During our initial few classes, the idea of being able to “map” one’s surroundings came about as an important part of knowing space — having a illustrative outline of such a space within the foreground of one’s mind — and in many ways the way in which apps like Google Maps, etc., act to disrupt this can, perhaps, provoke some sort of general theme about our interactions with technology as a whole. As Varnelia and Friedberg discuss in the beginning of their essay, specific spaces beget certain social interactions and behaviors, the cafe or coffeehouse representative of some late-18th century burgeoning bourgeoisie, and in that bounded space social features were, in many ways, inscribed. With the introduction of a constant social technology, however, the inscription of behavior within space is transformed into a general sociability, bound to the omnipresent social-tether of the phone, and in this way spaces which had originally been scenes of very precise and understandable social norms have been dismantled for a more generic norm, which is carried with one in and out of place.
Perhaps, then, in addition to the way in which envisioning space changed as a result of technology — which will be touched on later, as well — our perception of the underlying themes of space have converged into a “general awareness” of self; perhaps, we have removed the sublime from a space, and allowed ourselves full authority over the way we are affected by an environment. Perhaps almost a sort of “mediated solipsism,” we have stripped place of its fundamental ability to affect and inscribe us within it, and instead satisfied ourselves with simply alternating different formalities of an environment for others. That said, this is not the case at all times, and there are environments, such as theaters, churches, classrooms, in which we must abandon the project to remove locality, and abide by a sort of hierarchy of space, in which are roles are defined.
Returning now to “charting” space via technology, there is an uncanny sense that we have, in fact, a more useful and clinical knowledge of space from our ability grasp the general features portrayed in mapping apps. This is perhaps an extension of the phenomena described above, and in fact works alongside it to produce a certainty of one’s navigation through unfamiliar territory, where the individual does not feel responsible for acting in a way that is existentially affected and different, but rather simply to “chart-out” the area graphically; we have become scientific in this way, allowing different places to abide categorically by our concepts of what a space ought to be.
All-in-all, this doesn’t need to be, like, a bad thing, but perhaps our unrelenting certainty-of-space prevents a measure of self-understanding that is important. At the same time, though, we traverse with ease and trepidation social media platforms to an extent that such geometry has, in many ways, replaced these old spaces of sociability — it’s just too bad that these do not come across as environments as dynamic as, you know, real life. Perhaps we must refrain from believing that we have any sense about “who we really are,” and allow an environment to produce us against our own better and scientific judgment.
- “El Cafe” Jose Jimenez y Aranda: 5-Minute History