2018 Dean’s Honor Symposium: Do You Know Where You Are I The New School

2018 Dean’s Honor Symposium: Do You Know Where You Are I The New School


– Collette Brooks, I’m the faculty advisor to this dynamite group of
presenters, who are a part of the Dean’s honors
symposium, which is something we do every year, and it’s
becoming more and more important as we get further
and further iterations of it. This group, Julia Foote, Miriam Powell, and Dominique Flaksberg
did not know one another until January, ’cause we started to meet. So just think about that,
they have so much in common but they didn’t know it,
and this is a way of getting students together. We would like to thank a
special group of students, for the first time, first
year students attended some of our rehearsals and gave
us really valuable feedback, along with the faculty
advisor, so in a wonderful way, the first year students can
kind of imagine themselves in these seats in a couple of years. Alright. I’m just gonna talk louder. The first year students are
Stella Moranos, Alyssa Salas, Madison Crips, and Andy Kane,
along with their faculty advisor Megan Milks, and
if they’re in the room, I’d like them to stand. Big shout out to these guys. (clapping) Thank you. Alright, without further ado. – I am above it all and
at the bottom of the sea. – [Julia] Sprawling,
centerless, between locations, but of none of them. – [Miriam] I am cool, sleek,
invisible, untouchable. – [Dominique ] Fluid,
flowing and transformative. I am present in all
motion, transformations and cycles of the earth. – [Miriam] I am completely
enclosed, yet I am always open. Bits of information
circulating, constantly. – [Julia] I am hearth
and home, the family dog, and the automobile. – [Dominique] I am the
beginning and the end of all that leaves. – [Miriam] Warehouses of metal
boxes, wires, and cables. – [Julia] Conformist and
repressive, I am full of boring people and boring houses. – [Dominique] Misplaced and
displaced, but never interrupted from my course. – [Miriam] I am a broad
network of distributed power, concentrated in singular, remote sites. – I have been hidden under
pavement, and cursed as flood, burdening traffic and terrain. – Dangerous, haunted, my empty
streets and tracked homes invite the potential for evil. – [Miriam] Highly
centralized, and essentially dematerialized. Networked, repetitive, and technical. – [Dominique] But I persist,
as a blessing to the earth, and as an this incurs for
those who build barriers to navigate in the pavements above me. – [Julia] I am the perfect
lawn, the happy family. – [Miriam] I am the data
center, I am the cloud. I’m a material reality of a digital world. – [Julia] I am the suburban
home, I am the American dream. – [Dominique] I am the rivers
hidden under your feet. Do you know where you are? Welcome to Hidden
Topographies of Everyday Life, and we got some zines
that are on the chairs, so if people can look through,
we have a little bit more information if you feel
like you’re getting lost, or wanna hear, learn a
little bit more of what we’re talking about, you can
always go through the zine. So, my name is Dominique
Flaksberg, I do a degree in Global Studies and Fashion
Design, and I actually started this project when
I went abroad to Bhutan a couple of semesters ago
and I was looking around and was really impressed by
all the mountains that I saw, and people around me
asked, well aren’t you from Sao Paulo in Brazil, aren’t
there a lot of mountains there? And then I realized I know
nothing about the city where I grew up in, and that
made me start researching what was the environment that
I lived in, why did I grow up in this big city and didn’t
know it was surrounded by rivers and mountains. So my research started like
that, and by researching the hidden rivers in the
environment around me, I navigated this project and
started to look at political and social implications of
these urban constructions, and urban movements in
cities, which brought me to collaborate in this
presentation, with my two friends that are gonna introduce themselves. – So hi, I’m Julia Foote,
and for my senior thesis project, I’m looking at
horror film and using it as a way to look at
suburban culture in the US, which has been a lot of
fun, and I’ve been spending a lot of time with the
suburbs in reality, on film, and in our shared cultural
imaginaries, and one thing I’ve noticed through doing that is that, actually, my cards are out of order– (laughs) through doing that I’ve
become particularly interested in the pursuit of the
American dream on film. So, what it looks like to
be a good suburban family, as well as what it looks
like to fail at being a good suburban family. And it turns out that the
pursuit of that, and the pursuit of the American dream, especially
on film, involves a lot of hiding some things, while making
other things hyper-visible. And that element of hiding
and making hyper-visible is the part of my thesis that I’m sharing with you guys today. – Hi, I’m Miriam Powell,
this is my third year at The New School, and
in my time here I’ve had the tremendous privilege
of being able to explore a variety of interests and
inspirations across a wide aray of disciplines and media,
and one of those, at a very broad level, is understanding
how particular politics and relations of power may
be inscribed onto the surface of the earth, through the development of material infrastructure. The piece of infrastructure
that is of interest to my project that I’m presenting today, is that of the data center,
which like the sites that my co-panelists and
I have all focused on, may broadly be understood as hidden. So, just to make the conversation
