Mediated Urbanity and Disruptive Perception

Abstract: Paul Virilio was one of the first scholars who raised the issue of accessing the urban or “entering the city,” and this showed us that the city and/or urbanity is not limited to a geographical site, but a temporal regime sustained through telecommunication devices. Another important, yet possibly inevitable, point that he makes is how this relates to a radical break in other aspects of everyday life—how this radical break challenges representation systems and leads to a “crisis of modernity.” Virilio points to a transformation of Agora in which commerce, politics, and other social activities took place. However, today, the social functions of such space is carried by the space of the screen. Virilio also points to the transformation of social surveillance; in an urbanity without geography, public surveillance takes a different form—it now depends on the organization of movements, rather than territorial control. In this sense Architecture does not relate to topography and geographical sites anymore, but instead becomes a practice of organizing movements in time. Virilio discusses a fundamentally different condition dominating our life-world today, in which “depth of time” replaces “depth of field”. Now, “events happen in time,” rather than “things taking place in space”. In order to be able to create such sense of “ever-presence”, televisual communication devices have to offer a high level of representational power, or a “higher resolution” as McLuhan would call it. These new representational technologies bring a whole different set of perceptual challenges, through which Virilio discusses a new ontology—the experience of reality, cognition and memory. Using Virilio’s rich and dense scholarly work on urban design and cities, this paper will explore contemporary media technologies and our relation to representations in modern cities, as well as the experience we can possibly have with reality itself.

Key words: media technologies, perception, culture, urban studies