Who can judge water better than a fish (with abstraction abilities)?
Dernière mise à jour : 27 oct. 2020
A kinaesthetic approach to space.
By introducing the hypothesis through the point of view of a physiotherapist the author directs us toward a kinesthetic approach to space, framing it within the domestic scale.
I tried to explore a similar example of “choreography” at the scale of the city.
Citymapper and the expected city.
Like a stage director, our mobile tells us how and when to move, by granting us access to increasingly accurate predictions. This guides our speed, trajectories, the position we stand in on a platform. From an object fitting inside our hand, we are given an ability to grasp infrastructures at the scale of the large metropolis.
This can be considered a major improvement, granting optimal comfort, better time management, fluidity, avoiding stressful situations and bad surprises.
Citymapper, How to get to...
What could we be losing in the process for a less troubled life?
The name of the collective the author is part of and presenting here, Constant, made me do an association with eponymous Dutch artist and the work of his movement : the International Situationists.
Building the field that they named Psychogeography, they set a series of experimentations exploring the way that a geographical environment dialogues and affects individual behaviours. One of their main works revolves around “The Theory of the Drift’ (La Théorie de la Dérive, 1956), a way of negotiating with the urban space, through unplanned journeys where they would "let themselves be drawn by the attractions of the terrain and the encounters they find there".
The Naked City; Guy Debord and the Situationists, 1958.
The drift theory is meant as a playful experience, and places encounter and chance in the center of an improvised choreography.
Leaving aside any preconceived idea or constraint with the city, the participants would start drifting according solely to the geography of the urban landscape, their emotions and feelings.
Transport apps are likely to be the exact opposite to this radical approach.
Could we be witnessing the death of randomness, surprise and coincidence?
We won’t be learning by practice, by our repeated movements, but by knowledge and predictions, dictated by an application carried by each individual. Our bodies won’t be learning by progressively getting accustomed to a path, a recurring situation, by getting into a habit, or choosing a non linear, non optimised trajectory within a city.
Our senses might become less alert, to the sound of a train approaching, the vibration of the ground announcing its arrival. We won’t be unfolding maps to plan a journey, and be able to locate it within a territory, nor getting lost and discovering a beautiful road we never would have noticed.
This echoes both parts of the text “A fish can’t judge the water”. The first one that depicts the disappearance of materiality and the importance of being aware and critical when this vanishing occurs. And the second one about the political importance of Open Source, that while not allowing seamless experiences, offers freedom and possibility to be an enlightened actor of our actions and creations. Where mistakes, bugs, and imperfect practices benefit creation and thinking.
The ideas developped in the text could be read also for physical objects that have always been defining our surroundings, and the way we "negotiate" with it.
We would consider a city well designed if the infrastructures disappear to allow for a smooth experience of the city. Every design, at every scale, has always had a part of knowledge that escapes to the users, we are not all civil engineers, architects, planners... They have also always been very political, rigid, decisions, that influence the way we live and move around our homes, our buildings, and cities, and those decisions are imposed on the users of the space. They will have to trust that the ones doing it are knowledgeable enough, and doing their job at their best (best should be defined, in a time when social impact of constructions has been pushed away to the benefit of economic interests). Maybe the changes occuring in the technologies that are filling our "milieus" could be a great opportunity to become more enlightened users, and practitioners.
The text sounds as much as a warning as a way of inviting to shift our attention towards the importance and impact of reflecting upon and creating our tools. At a time of exponentially fast changes, this is a political statement, as every creation is. Training our critical sense, taking a step back, reflecting on things that are being designed for us to forget about them, seems more important than ever.
If the fish had the same possibilities, who would dare to judge the water infront of him?