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Capitalism and the Urban Struggle | Boston Review
“One of the things that interests me is the simultaneity of what goes on in the urban network. Occupy Wall Street was about Wall Street, but Occupy movements sprung up in a hundred odd cities in the United States, and you can find Occupy movements in Europe and around the world. So the urban network is actually a very powerful set of political possibilities. Part of my argument is that we should be thinking about how to use the urban network and how to use the political power that lies with closing cities down or intervening in cities as part of what political struggle is all about.”

“DJ: Mainstream liberals who talk about urbanism focus a lot on environmentalism and culture. Cities promise greener forms of living, since they offer greater density and more efficient energy use. And these liberals obsess over green architecture, high-speed rail, and so on, as well as about cities as centers of “creative culture.” Would you say they’re guilty of a certain fetishism over green living and culture?

DH: Very much so. As I try to point out in the book, the culture industries are very much caught up in the search for monopoly rent. It’s interesting that they’re called “industries” these days, which means that there’s a commodification of culture and an attempt to commodify the cultural commons and even commodify history, which is an astonishing process.

A lot of the green stuff is about planting trees and making things look greener. But I’ve yet to see a really radical reconfiguration of urbanization that would really confront the questions of global warming. So the liberal view does that, but what it doesn’t pay attention to is the tremendous social inequalities that exist. In New York, the social inequalities are dramatic, and we have huge concentrations of what we call precarious and insecure, employed people in these cities. In a way it’s an urban proletariat that is engaging in the production and the reproduction of urban life, and I don’t see the liberals taking any notice of that as being a problem. I mean, the levels of social inequality in New York City are far, far greater now than they were 30 years ago, and I would not be at all surprised to see an urban insurrection going on over those levels of inequality.”

“DJ: There you argue that Murray Bookchin had a more reasonable answer to the problem of how to organize for large-scale reform, given the limits of horizontal, anti-hierarchical political structures.

DH: One of the things I criticize the left for is what I call “fetishism of organizational form,” and it’s not only anarchists. The communist parties of yore used to have a democratic centralist model from which they would never depart, and it had certain strengths and it had certain weaknesses. Now there are certain elements within the anarchist movement that now believe totally in this horizontality idea and will not contemplate anything that is hierarchical. So I say, “Well, look, you’re disempowering yourself by sticking to that as the only organizational form which is viable.”

Again, there are certain anarchists who think that it’s reasonable to negotiate with the state or to try to reform the state and certain anarchists who say they want nothing whatsoever with anything that looks like state power. I have problems with that. My concern would be to say, “Let’s try to think of an organizational form that can confront the nature of the problems that we face,” which include, by the way, the one that you talked about earlier about the global nature of the struggle. You cannot imagine that we could simply have socialism in New York City and nowhere else. We’ve got to start thinking about all of the international relations and international divisions of labor and the like. So I’m more concerned with finding a practical form of organization, which can confront the nature of the problems we face, and I find that these rather dogmatic assertions by the communists, on one hand, and some of the anarchists, on the other, that “This is the only form of organization which is acceptable” get in the way of a fluid discussion over what would be a good form of organization for political mobilization right now.

DJ: Do you think that we’ve come to any sort of promising conclusions about organizational form, or is this a debate that needs to take place over the course of many years?

DH: Oh, I think it’s a debate that’s unfolding, but it can unfold very rapidly. I mean, there are places in the world where people seem to have found ways to pin together both the horizontal and the hierarchical. I mention the case of El Alto in Bolivia, where that seems to have happened. There are other cases; I’ve been very impressed by the example of the Chilean student movement, which is very democratic and horizontal but at the same time accepts that there is a need for decisive leadership. As more and more models of that sort come to our attention, I think that more and more people will start to converge on a practical organizational form. At least that’s my hope. And I think what I was trying to do in the book was to contribute to that process by both critiquing fetishism and then talking about examples where it seems some mixture of organizational forms has been very successful.

DJ: Now that we’re in Spring, people in the Occupy movement are wondering, “Where do we go from here?” Can there be an Occupy movement without occupation—without actually occupying public spaces? It seems as though occupying public spaces is a very powerful form of protest that has succeeded in Egypt and elsewhere. So why not just continuing occupying?

