This week was a deep dive on heterotopias, utopias, dystopias and megastructures as ideological art.

All illustrations are taken from Rem Koolhaas’ Exodus, or the voluntary prisoners of architecture

Pinterest and visual research here

The biggest breakthrough came in the discovery of Rem Koohaas’ graduate thesis - The Exodus, or the voluntary prisoners of architecture. The Exodus is an ideological city – a counter cultural, speculative place that is at odds with the globalising, standardising forces of the ‘outside’. It is a voluntary prison that resists the emergent culture of its time. By inverting the role of a prison, he created a site for an upheaval of normative society where the wretched is glorified and norms are inverted. The prison becomes the ‘free zone’. A melting of existential space with ideology.

This project, in the words of Koolhaas, is a proposition that requires ‘a fundamental belief in cities as the incubators of social desires, the synthetic materialization of all dreams’.

However, I propose that this has shifted towards networks and cybernetic systems as the incubators of desire. Which brings me to the question - what would a software architecture against the capitalist surveillance economy look like?

A No Like Zone

A piece of software disconnected from the newly forming global megastructure. A means of revealing, satirically the current state of affairs. A digital space in opposition to the singularity of individualism but also the fatigue of it. In opposition to innovation culture, creative rule breaking and relativism. In opposition to the corporatized rhizome of literalized 1960s postmodernism and its content sharing tools and networks. In opposition to the development of unique ‘subjectivity’ only to mine these subjects for data points. In oppositions to hashtags and corporate green washing. In opposition to efficiency. In opposition to quality content. This is a No Like Zone. This software architecture has no concept of the surveillance mechanisms, no drag nets, no google play areas and no apple stores or innovation hubs.

The structure of Exodus may be instructive here. Koolhaas describes 10 square zones – all of them are programmed spaces where people exist in a narrative beyond the capitalist apparatus. Each zone carries some kind of character in opposition to symbolic connotations of globalising forces which are the ‘outside’ to this inverted ‘inside’.

Since Koolhaas, the meaning of an ‘outside’ of a capitalism has shifted. The digital labyrinth cultivated by platform economies has its own totalizing character. It feeds off specificity of subjects, and encourages us to share thoughts, feelings and desires for its functioning. It needs ‘rich’ datasets from its citizens. It will create interfaces for this expression where people don’t feel inhibited. It will offer an increasingly hyper-individualized, irresistible content vortex for us to inside. Irreverence, rule-breaking, resistance and organizational practice are all recorded, documented and amalgamated. The political reality is being eroded.

Interview with Martin Scherzinger

MCC professor Martin Scherzinger on his piece ‘Executing Machines’. This excerpt follows from a conversation about how digital technologies weaponize human desire in the service of creating rich datasets.

Martin: Cultures of computing and consumption enjoin new sublimated energies in the service of data capture and harvest. The capitalist surveillance economy requires richly data-fied subjects for its efficient function… This points to the limits of Foucauldian take on the problematics of the state of surveillance and panopticon. We are now in a state of addictive habituation. The externalisation of personalised desire.

Sam: Before you were talking about the excess of data. Are you talking from perspective of capturer or creator of data?

Martin: By both perspectives actually. The creator of the data, the adopter, the person behind the screen (“Like a skin to be touched” as Alex Galloway nicely put it). Every paranoid fantasy gets play – just enter it into interlocutor. The rank of statistically organized stories that will not only confirm your paranoid fantasy but will educate you in it. From a psychoanalytic point of view its interesting, not just the externalization of the Id but the education of it. This is a new way of interfacing with the world.

And from the perspective of Experian, Oracle, Axiom – the big data brokers. I’m less interested in the argument that data fails to capture the complete individual than I am in the new behaviours one is enjoined to from the excess of data. These are behaviour modification companies.

Sam: Where is the excess being driven from? The desires within ourselves.. The weaponized experience design?

Martin: To have data that ‘works’.. something that is richly informed you don’t want to have people presenting themselves in a socialized way. You want to see something behind the scenes. Something that would be relevant. You want to know if they promise by the word of God.

You need to create interfaces where people don’t feel restricted. To enrich the dataset. The data becomes weirder. People are watching the market, bubbles and bursts, seemingly external data that have nothing directly to do with financial information, to get ahead on that is the name of the game. There is an entire set of problems that comes with that. The point for the externalization of desire is that you require a richer dataset. You don’t want them to feel restricted, cautious, compromised anything like that.”

References An ideological city: Koolhaas’ exodus in the Second Ecumene by Teismann and Matthew (2017) Exodus, or the voluntary prisoners of architecture by Koolhaas (1972) Of Other Spaces: Utopias and Heterotopias by Foucault (1967)