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Monday, July 03, 2006
The City of Galvez is an imaginary space lovingly documented on line, all grainy cityscapes, Expressionist shapes, soaring, lonely music and the general feel of a long lost society (via Atlas (t), via a stranger here myself). Imaginary cities seem to be taking over the internet, as people exploit the medium's potential for chronicling other worlds, densely layered information, artificial geographies and personal mythologies. Here you can find cities and spaces created from Lego, computer games, art and literature, even the profit-centric machinations of developers. The internet has disseminated previously fringe activities like urban exploration (a frequent favourite at things), which are in effect chronicling new urban spaces, places that had previously been lost or abandoned. We are all making our own maps now.

Real cities are getting in the act, transforming themselves into places of the imagination in the hope that the unseen and unimaginable will manifest themselves out of these new technological perspectives (digital flaneurism if you like). In France, Cannes and Nantes are building virtual recreations of themselves, ostensibly to aid with issues of future planning (see 'test driving a cityscape'), but also, one suspects, to gain fresh insight from the overview, as if the urban realm could be placed on the couch and psychoanalysed. The question is, are we bothered to look that deeply into the real world when the alternatives - the World of Warcraft, abandoned Soviet factories, online communities, etc., etc., - appear so persuasive. It's all very well using virtual worlds as case studies for the real one - tracking social dimensions (see PlayOn), for example, and how people react to the availability or scarcity of resources, but the real world could conceivably wither and die from neglect as the virtual one takes over. We're reminded of an ill-advised government suggestion to 'digitise' listed buildings so they could be safely demolished yet always accessible. However, Virtual Heritage is a growth industry.

Whether there are really lessons to learn for the physical world remains to be seen. While the internet remains resolutely two-dimensional in form - dashing early predictions that we'd all be desparate to navigate data in 3D - what is driving the move towards virtual representation is mapping data. With more and more bandwidth and data available, applications for location data are growing exponentially, be they relatively superficial (the Google Earth Drift Monitor, via Digitally Distributed Environments, or embedding youtube video in panoramas). The killer application is no doubt out there, ready but unseen.

*

Other things. Graffiti Taxonomy (via, again, atlas (t), who uses the far more interesting word, 'latrinalia'). On mapping a particular form of overt but subtle self expression / the weather toaster / many, many, architecture links / the art and architecture of Andrew Geller, famous for his idiosyncratic beach houses / Bret Aaker's series Hyper Fake.

Extracts from photographer Milo Keller's series AlpTransit / links and things at the mountain 7 weblog: any site that digs up abandoned asylums in Essex is fine by us / which reminds us, we need to buy the next issue of Strange Attractor / the hunt for 928, looking for refuge of a downed spy plane.

Where are the quietest bits of London? A map. Related, what parts of capital can one sneak around with ease? Points us towards derelict London for the first ime in a while / submit response, due for a re-visit / this me-fi post on Utopian Modernism goes into the detail we didn't have time to last Wednesday / speaking of imaginary landscapes, find the urban fairies.

Unusual things: Theo Jansen's Strandbeests are currently stalking through Trafalgar Square, getting shoved by tourists and being snapped by flickr users / that old chestnut, the flying car, rises up again (via jalopnik). No indication of how wide and long this thing actually is; our guess - sizeable (Hummeresque, perhaps).

There's something extremely comforting about i like's tales of their great British holiday, including a near miss with Portmeirion / a red house / the Airstream Basecamp concept, half tent, half caravan. We prefer our Airstreams long, old and a little bit tatty. Or re-visit Tom Bentley's Roads to Freedom, from our last issue, oh, half an age ago / the work of Giovanni Battista Piranesi (via me-fi) - especially his imaginary prisons.

A new use for youtube: archiving Tom and Jerry. The duo's Christmas specials still present - for us - the perfect image of how the festive season is supposed to be / a collection of Five idents / the grim Chinese death vans / cinematic classics reinterpreted as traditional drawings (via ask me-fi, via kottke).

Softsleeper, a publishing house and design company run by Peter Maybury and Marie-Pierre Richard / 'The word "time" is the most common noun in the English language, according to the latest Oxford English Dictionary' / the work of artist Yang Zhenzhong, balancing / Plasticbag on the ingenuity on display at the 2006 RCA Summer Show (official site here) / where have all the Serpentine Pavilions gone?

Archidose on Paolo Soleri's partnership with MINI, an attempt to drive people to Arcosanti. Commerce and counter-culture collide, although to be fair Arcosanti seems pretty inaccessible by public transport / tetris with crates / we never knew the ZX Spectrum's rubber-buttoned keyboard was called a Chiclet Keyboard.