While “smart” cities and urban “sentience” seem to be products of new networked technologies, our cities have actually been mediated, and intelligent, for millennia. They’ve long been shaped by their roles as substrates for and containers of mediation, and they’ve long reflected the logics, politics, and aesthetics of their prevailing communications technologies. I advocate for an “urban media archaeology,” a materialist, multisensory approach to exploring the deep material history – that is, a cultural materialist history that acknowledges the physicality, the “stuff” of history and culture – of our media cities. This talk offers a preview of Deep Mapping the Media City, a book forthcoming (in March 2015) from the University of Minnesota Press’s Forerunners series, in which I investigate our material urban spaces as infrastructures for mediation, and I propose that archaeological tools, like excavation and mapping, might help us to acknowledge and understand our smart, mediated cities in the longue durée.
Shannon Mattern is an Associate Professor in the School of Media Studies at The New School. Her research and teaching address relationships between the forms and materialities of media and the spaces (architectural, urban, conceptual) they create and inhabit. She writes about libraries and archives, media companies’ headquarters, place branding, public design projects, urban media art, media acoustics, media infrastructures, and material texts. She’s the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with Communities (2007) and Deep Mapping the Media City (2015), both published by the University of Minnesota Press. You can find her at wordsinspace.net.