I opened with an image of a city: the fabled greenfield city of Songdo, a lush,
verdant, and simultaneously sterile space, part of a new network of territories
that crisscross the globe. These images (fig. c.1) precisely mirror the market-
ing materials published by Cisco and the South Korean government. The ad-
vertising uncannily resembles or anticipates reality. In these advertisements,
these cities are imagined in any number of locations around the world. They
are to be rolled out as the infrastructures for economic expansion and sustain-
able life. The South Korean government and Cisco already have projects across
Asia in Vietnam, Malaysia, China, and India.
What is so curious about all the images in the marketing for smart cities
is their resistance to being seen— their raw, indifferentiable amorphousness.
What is noticeable is the pure aesthetics of computation. Sleek glass. Pure
transparency. The ubiquity of nonstructures. This is the territory of nonarchi-
tecture. The location of the city, the site, is unimportant. It is hard to know
precisely what is being marketed, except some concept of greenness and the
fluidity of life itself as rendered by a computer. The only thing visible is the
latest software rendering programs’ conventions. That is perhaps what these
images make us “see.” It is clear that one does not need the distinctive hand of
an auteur in these spaces. What is even more curious in the standard visions
of these spaces is that engineers confess that they have little interest or concern
with the spatial form. The conduits and telepresence services, the satellite net-
works, and integrated data analytics instruments that are purveyed by Cisco
can be applied to any city.
These structures, lacking an image or a definitive architecture, actualize
something that the usia installations of the late 1950s already suggest— the
collapse of the visual field, in the name of an attentive and affective global
information- consumer space. Returning to these environments “enclosed
by images,” in the words of the architectural historian Beatriz Colomina, I
am forced to conclude that they are anything but.1 These spaces are occu-
pied only latently by what might be identified as an image of anything; rather,
what they actually do is attenuate the nervous system. These structures en-
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