as inclusive as possible, I wanna give my very
un-technical and unsophisticated understanding on what
exactly a data center is, which is basically that,
despite the immaterial rhetoric that often surrounds the
internet, for all of this data to remain in circulation,
very material electrical firings have to take place
somewhere, and the data center is effectively a
warehouse, storing servers, where these electrical firings take place. And I think the first way
in which the data center is hidden, is just in
it’s very nature in that it’s often a very isolated site. So these are very far away
from where we typically work on our laptops, rather
often in ambiguous locations that are hard to identify,
and when I first became interested in the data
center, I decided it would be really exciting to be able
to pursue this research in person, so I sent a handful
of emails out to all of the Google data center locations
in anglophone countries and asked if I might be
able to come and conduct some of my research, and I
received a lot of very polite declines, which kind of
reminded me that, while our data flows freely, our bodies
are restricted from entry. And the language–
– You have to click one more. – Sorry, wrong way. The language of these emails
particularly struck me, especially as this phrase,
the industrial nature and security of operations,
which for me, is kind of a, puts forward a kind of
strange dissonance between the nature of these sites,
or what the nature of these sites is claimed to be, and how
these sites are represented, even by the companies that
facilitate the operations of these sites themselves,
of particular interest here, like those of Google. So, what interests me in
particular about how Google represents its data centers,
is the kind of almost submission of the data center
to it’s natural surroundings. When you first go on
Google’s data center website, you’re met with this very curious phrase, where the internet lives. And yet you are constantly
given these photos that don’t focus on the
data centers too much, but often present a landscape,
a beautiful expensive blue sky that looms over this
piece of built environment. So for me, that begs the
question of where does the internet live? And what exactly do they mean by live? So understanding that kind
of fundamental dissonance in representation, I’m also
inclined to think about what I, I’m inclined to
consider misrepresentation, in the kind of broader
rhetoric, surrounding internet infrastructure, which is the
Cloud, and how this constant invocation of the immaterial
and ethereal, serves as another layer of occlusion of the
absolute and physical. And even something as benign
as a Google billboard, for me, serves to further
occlude the material realities of production, maintenance and
usage of these technologies. Kind of becoming a third
layer of hiddenness, on top of this infrastructure,
which is the data center. – So, when I started thinking
of hiddenness in my project, I was looking at the rivers,
and a little bit of background, I was looking at Brazil, and
more specifically Sao Paulo, which is the blue dot in
the first map on your left, and more specifically than that,
in the center of Sao Paulo, which is where I’m from. And as you can see, there are
a lot of rivers in the city, but as I mentioned earlier,
I didn’t know they exist. And the first step of my
project was understanding why. So when my grandparents were
kids, and lived in Sao Paulo, this is the kind of rivers they
had access to, so they could swim in it, there were
sports clubs around it, and it was somewhat clean
for leisure activities, but through the process of
urbanization of Sao Paulo, a lot of the original rivers
got channelized and became basically bases for big
roads, so as you can see, in this line, the blue lines
would represent how the river would used to look like,
and it essentially lost it’s natural curves, and
became this very efficient space for a road, in which
the city could function. So in the process of
urbanization, the natural state of the rivers was the
first thing that got lost. The second thing that
got lost, is it’s waters and how the water is navigated,
because a lot of trash gets thrown into the rivers,
and then an environment in which you could swim and
have recreational activities, became this thing that had
a really heavy negative meaning to it, which was
of rivers being polluted and dirty, and not smelling really well. So that’s a picture of how
the rivers could look like today when they are being
cleaned, and they’ve been trying to clean it for a
long time, and of course we don’t have the resources
for it because they keep polluting them on top of that. – Alright, so I’m looking at
hidden spaces in the suburbs. Suburbs are very old
things, both as concepts and in practice, but for my
project, I’m specifically looking at the suburbs
that came up in the US post World War 2, because
I think those have a very special importance in the
cultural imaginary of the US, and they’re the ones that
you most often see on film, and I’m looking at horror films. So, suburbs after World War 2
grew in part because there was a housing shortage in
the US after World War 2. One of the remedies to this
housing shortage was government funding, both for the
construction of suburbs, and for loans for people
to buy suburban houses. As part of this funding though,
the government was pretty conservative in what types of
suburbs they wanted to allow to be built, because they
wanted them to keep their value for a long time. So the government only funded
suburban homes that were of particular architectural
styles, the ranch house was particularly popular, and