DH: Well, I think there are intermediate forms of it. One example that I was talking about with some people the other day is the Madres de Plaza de Mayo in Argentina who, instead of occupying all the time, turned up once a week to a particular space to demonstrate over the question of what had happened to their disappeared children and grandchildren. Of course, they suffered a great deal of police harassment and in some cases violence, but they just kept coming there every week. We could do something like that: we could go to Zuccotti Park once a week and say, “Look, we are still here!” It could be a visible thing. Some weeks, there’d be 500 people there; maybe occasionally there’d be 5,000 people there. But if it became a tradition, that once a week we all went there to reassert the significance of our political movement, then this would be a very good step.

I think that one of the problems we have in New York City is that we have a vast amount of public space in which the public is not allowed to do what it wants. We have to liberate public spaces for these sorts of common political actions, and this is one of the arenas of struggle.

DJ: In terms of changing our politics, are there any steps that you think are promising? For example, some critics, such as Lawrence Lessig, point to money in politics as a central problem. There are others who talk about how we need more participatory democracy in place. Is there a political step that you think will make progress?

DH: There’s a political step that I think that we should take and be very clear about. This is what was so impressive about the Chilean student movement. They recognized very clearly that the situation they’re in was defined by what happened under Pinochet. Now Pinochet is dead, but they’re still living with the legacy of Pinochet. What they are struggling with is what you might call “Pinochetism.” In this country Reagan is long gone, but Reaganism has been doubled down on by the Republican Party in particular, but also accepted by large chunks of the Democratic Party. So we’ve got to go after Reaganism. In Britain, Thatcher is long gone, but we’ve got Thatcherism. In Egypt, Mubarak is gone, but Mubarakism is still there. So we’ve got to go after the systems of power and the systems of appropriation of wealth that have become pretty universalized right now, and we’ve got to see this as a real serious point of confrontation. As Warren Buffett says when asked if there’s class struggle, “Sure, there’s class struggle. It’s my class, the rich, who have been waging it, and we’ve been winning.” Our task, I think, is to turn it around and say, “His class shall not win.” And in order to do that, we’ve got to get rid of the whole neoliberal way of organizing contemporary capitalism.“
davidharvey  2012  capitalism  urban  urbanism  economics  democracy  cities  davidjohnson  henrilefebvre  righttothecity  anticapitalism  neoliberalism  politics  policy  liberalism  class  classstruggle  pinochet  warrenbuffett  chile  inequality  thatcherism  margaretthatcher  activism  murraybookchin  argentina  bolivia  ows  occupywallstreet  culture  society  green  greenliving  progress 
27 days ago by robertogreco
About Litmap
[See also: ]

[via: "This brilliant mapping of Sebald's The Rings of Saturn by @barbarahui shows/ tracks the multiple, frantic displacements of the journey, allowing you to zoom into the landscape but also see its global connections.
Key viewing for #TheReadingsofSaturn
Here: " ]

"I created Litmap as part of my Comparative Literature PhD dissertation project. It's a digital map that plots all of the places that are mentioned in W.G. Sebald's novel, The Rings of Saturn.

Litmap is featured in the documentary Patience (After Sebald), directed by Grant Gee. You can also read about the project in this New York Times ArtsBeat post.

If you'd like to read more about the theoretical context for Litmap, following is something I wrote in 2009 to explain the project in the context of my dissertation.

Litmap was created with the goal of enabling humanities scholars to read literature spatially – a mode of reading which I believe to be crucial to understanding contemporary literature and textuality at large today. The Litmap application aims to leverage the strengths of the digital computing platform to present literary narratives in a way that opens up spatial readings of those texts.

If you'd like to read more about the theoretical context for Litmap, following is something I wrote in 2009 to explain the project in the context of my dissertation.

Litmap was created with the goal of enabling humanities scholars to read literature spatially – a mode of reading which I believe to be crucial to understanding contemporary literature and textuality at large today. The Litmap application aims to leverage the strengths of the digital computing platform to present literary narratives in a way that opens up spatial readings of those texts.

What is meant by spatial?

