the concept of Scott in 'Seeing like a State' of 'illegibility'. States like things to be 'legible', grid pattern streets with sequential housenumbers, for example. Slums are not legible, nor are traditional villages with winding streets and alleys. I think a lot of the 'problem' with the internet is, depite all the NSA computer power, keyword searching and visualization techniques, internet content is largely illegible from the heights of power.

Posted by: Ron at May 27, 2006 08:54 AM