they also were only giving loans to, or mostly giving
loans to young, white families. So you had the emergence of
this very specific suburban environment across the US,
where you had a specific topography of the suburbs,
and you also had very specific demographics for the suburbs. And with the emergence of
this topography, you also had a specific set of discourses
around the suburban home and family, that you saw emerge. Many of these were
actually carried through from the Victorian era,
so since the Victorian era in the suburbs, you would had
the idea that the home was a womansphere, and she was
supposed to keep the home, and raise the children
and instill good morals in the children. And the home was supposed to
be able to reflect this job of the wife, of the mother. The home was supposed to be
an architectural expression of family togetherness, in many ways. One way we see this during
post World War 2 suburbs, was in the growth of the family
room, which didn’t really exist as a room before then. The family room was in
the center of the house, and it was mostly for children to play in, though it was also multi-use. Mothers were supposed to
be able to see into it from the kitchen, because you
also had a growing interest in open plan housing at
the time, and the neighbors were going to be able to see
both the mom and the children, because you also had
the growing popularity of picture windows. So everything was visible, and
specifically what was visible was a good family, and a
well structured family. And this is the beginning
of the hyper-visibility of certain spaces, which were
also meant to make visible the well structured family. But in the face of this,
you also see the request for more private spaces,
so you have interviews with suburban moms from the
time saying there’s not enough private space in the
home, I have nowhere to go to be alone. The family, especially the
suburban family, can’t always be the well structured,
morally good family that it is meant to be,
and this imperfect family needs it’s own space, as well. For parents, this could be
the bedroom but not always, and that’s only one room of the house. And so you have this very
specific dynamic emerging in suburban space where
the good family is in the hyper-visible spaces of
the house, and anything that must be hidden, is put
in the private spaces, which is something that we also see in suburban horror, interestingly. So, how does hiddenness function? We’ve taken you through
different hidden spaces, from the global scale,
to the scale of the city, to the scale of the
neighborhood and the home, but our next question is,
what does that hiddenness do when it is in practice,
what is it achieving and what does it look like? So for my suburb stuff, I’m
turning to film to get into the role hidden places
play in the suburbs. I find that horror movies
are a great way to read cultural narratives, because
they give a place to our fears. They make concrete things
that might only be abstract in their terror, and
they give us a playground for these horrible things to play out on. Horror movies in particular,
also love suburban spaces, love hidden spaces. They love suburban spaces too. So my question was, what are they doing with these hidden spaces? It’s a really common trope in
suburban horror to have things in the walls, or hid in attics,
or things in the basement. And so, what’s happening there? To answer this, I wanna
turn to a movie I’m really fond of, which is Paranormal Activity. It’s set in a suburb somewhere
in California, it’s vague. A young couple lives there
called Micah and Katie, and they’re tryna build
a happy, suburban life, but they’re being haunted by this demon, unfortunately for them. Paranormal Activity’s also
super useful, because it all takes place inside the home. There’s one establishing
shot of their suburban neighborhood, and for
the rest of the movie, it’s all found footage style,
just inside their house. So you really get into
the home, and the family, and the way they interact. The pivotal space for Paranormal
Activity is the bedroom, this is where most of the
haunting of Micah and Katie happens, and it also
represents everything we know about them as a couple,
as our protagonists, that they’re young, they’re
happy, they’re suburban. That’s them. So Micah maybe likes his
camera a little too much, they like their objects and
their technology too much, but they’re a couple
that we’re rooting for. As the movie progresses, their
relationship deteriorates, and in tandem, we also
start to see new parts of the house emerge. So, in a scene I particularly
love, one night the demon wakes them up in the middle
of the night, and they go down the hallway to their hall
closet, and they find an attic in their house that they
didn’t know was there. So that’s the attic. Micah goes up into the
attic, and it’s super creepy, but there’s nothing
there, except for a photo of Katie as a child. And Katie says that’s
impossible, that shouldn’t exist, my house burned down as a
child, we lost everything. And this is how it is
revealed to us, the audience, and to Micah, that Katie
has actually been haunted by this demon since she was
a child, and it burned down her house, and she never told him. So she’s been keeping
this big secret from him. And what I find particularly
interesting, is that her secret is physically hidden in the
home, and it’s been hiding alongside something horrific in the attic, which is something we see
throughout suburban horror. Hidden spaces hold secrets
about someones past, about the houses past, or
about an element of the family dynamic that ultimately