Taking up the call of spatial thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre, Edward Said, Edward Soja, and Doreen Massey, as well as literary “cartographer” Franco Moretti, spatiality is here conceived of in all of its conceptual complexity. This includes a consideration of the geospatial shape of the narrative, i.e. the contours that emerge when the place names mentioned in the texts are plotted on geospatial map image. It also includes attention to the more subjective, slippery—yet no less real—spatialities at work in each narrative, including the scale of global and local place, and the networks of colonialism, imperialism, migration, language, and media that exist across and between those places. The project seeks to represent and examine these networks as they exist in and around literature. Indeed, the network emerges as a crucial spatial paradigm for understanding contemporary narratives.

What is meant by geospatial?

By definition, geospatial is an adjective used to describe or denote data that is associated with a particular location. This is geographical space and place as conceived of in a positivist, empirical way. In other words, the earth is thought of as a spherical surface on which one can plot any location with a certain degree of mathematical accuracy using, for example, numerical latitude and longitude coordinates. The use of numerically precise data means that a range of geospatial calculations can be performed on a given geographical dataset. This is typically carried out via the use of Geographical Information Systems (GIS), or computer software specializing in the processing of geographical datasets.

Given the utility and free availability of geospatial applications like Google Maps and Google Earth, GIS technology and its attendant geographical representations are becoming rapidly entrenched in our cultural consciousness. Those of us who live in well-mapped locales and have access to networked personal computing technology are growing accustomed to viewing and navigating our surroundings via the use of these geospatial applications.

What is meant by network?

As with the concept of spatiality, the network is here conceived of in both concrete and abstract terms. It includes not only physical networks (wired communications networks, transportation networks, etc.) but also the colonial, imperial, migratory, and linguistic networks constituted by the movements of people, goods, and ideas across geographical space. Additionally, it includes imaginary networks such as those that exist in Stephen Hall’s novel The Raw Shark Texts in which people throw off both tangible and intangible linguistic traces of themselves, and are hunted down via this stream of bait by terrifyingly real yet otherworldly “primordial thought sharks.” In Hall’s novel, each person’s linguistic output is conceived of as a fundamentally material extension of the subject. Litmap allows the reader to map both the concrete geospatial aspects of the novel (“Hull, Leeds, Sheffield” (104)) and also the “un-space” that exists within its spatial imaginary: a labyrinth of tunnels underground, and a trip to a parallel thought world.

Networks are in the general sense “an arrangement or structure with intersecting lines and interstices resembling those of a net” (“Network, N,”). At the interstices exist the nodes of the network. This paradigm of the network is recognizable in many contexts. On geographical maps, the lines are the railroad tracks, roads, and flight paths; the nodes are the stations, villages, towns, and cities (i.e., geographical places) where those lines intersect. The Internet is of course a famous example of a communications network. An early Internet map shows connections between different locations “on the network”: the lines represent data wires, while the nodes are the locations at which those wires meet and the digital data they carry is processed.

The kinds of networks illustrated via Litmap are numerous, with each narrative containing one or often multiple networks, each of a unique configuration. Depending on the kind of spatial information given in each narrative, these networks are plotted with varying degrees of geospatial precision. Sometimes it is possible to map a piece of literature almost entirely down to the street level, while at other times the text requires much more subjective and abstract spatial renderings.

What is meant by place?

In keeping with spatial theorist Doreen Massey, I contend that places be defined as the nodes that are constituted by the intersection of multiple lines or paths of social networks. As she describes it:
[W]hat gives a place its specificity is not some long internalized history but the fact that it is constructed out of a particular constellation of social relations, meeting and weaving together at a particular locus. If one moves in from the satellite towards the globe, holding all those networks of social relations and movements and communications in one’s head, then each ‘place’ can be seen as a particular, unique, point of their intersection. It is, indeed, a meeting place. Instead then, of thinking of places as areas with boundaries around, they can be imagined as articulated moments in networks of social relations and understandings, but where a large proportion of those relations, experiences and understandings are constructed on a far larger scale than what we happen to define for that moment as the place itself, whether it be a street, a region, or even a continent. (28)

Thus places denoted by markers on map images are not fixed, immobile, bounded entities with unified histories, but rather dynamic, socially defined “moments.” While it is true that each latitude and longitude point would still exist on the map without an attached pin (or place), it is crucial to understand that these mathematically-defined coordinates do not give place its particularity, nor did that place as place exist a priori. Rather, it is the fact of the intersection of various social networks at that location which give it its very definition as place. As Massey argues, localities do have specificity, but – and this is crucial – they are defined on a far larger scale than that of their geospatially immediate bounded surroundings.

