The dialectics between abstract invisibility and concrete visibility of IT

The Digital Invisibility of Broadband and its Representation in the Modern City by Peter Dobers, Paper presented at 97th AAG Annual Meeting, Session "The Invisible City", February 27 - March 3, 2001 in New York, USA. The paper addresses the issue of the concreteness of IT/digitality, especially in urban settings. The "invisible" character of technologies have always been highlighted: the infrastructure of the Internet is invisible to the observer, since dug into the ground and the information transported on these nets is invisible. Based on these premises, the author illustrates how broadband and digits are represented in concrete and socially infused, indeed personalized, ways, discussing "the dialectics between abstract invisibility and concrete visibility and how each is represented". He then gives different examples of "bits" in "very mundance, everyday human siutations" from swedish commercial and Telia movie clips. These are very pertinent to show "how digits are infused with anthropomorphous qualities to enhance our understanding and attachment to digital technology". The idea of having "bits on strike" is kind of hilarious for that matter.

underground cables, the internets possibly (Picture taken in Geneva few months ago)

Some excerpts that I find inspiring:

"the digits and bits themselves, are rather incomprehensible and therefore invisible to users. (...) Those digits are translations of a situation to which there are no actor that can speak up by themselves (...) [these examples] gives voice and meaning to an invisible part of the modern city, to a situation otherwise incomprehensible. (...) To describe something intangible and invisible as digital information and fast broadband access to the internet, we need to make reference to something else. In this case, something else of the digits of the digital world becomes represented in our world by human beings. These metaphors of humans give sense to a senseless and invisible digital world. (...) Data by themselves can be based on digital rather than analogue media. However, since we live in an analogue world, full of atoms and not full of bits, eventually we need analogue information to reach our senses. (...) It seems that to grasp the invisible, you have to make it visible, and to grasp the abstract, you have to make it tangible and concrete."

Why do I blog this? These aspects are very interesting, from the "hybridization" of space standpoint. It also reminds a talk By Yo Kaminagai (urban designer) about the fact that digitality takes lots of room, and really materialize in space through cables, servers, wiring.