destroys the family. Which ties in to what we
were saying about the suburbs before, about hidden spaces
being the spaces of failure. So, yeah. (giggles) – Alright, as Julia has
wonderfully laid out for us, hiddenness not only is often
a formal characteristic, but serves some kind of a function. When viewed in isolation, the
hiddenness of the data center may be easily disregarded. I’m not so much interested
in where each data center is, but rather how they connect
to each other despite their apparent hiddenness and isolation. After all, it’s not solely
data centers that are internet infrastructure, but also
countless miles of fiber optic cables, spanning under our
feet and over ocean floors. So towards the end of
envisioning that network, I wanna kind of shift gears
to where this project actually all started for me, with
Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic dome, particular, it’s application
in the US pavilion at Montreal expo67. So, in his book Last Futures,
Douglas Murphy describes how entering this dome, it
kind of seems to dissolve into it’s natural surrounding. And for me, this description
immediately conjured images of the crisis of enclosures,
that Deleuze describes in his post script of
societies of control. But for me, the geodesic
dome isn’t interesting only as a visual metaphor for
the relations of power characteristic of the society of control, but also as a hypothetical
diagram of the networks of cables that span our
globe, and the many points that they connect. So for me, it’s important
when discussing the dome, to recognize the military
applications, that it was ultimately put to use. If only to raise the question
of how seemingly utopian technologies might be put
to more insidious projects. Towards that end, I think
it’s useful to observe that the distance between data
centers and the populations they connect, are not
as equal, nor as short as the distances of
metal bars that comprise the geodesic dome. Indeed, I’m inclined to think
that as part of the work of globalization that
takes place elsewhere in the data center, that
sight ultimately is complicit in the lubrication of
global flows of capital, and thus the deepening
of global inequalities. After all, the data
center would be useless, if not for it’s connections
to sites like the global city. – So, Miriam and Julia talked
about how hiddenness function in their projects, and I think
a really interesting point that they both mentioned, is
that hiddenness has a point of failure, wherever
there’s a hidden space, or a space that you can’t
access, there’s something implied in there that we don’t
understand, and by understanding that this hiddenness exists, we can get to understand something. In the case of the rivers of
Sao Paulo, the same happens. By understanding that the
rivers exist in that space, and they are hidden, you get
to realize all the implications of the urbanization of the
city, and all the failures that came with that. So, in this slide you can see
a picture of how Sao Paulo got constructed and colonized by Portugal, the people that lived in
the city in the process of urbanization, had a
really Eurocentric mindset, and believed that the city
should look like a European city. It’s pretty, it’s beautiful,
it’s civilized, it’s developed. So the model in which the city
was developed, was not really focused on the rivers, which
is the mode of transportation that for example, indigenous
people that were there before, colonial dispossession occurred. So instead of following the
rivers for transportation, and to use for water and grow
food around, they decided to follow centric model,
that went from the center of the city, and sprawled
around, which was what Europe was doing. Which brought us to a
city that caused a lot of, that looked like this. So roads would go through
the water, and around it, rather than the water being
used for transportation, which would have been a more
sustainable eco thinking, in current vocabulary to describe. So this is how the city
looks like, and you can see there’s one river in the
city, and we actually have two main rivers that are
visible, but all the smaller ones are not, so how do I
knew about the existence of two of the rivers,
where are the small ones? Why aren’t we seeing them? And how do we happen to see them? So again, you can see in a
very short amount of time, two generations, a river that
went from a leisure space, even though it was already
modified from it’s natural shape, became this polluted,
very unpleasant space that people would just in
contrary, were in traffic going back home, or going to the airport, or just walking through. There’s roads that got
built around the rivers, and over the rivers, and the
city model that completely ignored the natural environment
around, causes a lot of problems in the city,
which are visible today. One of which is social
inequality, because you build the roads, and you build
the center of the city, and you have most of the jobs
there, but a lot of people can’t afford it. So the roads are built,
so people can access it, and well, that brings a
lot of traffic as well, because there’s a lot of lack of planning. This is a very well known
picture that shows the barrier between a favela on the
left, and a very expensive building which is just one of the examples of how this lack of infrastructural
planning considering the environment can cause
people to live in different situations, which also
bring us to reflect, why do we have to have a center of a city and not a city that
revolves around it’s waters, and has other kinds of structures. So how does the hiddenness of the rivers become visible then? If the rivers are there and