The built-in ability of digital mapping interfaces to zoom in for a local view and out for a global view, coupled with the ability to programmatically draw connecting lines between places based on certain predefined criteria, make for a platform inherently adept at representing the local-global, networked nature of space and place that Massey so compellingly argues for. The user of Litmap can therefore zoom in to examine the particularities of a place mentioned in a text and then zoom out to look at the way in which it is connected to other locations within that text’s spatial imaginary.

Works Cited
Hall, Steven. The Raw Shark Texts. New York: Canongate, 2007.

Massey, Doreen. "A Global Sense of Place." Marxism Today June 1991: 24-29.

“Network.” . Def. A.2.a. The Oxford English Dictionary. Web. 28 October 2009. <>."
litmap  barbarahui  literature  digitalhumanities  wgsebald  theringsofsaturn  maps  mapping  space  spatial  geospacial  networks  doreenmassey  stevenhall  geography  books  gis  henrilefebvre  edwardsid  edwardsoja  francomoretti 
july 2018 by robertogreco
Toward a Poetics of Skateboarding | The American Reader
"But for all of its private jargon, skateboarding’s poetry has never been linguistic. It is forever embodied and also, though this is difficult to speak of seriously, spiritual. How else to explain its appearance in Uganda without even a single retail outlet to support it? In fact, the only conveyable language of skateboarding, outside of participation and socialization in the activity itself, has always been spoken through film.

In broad terms, skate media splits time between documentation and advertisement, and their commercial evolution has skewed ever more crass and spectacular. Recent work from select video artists, however, attempts to confront the activity’s basic mystery and meaningful meaninglessness. Non-skateboarders have tended not to look very closely at these films. They mostly do not care. Skateboarders meanwhile care far too much to care exactly why. In any case, it’s here that an attempt toward a poetics of skateboarding must begin."

"Nor can we call such an effort unselfish. My own struggle with the mystery of skateboarding began five years ago, fifteen after I first stepped onto a board, when I began work on my second novel. The problem I encountered was that none of skateboarding’s confectionary can or should be dismissed. Speaking technically and contra Ian Mackaye, skateboarding today is a sport and a hobby both, along with countless other things: a therapy, an obsession, a conservative anti-drug. In its basic meaninglessness, skateboarding has become the tool that takes the shape of whoever’s hand it’s in."

"What in those first years had fit awkwardly into a de facto rubric of athletics—a sport to be timed and judged for athletic merit—became in the 1970s something more rhetorical. The ethos was the punk scavenging of revolution by way of repurposing. Whatever prefigurations of the object we had seen, never before had they been deployed creatively. To speak in China Mieville’s terms, what emerged was something counterposed to the comfort of the uncanny. The activity, new, unrecognized, and bounded only by imagination, was abcanny."

"While the basic spirit of skateboarding might have remained constant since the addition of polyurethane, the marketplace around it quite obviously has not. Now and once again the importance of skateboarding in our time is on the increase. Today, it is on Fox. It is on ESPN with real-time algorithms for evaluating tricks. Once more the marketplace would have us comprehend skateboarding as a sport.

We know on first glance that skateboarding, in its dominant form of street activity, stands apart from ball and net athletics. It seems uninterested, too, in velocity and stopwatch performances. But the first challenge to the rubric of sport begins even lower, at a semiotic level. You and I could, if we wanted, go and shoot lazy jumpshots on a netless schoolyard hoop, or go to the driving range and smack buckets of balls into the green void. We can take our gloves to the park and throw grounders and pop flies and apply tags to invisible runners. But for any of these to qualify as “basketball,” “golf,” or “baseball,” we would require the structure of competition and order of rules.

