Friday, March 24, 2006

Infomobility and Technics

The (re)production of territories -- Marrakech, Morocco 5/05/05

What is really at stake are the radically new possibilities of
projection that are offered by digital devices of tertiary retention.
If what we are dealing with is nothing else but real space, it must
be an extension of the device by which the world projects as

The places I visit become "smart" by virtue of my presence. I bring
information with me to this place, and this information mediates my
experience; the territory surrounding me serves as surface of
projection for data. I am sitting inside the mud-brick ramparts of
Djemaa el-Fna square in Marrakech, surrounded by a jumble of
storytellers, jugglers and snake charmers. In the stall beside me, a
woman pulls a raw sheep's head from her bag, skewers it through the
eye socket and rolls it across the grill. The intermittent song of
the Muezzin (Arabic call to prayer) sounds strange to me, and the air
is filled with a mixture of French and Arabic, neither of which I can
understand. I have no guide book, and I cannot find my way out of the
labyrinthine medina. Yet I am not lost; using GPRS roaming, my device
brings access to directions through the cobbled streets and alleys,
to an explanation of the song in my own language.

Every street and building has a layer of virtual graffiti I can
summon in an instant; my experiences will in turn be archived and
will form part of this collective inscription. Although I cannot see
these records on the walls and artefacts around me, they are not
immaterial; they "cannot be accessed except via the mediating
processes of the devices that represent this information" to an
otherwise unequipped consciousness. Using my device, I retrieve
243 entries for Cafe Toubkal on the East side of the square; if I
squint my eyes I can see it through the jumble of stalls. As I make
my way across the market I capture images of my approach, I rehearse
my own inscriptions in this collection; my experience has been
formulated in advance of my arrival. In this sense, the place I am
approaching is already the future anterior, it is already memory. A
mobile device promises not simply, or not only, perpetual
connectivity; it promises access to this sedimentary layer of
information that has built up around the globe, and the ability to
add your fragments to it. This exceeds the knowledge of human
individuals, it exceeds the territory it covers.

With every step, I emit a smog of data; my journey is being archived
too. Every few seconds, my device "pings" the network and receives a
response; my location zone is then recorded in a log. I am conscious
that I leave a trail of digital breadcrumbs for Maroc Telecom through
the ancient city, that my position could be triangulated within
metres based on my distance from nearby cell stations. I have become
data "travelling through data landscapes" ; I have become a
roaming subscription number. As my feet slide upon thousand-year old
stone, I am at once travelling through networks and central servers
back in Australia, my details handed on via invisible network
handshakes across the globe, my trajectory recorded. I am not lost, I
am identifiable; I am a string of information events.

As I travel through the city I leave other traces too, traces which
will be incorporated into the global digital retention system. Every
ATM I visit and every credit card transaction I make will be
recorded. But my mobile device is a nomadic object; it literally
locates me within an electronic reproduction of the territory I walk
over.[6] The network coverage area is known as a "footprint", and
like any inscription on real space it has finite physical limits and
dimensions; my trail through it will be marked as one marks the
surface of page. At the same time, this data trail I am creating is
already memory; by the time the network locates me, I have gone.

On the opposite side of the round world you are asleep now, and your
device will vibrate silently with the video I have sent.

Belinda Barnet



Post a Comment

<< Home