this whole infrastructure has been built, but most
people don’t know about it. This is an artist
installation by Eduardo Srur, and you can see more of it in the zine, but he basically installed
this kayaks with mannequins in the middle of the trash in the water. Signaling attention to,
as I mentioned before, a leisure space, that was now
unused, and couldn’t be used. A lot of urbanists, activists,
artists, and education, people working in education,
have been reflecting about these rivers and
why are they misused, and how can we change that? The picture on the left, and
the picture on the right, were taken about 30 years
apart, but both show floods. Floods are the main way in
which the rivers are noticed in Sao Paulo, but the
language used around it, it’s really interesting. People say wow, our tunnels
and our streets got flooded by the water, but the
water was there even before the city was built, so
a lot of these activists are reflecting on ways we
can change our vocabulary about the water, so instead of
saying the river is polluted, or the river made traffic
worse, it’s well, the traffic is worse because the
planning of this road was not in the place that was not
convenient for when floods happen, ’cause floods are
always gonna be there, they’re apart of nature. And as humans, we often fail
to acknowledge what came before our existence, or what
came before our existence as it is. So another example would
be in colonial history, and how indigenous people
in the area were using the rivers, and working
in accordance to them, rather than ignoring them
and then blaming them in the future. This is one of my favorite
pictures of the projects I’ve been researching,
is this activist movement called Rios e Ruas, Rivers
and Roads, and what they do, it’s a lot of geographical
and activist work to bring communities to understand
where the rivers were. So for this one, they
got people to walk around the city carrying this
huge blue fabric to show where the rivers would have
been if they were existing there, and that makes people
understand the environment better, when to care about
it, and even start thinking of ways in which they can
bring this water back, and pollute it less, and
get in contact with the few parts of the city where
you still get a little bit of river in. So those are some other
pictures that show some of the projects. The drawing that you can see
on the part, is this amazing illustrator that re-imagined
the city, and how it would be leisure wise and if we had the
rivers, so this is a tunnel that right now it’s
covered, but what if it had a swimming pool? Her name is Angela Leon,
and as I mentioned before, education, pollution, and
other kinds of activism which are amazing ways to
build community and help people realize the
existence of the rivers, even before we got colonial,
indigenous dispossession and colonial presence. – So, making things visible. In many ways, horror is
what makes the hidden spaces in the suburban home visible,
and at the end of my last section, I was talking
about how horror does this, and I said that suburban
horror really shows us these hidden spaces, and
this dark side of the suburbs that we don’t see in other places. But one thing I want to pull
out about that, is how much suburban horror leans into
that fact, and leans into the edginess factor, and
the coolness factor it gets from saying, we’re the only
place where you can see the American dream be
destroyed, and the suburban family fall apart, and we’re
showing you how these things don’t work. But, if you look at the
structure of a lot of suburban horror films, something more
interesting is going on, which is that these films
aren’t critiquing what they say they’re critiquing. In suburban horror, families
often seem like they’re being punished, they’re going
through these horrible trials, and they spend the whole
movie dealing with it. But what I’ve noticed,
is that they’re often not punished for trying to
achieve the suburban American dream, they’re punished
for doing so incorrectly. So to go back to Paranormal
Activity, Micah and Katie are a nice couple, they’re a
little boring as protagonists, but we’re supposed to like them,
we’re supposed to want them to be able to live their
happy life in California, and to not get eaten by a demon. And the movie really isn’t
challenging our desire for things to go well for
them, it doesn’t want us to not want them to be happy,
and it’s also not challenging the idea that going well for
them, having things go well, means them living a good
suburban life, and being able to fulfill that dream. Instead, the movie shows us
the ways in which they fail at achieving that dream, they
keep secrets, Micah likes using his camera too much,
and it’s actually a whole plot point that the demon
gets riled up by the camera, but Micah won’t stop using it. And so in this way, we as
audience members, are not supposed to take away from the movie
that the suburban dream isn’t worth it, we’re
supposed to take away that these are the ways at
which you mess up in trying to achieve that dream,
and we shouldn’t do that. Which ties into something
broader I’d like to point out, which is that the US, broadly culturally, loves to critique its suburbs. The first suburban development
of the type I’m talking about, was built in the late
40s, and already by 1955, we had The Organization Man
come out, which was one of the first books to critique
the suburbs, and to say everyone’s the same there
and it’s really boring and it’s a terrible environment. And I think a lot of the
critiques of the suburbs are really valid and should
be made, and that we should be critical about the suburbs in the US. But I also think that only