Systems such as these have no bearing on skateboarding, of which even the most negligible acts, no matter how brief or private, simply are skateboarding. Consider: between my home and the nearest skatepark is a well-paved boulevard with sewer caps embedded into the blacktop every half block or so. A source of joy for me is to push down this boulevard and pop tiny ollies over these sewer caps, sometimes barely scraping my tail, other times popping hard and pulling my knees up to my chest. These are not tricks proper, just ways to see and engage with the street’s reality. This is not, as athletes might call it, practice; I am not training for a future event. It is travel, yes, but the joy has little to do with the scenery or distance covered. In the purview of skate competition, this pushing down the boulevard, the single most fun I have in any given day, is not a scorable act of skateboarding. It is worth zero and it is worth everything.

In a world increasingly data-driven and surveilled, skateboarding lives beneath scoring and resists all datazation by establishing everything as a performance. It deflects the surveillance state by its primal devotion to documenting and sharing itself, monitoring every possible development, repetition, and failure. It pre-empts the onslaught of observation by embracing it. To pre-empt is to deflect, but also to admit defeat. Luckily, skateboarders are shameless—in this way, they’re the perfect actors to play the role of themselves.

Our potential heuristic now approaches what literary and cultural theorists today speak of, with a smirk, as the so-called authentic self. But a skater, whether standing on his stage, behind a camera, or at a keyboard, sees and thinks and performs precisely as what and who he is. What other memberships function in this or a similar manner? Parenthood. Romantic partnership. Citizenship. Does artistry?


To date, the most complete attempt to theorize skateboarding has been Iain Borden’s Skateboarding, Space and the City: Architecture and the Body (Berg, 2001). Borden, a Professor of Architecture and Urban Culture at The Bartlett, University College London, treats the activity of skateboarding as a Lefebvrian practice with a potential to become its own sort of architecture: not of construction, but by the “production of space, time, and social being.” He traces the history of skateboarding into the 1990s’ street skating movement, and speaks of the way this “oppositional subculture” rethinks architecture “as a set of discrete features and elements…recomposing it through new speeds, spaces and times.” The gears of capitalism create spaces in which behavior is prescribed and easily accounted for. Skateboarding’s opposition is thus a compositional process, partially of the individual body, which is recomposed against the “intense scopic determinations of modernist space,” and partially of a deeper critique of urban life: “production not as the production of things but of play, desires and actions.”"

"By contrast, today’s most compelling skateboarding films aim to capture not only the play of skateboarding, but enact what Borden calls the “positive dialectic that restlessly searches for new possibilities of representing, imagining and living our lives.” The “Panoramic Series” from Philip Evans, for example, relieves the actor from the full burden of attention. Here Evans follows Phil Zwijsen through his hometown of Antwerp:"

"The skater, Austyn Gillette, appears only after the environmental context, resulting in a portrait not of one or the other, but both. The subject is, as skateboarding’s always has been in practice, the interactions between city and individual body. Alongside recent work by Mike Manzoori, Evan Schiefelbine and select others, these films find energy beyond the progressive trickery of athletics, or the documentation of extant geographies. They combine the skateboarder’s practice—creative, productive—with a distinctly non-skateboarding meta-awareness of the activity’s potential for meaning. Their grounding within the geist of skateboarding is obvious: there is nothing a skater spots more quickly than the fraud, or tourist. These are films made by skateboarders who have lived within the activity’s world, and who choose to leverage the activity as a tool to understand itself. How long, they ask, must a toy endure before it becomes something else? What does it become, and does this mean it has ceased to be a toy?"

"Roberto Bolaño called surrealism “something convulsive and vague, that familiar amorphous thing.” If indeed there is ever to be a poetics of skateboarding, familiarity will have to play a role. Suvin argued that science fiction’s value lay in its ability to effect cognitive estrangement. Campbell’s film documents and creates ostranenie by the re-presentation of a familiar world as captured by, and portrayed through, the glance of the radical dreamer. In fact, what Cuatros does better than any film I’ve seen is remind us that skateboarding’s heuristic usefulness is ontological. Its topos is not that there is a world inside the world, but rather: there is a world the exact shape and texture of the world that you know laid seamlessly over top of it, and you, for some reason, fail to see how beautiful it can be.

