Media Ruins: Aesthetics of Neglected Media in the Software City


Session Title:

  • Machine Flaws in Generative Art

Presentation Title:

  • Media Ruins: Aesthetics of Neglected Media in the Software City




  • In Soft City, a personalized account of London life in the early 1970s writer Jonathan Raban stated that “the city as we imagine it, the soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps, in statistics…and architecture.” [1] As global cities aspire to become “smart”, merging technology with urban infrastructure in the interest of increased efficiency and usability, Raban’s vision of the hard city has transformed into the hardware city, and the soft city has become software city — the local, intimate human dimension of urban life now increasingly mediated using digital technologies.

    These comprise the spatial narratives of the city layered over time and place. Cities embed technology into everyday life, aspiring towards a utopian vision of a computational, data-driven urban infrastructure that does not break down. But what if the hardware city glitches or stops working? What would an aesthetics of a flawed, forgotten and neglected media city look like? And what kinds of artistic expressions could be generated from this? This paper will explore how artists use digital media in and of urban space to create poetic frictions between the hardware and software city and challenge us to see what is overlooked. It offers a reading on the creative practices and expressions that emerge between hardware and software city by looking at the work of urban media artists Krzysztof Wodiczko and Refik Anadol.