focusing on the critiques is a little hypocritical, because
if we also look at the US, broadly culturally, we love
our suburban environments, and we’re really attached
to them and to the idea of the perfect family
and the American dream that can be achieved there. And it’s important to
acknowledge this, this duality, even in horror movies which
claim to show us the destruction of the American dream, in
most cases they’re actually reinforcing the importance
of chasing that dream. All of which ties more broadly
into narratives we tell ourselves about where we
live and why we live there, and what we want out of
those spaces, which I think is present in all of our
topics, it’s how we figure out the world we live in. – Speaking about love and
attachment, I think it’s useful to point out that
when internet infrastructure functions correctly, we’re
not inclined to be aware of it’s existence. When my WiFi is perfect, I
don’t think about where it comes from, it’s only when
a certain failure happens, as we’ve seen with rivers
and with suburban horror, that these infrastructures
are called to our attention. It’s only when a power line
is knocked out by a storm, that I’m inclined to think
about the broad networks that my apartment is connected to. So, as much as the failure
I think is an active site where hiddenness may become
visible, but the very nature of the fact that it is
meant not to happen. It’s not very useful for a
more perpetual revelation of these hidden spaces. Towards that end, I’m often
interested in thinking about the data center in terms of heat. The fact that these sites
are sites of electricity, sites that omit energy,
so maybe this poor shark biting a fiber optic cable on
the bottom of the ocean floor, sensed that electricity and is
more aware of the functioning of these internet
infrastructures that even I am, sitting on my laptop in my apartment. Still yet, for the most
part, we’re left wandering in the Cloud, often inclined
not to make connections between it and the infrastructure
upon which it depends. And again, I think as
Dominique demonstrated with the rivers, this project
has shown to me that it’s largely an active effort of
investigation and reminder that makes these hidden
spaces more visible. So I think for me, this project
is about calling attention to these sites, and their
application in daily life. Learning to see what isn’t
visible, and I think it can be an incredibly broad project,
even of just reminding ourselves of conditions
like these, when we operate in conditions like these. (laughing) So with that, I think we’d
like to open it up to broader comments and questions from the audience, but first I’ll take a crack
at this question we all find ourselves landing on,
perennially, of well then, what do we do? Which for me, implies a
set of other questions. Namely, do we need to do anything? And firstly, does hiddenness
need to be made visible? And obviously these are
questions that are very difficult to answer, but for
me, they bear some thought, especially as Greenpeace has
reported in 2017 that the I.T. sector alone consumes 7%
of global electricity. Considering the fact that
the internet accessing public is a relatively small minority
of the global population, it’s important to think
about these imbalances and what we might understand
ourselves as wanting to do about them. I think towards that end,
we’ve all brought up access, kind of implicitly, in our
projects, as even the idea of hiddenness itself,
implies a certain exclusion. – Yeah, and also the idea
of hiddenness and one of the questions we asked
ourselves a lot throughout the project was, if it
becomes visible, if we show hiddenness, what do we do
with that in the sense of, can we do something about
the places where we live? Do we know where we are? Can we get to know where we are? Can we reflect upon the
spaces we are and change that, so the hiddenness can maybe
become visible in a way that doesn’t show a
failure, but a solution. And that’s something that
could also, that was also a point of reflection and
discussion in our projects. – Yeah. So if you guys have questions or comments. Yeah! – [Audience Member] So I
think for your, both of your topics it’s very clear that
it’s something that has been brought by society, or
it’s come from old ages that effect the river, or you know, it’s in bad society. But your topic is very new,
so should have been planned, organized and understood. Did you look into this
piece on your hidden, because this is
uncontrollable, I don’t know if uncontrollable is the
word, the correct word, but it’s been there for
many years, but you know, data centers is kind of
newer compared to those two. – Well I think perhaps
interestingly, as new as the data center might seem, it largely
depends on infrastructures that have been in place
for over 100 years now. The same, the first cables
that were laid under the ocean are still largely in use,
and even new fiber optic cables that are laid today,
largely follow the same patterns, in a wonderful
book, The Pre-History Of The Cloud, it’s laid
out that often data centers occupy sites that actually
were former infrastructures like warehouses, even
military sites that have been put to many other applications,
and I think it’s worth baring in mind that
history in the contemporary functioning of the data
center, that despite it’s presentation as something
that is so new and defies all of these past inequalities,
and especially in terms of the internet, promotes
this utopic vision of connectivity, it largely
reinforces the same inequalities and distances that have
been in place for centuries. – Didn’t know that.
