ME++ The Cyborg Self and the Networked City

A Lecture on Humans and Technology by William J. Mitchell

“Throughout history, humans have created unique physical spaces in which to live, work and socialize. But the digital age has completely transformed the places in which we conduct our affairs, according to William J. Mitchell. We don’t congregate at the town bank any more for financial transactions. We visit ATMs or bank online. Interactions that once required people to face each other now take place via computer, often across vast distances”.

Thanks to MIT World and MIT Libraries for the video and description. They’ve made available a bunch of open lectures in high quality format on this site, which was built by Portland’s ISITE Design.

Mitchell describes the disappearance of familiar public structures like phone booths, as well as the migration of work from office to just about anywhere a wireless connection is possible. As technology becomes imbedded in our lives and literally disappears into the woodwork, Mitchell sees the possibility for new kinds of extended communities.

Network technology has enabled “discontinuous, asynchronous global agoras,” says Mitchell, exemplified by the most recent Gulf War protests. Organizers used digital space (email lists and websites) to help orchestrate public gatherings, which in turn generated images fed back to the Internet, spurring interest in country after country, time-zone after time-zone. Mitchell believes that such networks open up new methods for human assembly and political organization, but also increase the risks to individuals of surveillance.

About the Lecture/Video

  • November 13, 2003
  • Running Time: 1:09:43

About the Speaker

William J. Mitchell is the former Dean of the MIT School of Architecture and Planning. Prior to coming to MIT, he was the G. Ware and Edythe M. Travelstead Professor of Architecture and Director of the Master in Design Studies Program at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His latest book is Imagining MIT, (MIT Press, 2007). His previous books include: e-topia: Urban Life, Jim—But Not As We Know It, (MIT Press, 1999) High Technology and Low-Income Communities, with Donald A. Schön and Bish Sanyal (MIT Press, 1998) City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn, (MIT Press, 1995) The Reconfigured Eye: Visual Truth in the Post-Photographic Era, (MIT Press, 1992) The Logic of Architecture: Design, Computation, and Cognition, (MIT Press, 1990).

Mitchell holds a B.Arch. from the University of Melbourne, an M.Ed. from Yale University, and an M.A. from Cambridge. He is a Fellow of the Royal Australian Institute of Architects and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Mitchell is currently chair of The National Academies Committee on Information Technology and Creativity.

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 29, 2008 at 12:50 pm | #

    Holy Batman. I’ve been reading Mitchell’s book for a while, now. Started with a chapter, then it got stuck on me. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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