Why Cities?

So - why cities, and why is location important?

The last time I produced something on a decently-large-scale, it was shrouded in anonymity, and I couldn't talk about it until it was finished and out in the world. This time around, we're making the process as public as possible, and so I'm going to alternate between 'what we're doing' entries and these contextual pieces. 

So - why cities, and why is location important? 

Well, we're making this in and about a city because we live in one, and it's easier to make work about your doorstep than it is to relocate to a rural idyl. On the other hand, we make our own realities, so the rural life might be just as hectic as the urban one. I doubt it though. 

Cities, though, are little festering hotbeds of connections and creativity. Just walking the streets of a busy urban centre is likely to generate ideas and happenstance moments faster than the non-urban equivalent. Cities are fascinating too. Did you know that time was pumped beneath the streets of Paris in the 1870s? If you want to know what I mean by that, then you'll have to either read PD Smith's astonishing study of the City (called, appropriately enough - City), or you can see if that fact makes its way into these pages fall like ash. 

Cities breed technical exchange. Things happen and change faster in a city than in a town. Steven Johnson talks about this in the opening pages of 'Where Good Ideas Come From', coining it 'superlinear scaling'. A measure of patents and developments in a metropolis demonstrates that individuals are three times more creative than if they lived in a smaller town. 'Great cities are not like towns only larger'. I think that's true for Bristol although, whether it is or not, what we're interested in here is that scaling up and the interconnectivity that gives rise to it.

And I've skirted around 'other cities' for a long time now. The idea isn't new, and whether you look for recent examples - Mieville's The City and The City, Neil's Neverwhere, or head back a little further for Michal Ajvaz' The Other City, there's a pedigree in using 'the place lurking in the corner of your eye' as a frame for storytelling. 

Going back to connections though, we want 300 people (or thereabouts) to take part in this, and if they're connected, at least geographically, then that makes our job slightly easier, or manageable. We want to see what happens when we change your walk to and from work, when we nudge what's familiar just out of kilter a little, when things at the edge of your attention become real. 

And, as is becoming a pattern, a thought:

The absence of what ought to be present is eerie. It's also been remarked that the uncanny is the presence of what ought to be absent. Keep that in mind... 

 

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