– Yeah! – [Audience Member] I have
a question regarding yours. I mean, the internet, it’s
not new, it’s like 1950’s or project or something,
but I have been thinking, I’m thinking, have you
considered the new happenings, like Facebook, Russian bots,
everything that is being brought to light now,
and how that might impact your research and how to,
or if, just how you might gather that into your
research moving forward. – Yeah, I guess, I mean
I think it’s difficult not to be an internet user
today, and not constantly be presented with
questions about new media, and how it informs our
relations to each other, and how it informs our daily goings on. I guess for me, this project
is emphatically focused on the data center and
material infrastructures of the internet, because
I find them so absent from those conversations. Of course, I think those
conversations are really important and I would love
to spend more time thinking about how these two sides,
well not necessarily two sides, but rather how the entire
internet functions, but I haven’t put in too
much thought yet to linking those discussions to this
discussion of infrastructure. – [Audience Member] Just
move down this row here. So, I was really interested
to see how you guys interwove all of your presentations,
and I’m wondering if you guys could talk a little bit
about the way in which the different scales
that you’re working at, and the very different disciplines
that you’re working in, helped you each understand
your own work, and also help develop that notion of
hiddenness, and if there’s things that particularly were
moments where you thought, oh okay, that’s similarities
I never would have thought of, how did that work out in
terms of the way that you’ve been working together? – Yeah, I think the idea of
hiddenness and it’s presence in all of our projects came up
fairly early in the semester. We’ve been meeting with
each other since February, and that was one of the first
similarities we talked about between our projects. I think what’s been striking
to me, in terms of finding similarities, is that the
similarities keep coming up, and things that Miriam and
Dominique have said about their projects, have shaped
the way that I’ve seen my own research, and elements
of hiddenness in the suburbs, what they’ve said about
their projects has brought me a lot of new ideas on that. So even today, in the
middle of your presentation, the way you were talking
about language and how we say the river is polluted, rather
than we polluted the river, it’s this interesting thing
where we create these hidden spaces and then when
they fail, we blame them, instead of talking about
how those came to be. So when the hyper-visibility
of suburbia fails, we talk about the families
failing at it, rather than it being a space that allows no privacy. So those kinds of connections
have been coming up a lot, it’s been really rewarding. – As Julia mentioned, we got
to the first time we met, and we just introduced our
projects really briefly, and as the meetings went
by, we started noticing the similarities and it
was this open conversation where we were able to link
different parts, and understand that how things we were
interested in, in our project, were interesting from other perspectives. And I think we all got to
know our projects better by looking at what the
other ones mentioned about our projects, and
then the title, I think, was what linked it all
together when we were like, oh we’re all talking about
these spaces that we are not sure of, and do you know where you are? So that was how we got there. – [Audience Member] Domi, you
spoke about colonization a lot and language, and also coming
from Brazil and everything. I was wondering, there’s a
part of you guys presentation, where you talk about
what now, and what to do, and how to move forward,
and if decolonization, because Brazil’s very
vast, and it still has a lot of waterbeds and rivers,
so what are your thoughts regarding the protection of
these waterbeds and rivers that are still open for protection? – I focused specifically
in the center of Sao Paulo, which is already an urbanized
area, exactly because I knew I couldn’t talk and represent
the entire country of Brazil, because of course there are
areas that are protected, and areas that are being, I
would say attacked, right now. But I decided to work in
an urban space, to reflect it backwards, so it’s not a
place you can avoid urbanization in because it’s already urbanized,
so can you re-urbanize it thinking about sustainable
ways to go forward. So the damage is already
made, in a sense, but can we go forward instead of
following this line of thought of urbanization, and rethink
how we urbanize spaces and how are these spaces
being used, and how are we educating people about these spaces. So yeah, I’m actually really
interested in how to bring indigenous voices to this
issue, and I had an interview with one of the founders of
Rios e Ruas, Rivers and Roads, which is this movement that
I’ve been researching a lot, and he mentioned that
there’s a conversation he couldn’t add to his educational yet, because he said first you
have to educate people about what they can see,
and what they can’t, do then bring the historical background. So that’s the next step that
a lot of these activists are working on.
– Thank you. – [Audience Member] I
just wanted to first say, that I thought all your
presentations and projects were really interesting,
and I thought even more so, the intersection of three very
seemingly different things was really interesting. But like you were just
saying, all your presentations really got me thinking about
how there might not necessarily be things to do about a
lot of the hidden things that we see, but how exposing
those things and making hidden things visible might
actually help us do better going forward, and I just
wanted to say that, again, I thought it was really
interesting, thank you very much. – [Panelists] Thank you. – [Audience Member] This is for Miriam. Do you think that one way
or another, the location of the data centers kind of
replicate the power dynamics of North, South? Like the places that
most of the data centers are located at. – They certainly are, I
mean I think certainly those kinds of lines tend to blur and are difficult to draw. I guess on a more site
specific level, they certainly, in my opinion, emphasize
dynamics between rural and urban spaces, in that another funny
phrase that really caught my eye when I was looking
through the Google data center website, was that they
constantly are saying, they always will have a little
blurb about the data center, and why this location, and
it’s like, available workforce, energy infrastructure,
and space is constantly coming up too, so I think
certainly most of their data centers are located in
the US and in other parts of the global North, they
do have one in Chile, one I think… But they are mostly in
very industrialized spaces, but they certainly reinforce
power dynamics between urban centers and more
industrial, or even rural areas. – And even access, right? If most of the data centers
are located close to the North, then who has more access to
internet and to faster internet? I think that also comes into it. – [Audience Member] This is for Dominique. I don’t know if you’ve done
research here in Manhattan, but have you heard of the Minetta Creek? – The?