Convulsive, vague, and conveyed by slidy looks. Campbell’s subject is our ineffable, binding thing, that lurking, trembling essence that he can only render by images and motions of the surreal. The artist whose art was born from skateboarding has made an object about skateboarding that conveys this birth and mode of being. Skateboarding infects the filmmaker infects the musicians infects the viewer. Viewer goes out skating. Skateboarding is self-perpetuating in this way. It is always itself and something else, it is infectious, it is comprehensive and sublatable to the core. This is how the infinite comes to be—once born, skateboarding can never now die.

But the dreamscape of Cuatros Sueños Pequeños is not an expression of this infinity. Rather, it is mimetic. What world is this?, asks the skateboarder. A familiar one we have seen so many times that it’s rendered unseeable. More importantly, what is to be done in it? The answer, like Campbell’s film, is incoherent, and thank goodness. The answer is anything at all."
skating  skateboarding  skateboards  quantification  measurement  urban  urbanism  surveillance  iainborden  meaning  film  video  robertobolaño  thomascampbell  cuatrosueñospequeños  performance  datazation  repetition  monitoring  failure  documentation  process  capitalism  henrilefebvre  space  place  play  culture  movement  infectiousness  inspiration  feral  ecosystems  socialbeing  time  architecture  landscape  kylebeachy  understanding  experience  robertzemeckis  pontusalv  punk  metrics  schematics  markets  poetics  filmmaking  darkosuvin  sciencefiction  ianmackaye  technology  history  circumstance  california  socal  sports  chinamieville  abcanny  zines  creativity  competition  commercialization  commercialism  commoditization  diy  systems  rules  revolution  resistance  practice  authenticity  artistry  philipevans  philzwijsen  colinkennedy  stasis  motion  austyngillette  mikemanzoori  evanschiefelbine  javiermendizabal  madarsapse  dondelillo  cities  meaninglessness  participation  participatory  democracy  tribes  belonging  identity  spirituality  social  socializati 
july 2014 by robertogreco
Henri Lefebvre - Wikipedia
"Henri Lefebvre (16 June 1901 – 29 June 1991) was a French sociologist, intellectual and philosopher who was generally considered a Neo-Marxist.[1] He first coined the phrase The Right to the City as an idea and a slogan in his 1968 book Le Droit à la ville."

"His Critique of Everyday Life, first published in 1947, was among the major intellectual motives behind the founding of COBRA and, eventually, of the Situationist International."

"Lefebvre dedicated a great deal of his philosophical writings to understanding the importance of (the production of) space in what he called the reproduction of social relations of production."

"Lefebvre argued that every society - and therefore every mode of production - produces a certain space, its own space. The city of the ancient world cannot be understood as a simple agglomeration of people and things in space - it had its own spatial practice, making its own space…"
architecture  culture  history  cities  urban  urbanism  marxism  neo-marxism  1968  situationist  space  place  social  meaning  rights  antoniogramsci  spatialization  urbantheory  henrilefebvre 
june 2011 by robertogreco
Of Data Scientists, Big Data, the City and Dancers « Rev Dan Catt's Blog
"Lefebvre…talks about rhythm of cities…flow of people, morning coffee routine, lunchtime decisions…

How people shape the city, the pulse as agents gather together to form a temporary autonomous zone before collapsing back to being shaped by the city. To be not just in the city, but of the city.

I’m not a fan of cities…can’t design for cities as I don’t understand them.

Lefebvre’s writing suggests that to analyze a city you need to have been consum/mat/ed by it.

…same as Big Data. You can’t have someone who’s a “Data Scientist” just turn up & apply tools, clusters & statistics…haven’t been in-it enough…can’t have someone who’s w/in company, understands & feels flow of data everyday, unless…they know how to separate themselves…get outside. When people grow w/ a company, love it, understand everything that it could be, getting outside it is a hard won skill. “Scientist” needs to be able to remove self & apply clear analytical skill, but w/ fundamental understanding of subject."
revdancatt  cities  fata  henrilefebvre  understanding  urban  urbanism  empathy  objectivity  bigdata  datascience  statistics  programming  2011 
june 2011 by robertogreco

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