[-empyre-] Week 4 | Flow and Real Time in the Urban

Shama Nair shama at bicar-india.org
Fri May 28 00:32:23 AEST 2021


Hello everyone,

I’d like to thank Renate and Patrick for sharing this space with me. I’ve been following the exchanges here with great fascination and I’m happy to share my response to this month’s theme of Flow, Impulse, and Affect in Real Time.

I’ve always been deeply fascinated with our relationship with cities and architecture, and now, under Rohit's mentorship at BICAR, I’m forming my research interests in urbanism and critical theory more concretely. Keeping in mind the theme of our discussion, I’d like to think through and hopefully hear some of your reflections about the temporal experience of the neoliberal metropolis or ’smart-city’. I’m thinking about Flow in terms of movement (eg. ‘flow' of traffic).

Often, we find ourselves describing a city with reference to its ‘pace’ - eg. a city I’ve known for a long time, Dubai, as ‘dynamic, fast- paced, accelerated’. These words, through rampant advertising, quickly form the meta-narrative of the city on an international platform and we tend to internalise a lot of this too, even if it’s at odds with the way we experience our day-to-day, on ground. Does this conditioning impede our ‘impulses’ as city-dwellers?

As for individual experience of ‘real-time’: How might two strangers experience time while moving from the same point A to B - where on the vertical axis of the city’s architecture do they live? Street level or in an apartment complex? How fast are each of their elevators? Do they have to take the stairs? Do they have to wait for a cab or bus or walk to the metro station? Do they drive? Do they carpool? Do they try to avoid tolls? How does the constantly shuttling between online and offline shape our perception of time? How do these different time-maps coexist and how do they create conditions for alienation? Whose experience is privileged and why?

This may be slightly unrelated but perhaps someone else may be able to make a more cohesive link to our theme – but, I also find interesting the lexicon of time and what cognitive linguists might have to say about the way ‘fast’ words (quick, brisk, speed, accelerate, and such) shape our individual behaviours and experiences in late capitalism. Along similar lines, Researcher & UCL Professor Mathew Beaumont in his book The Walker: On Losing and Finding Oneself in the Modern City (Verso, 2020) talks about how our pace influences the way we experience the city on foot. To quote:

“Brisk’, a word which first crops up at the end of the fourteenth century in the Old Welsh form brysg, ‘used of briskness of foot’, as the OED states, implies industriousness, purposefulness, busy-ness. In short, it means business.”

“People’s most ordinary mode of perambulation was reshaped by the discipline of capitalism. Business required busy-ness, briskness.”

“Hurried or brisk walking, to polarize rather crudely, marked one’s subordination to the industrial system; sauntering or wandering represented an attempt, conscious or unconscious, to escape its labour habits and its time-discipline”

Here are just some of my opening thoughts but I aim to return with some refined reflections on ‘flow and impulse’ soon.

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p.s - 

Dear Rebecca, thank you for sharing your thoughts on Flow and Real-time in Pandemic-time, I really enjoyed reading your post. I also came across the ‘Augmenting the City Together’ Keynote for ‘Game of Cities: Culture, Participation, Democracy’ on your website but unfortunately, the Youtube video is unavailable. I’d love to learn more and perhaps think about your work in urban studies in relation to our theme.

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