– Minetta Creek? – No. – [Audience Member] You
should definitely look it up. I mean, it’s just interesting
thinking about where we are right now, and literally in,
I don’t know, one mile radius from here, there used to be
this creek which flowed out into the Hudson, and just
thinking about what it’s done to change the landscape,
and just the urban area of Greenwich Village and West Soho. – Thank you.
– Just look it up, it’s cool. – Thanks. – [Audience Member] This
is directed towards Miriam. Thinking about, your whole
presentation struck me as a little Marxist,
thinking about materiality. But how can we maybe, thinking
about public discourse, on what do we do, maybe
we could think about, how do we talk about the
technocrats, for example Mark Zuckerberg, who’s on trial right now, in sort of public imagination, and potential sites of resistance? – Yeah. Mark Zuckerberg freaks me out. I just, like a week ago,
my Facebook was deactivated for like a year, and a
week ago I logged back on to officially delete my
account, which by the way, is a really difficult thing to
do, they make you go through a number of sets of questions
to confirm that you don’t want to deactivate your
account, you want to delete your account, and then
they finally tell you that it may take up to
14 days for your account to be deleted. Yeah, and this whole free basics thing, where Mark Zuckerberg is
trying to give the internet to the world, but then
the internet is produced as Facebook. Also, on a side note, I’m
from Hawaii, Mark Zuckerberg just bought like a hundred
acre estate on Kauai, and sued people for just
crossing it to access the beach. (laughs) Not a fan, generally speaking. Yeah, technocrats in the
public imaginary, I don’t think I have necessarily an
answer to your question about how we might
re-contextualize them as figures to resist, but I don’t know,
maybe sharing my own opinions about Mark Zuckerberg has kind
of indicated the direction we might go. – [Audience Member]
Congratulations you all, on such a great presentation,
really, I mean it was so amazing to see the way these various sites weave together. And I’m thinking, Dominique,
about something you just ended with, about the kind of productive
potential of hiddenness, and I’m thinking about James
C. Scott, who says something to the effect of ideological
resistance can best happen when hidden from direct surveillance. And I’m curious as a kind
of departure, a next step, how you guys can think of
hiddenness as somehow productive? Especially in line with
Cambridge Analytica, and things. – Can you repeat just the question? – [Audience Member] Well,
you mentioned something about the kind of productive
potential of something being hidden, right? And I’m curious if you
guys had any discussions about that, or maybe as next steps, right? To look at the other side
of something being hidden. – We talked a lot about what
to do next, and if something needs to be done to
get these hidden spaces to be not hidden any more. I think it’s different
in each of our projects, for example, Julia talked
a lot about horror movies, and more of a reflection of it. I focused a lot personally
on activism, and on talking with this different
agents, and I’m actually for my thesis for Global
Studies which I’ll finish this year, I’m creating
a magazine that’s gonna connect all those agents
and bring a platform for community activism. So, yeah, my answer, in my
personal project would be community organizing and
bringing agents of design, and architecture, urbanism, geography. People with different
backgrounds of knowledge, and ideas of how to create
action to be organized together, and create a
community around that. – I do think, also, that
the idea of hidden spaces as useful spaces, and as
spaces to be preserved, is a really interesting
one, and one that we didn’t get to address, I think,
in our topic, but one that I know for me, has been
coming up personally, so even in the realm of
horror film, hidden spaces are often where the monsters
are and the end goal of the movie is often
to reveal those monsters and then to destroy them,
and I love studying that, but then also on a personal
level, I’m immensely fond of monsters, and often
when watching the movies, I feel an affinity for them,
and I’m like oh, I don’t want the monster to die. (laughs) So I think that’s very
theatrical and in the realm of fiction, but I think
there is something to be said for the value in hidden
spaces, and also the room for difference that
something being hidden can allow, kind of the
space for different things to grow. When everything’s visible
all the time, I think there’s much more of a pressure
for it all to be similar, or to be more normative. – Yeah, I think there is
absolutely a productivity to hiddenness, I mean,
as an internet user, I call into existence,
the data center every day, and I wouldn’t necessarily
want to give that up. I think our question of how
is hiddenness made visible, isn’t necessarily a demand
that hiddenness must be made visible, and all hiddenness
must be abolished, but rather a question
to kind of just wonder about this hiddenness,
and how it’s functioning, what kinds of hiddenness might we imagine, and what kind of productivity
might those generate? – [Julia] Yeah, and to
what end is it functioning. – [Collette] Thank you so much, we have to let the others go. Thank you so much.
– Thank you! (clapping)

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