25. Flyposting Is Illegal

May 20th, 2011 | spirit tracks

Flyposting is illegal. Google Maps pins and AR anchors are not.

Cognitive cities require the approval and collaboration of city authorities. The same people who make flyposting illegal.

Spirit roads were overlaid on folkloric paths believed to be travelled by ghosts. It seems oddly apt to me, here in our hauntological future condition, that we might superimpose ghost traffic on our real roads.

Opening the streets to spectral detournements, applying digital sandpaper to the real world, and the fictions of ARGs, Alternate Reality Games. Pirate broadcasting from the husks of old buildings again, like those Essex nutters sending pictures to televisions at four in the morning.

Mediated by ghost boxes, enabling near field instrumental trans-communication with the world of the invisible. Electric scrying pools, a glowing screen for conversation with the voices of the other side.

24. Report On The Situation Of Constructions

May 19th, 2011 | spirit tracks

It’s why some of the digital cities rhetoric is turning more and more to evangelism, partnering with civic authorities, trying to influence the actual owners of bricks and mortar and street furniture. Explaining it. Giving the gift of the digital city to our ruling classes. Which is many places isn’t getting further than, say, publicly posted building permits in New York City having QR codes printed on them. Which will be great until someone steals the permit to make a crack pipe out of it.

Those RFIDs won’t be ours. They’ll be corporate agents of one kind or another. There’s an artist who’s recently made small ripples by cementing USB sticks into the exteriors of buildings, but any intervention will remain on that fairly tiny scale.

Any physical intervention.

23. Whose Streets

May 19th, 2011 | spirit tracks

As I was working on the first draft of this, students were tearing through central London en masse and yelling “Whose streets? Our streets!”

Journalist Laurie Penny was out in the middle of them with a phone, reporting in through Twitter. I was keeping an eye on Twitter as I wrote this, actually, so I could shout at Laurie (who has the self-preservation instinct of a lemming dipped in vodka) occasionally. (She recently cited me in an interview as a provider of “avuncular advice.”  She did not add that she never fucking listens to it.)

And it occurred to me that they’re not our streets. In the sense that we can’t build in them.

22. Psychosonic

May 19th, 2011 | spirit tracks

The ghost box is also a symbol of hauntology.  Ghost Box is the name of one of the pre-eminent music labels associated with sonic hauntology: a music that traffics in the ghostly, in the peculiarly unsettling early electronic music of the Sixties and Seventies, in the strange common culture of 70s British television, in the ejecta of the collision of the rural and folkloric and the electronic and modern.

One touchstone is the children’s tv series THE CHANGES, where a return to primitive non-technological life (or perhaps Terence McKenna’s much-discussed notion of an Archaic Revival) is triggered by the emitting of psychosonics from those great rusting pylons.  The sound makes people want to smash technology, and, after everything has been smashed, the pylons are so repulsive to people that they’re driven (down old tracks?) into the countryside.

(I like to think of Jack Schulze cowering under one, yelling “No!  Fuckers!”)

The music for this series was created by Paddy Kingsland, of the BBC Radiophonic Workshop.  He joined the Workshop in 1970.  Delia Derbyshire was still there, not having yet flown off to become, among other things, a radio operator.  Not quite having closed her first career in music, but getting there.  She’d been a catalysing point for electronic sound in the Sixties.  She’d talked to Pink Floyd, the Beatles, the Stones, and apparently had an orgy with Yoko Ono and other persons unknown on her own living room floor.

“I was always very generous in telling people everything I knew,” she said.

And when everyone knew everything she knew, it seems that it was decided that there was no great use left for her.  And so she left, to become a ghost of electronic sound for some twenty years.

21. Conversations With Things

May 19th, 2011 | spirit tracks

You know what a ghost box is? They pre-date EVP. It’s said that Thomas Edison tried to make one once. There’s a whole community of ghost box makers on the net today, right alongside the ghost detector people and the Instrumental Trans-Communication people (add ITC to EIF and RFID). A ghost box is an electromagnetic device for communicating with ghosts through radio waves. Some ghost boxes claim two-way communication, in fact. Conversations with things that are not alive as we commonly understand the word “alive” to mean.

I imagine most of the people here at this conference in Berlin have one of those in their pockets.

And by “conversations with things that are not alive” and all that, I don’t mean phone calls with family members and dumped boyfriends.

That’s a bit of a mundane digital-city future, though, I suppose – having to communicate with the ghosts through a glowing box. And also a bit expensive for many city dwellers, I would think. Although possibly I’m just cheap.