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City of Bits by W.J. Mitchell

W.J. Mitchell writes a collection of future scenes reflecting the impact of the digital telecommunication revolution in his book “City of Bits: Space, Place, and the Infobahn”. The book has seven chapters, each chapter consisting of a variety of short scenes of general architecture and urbanism. I am posting about this book because it has its own writing styles, historical research, and some ideas that have a short-range perspective that provide only a limited look at the issues associated with the network technologies.

It provides future scenes that parallel familiar existing scenes such as digital networks and the post-industrial mines, field, and factories that we now report to. The ‘Net, like railroad which distribute farmers’ products to market and consumers, is the medium for transferring raw bit materials from suppliers to manufacturers of information. In the bitsphere, meeting forums are now despatialized, disembodied, and dispersed with virtual addresses, aliases, and chameleon personas. As Mitchell suggests, these “electronic agoras” escape traditional measures of identity. Discrimination and marginalization, moreoever, evolves in new forms with the rise of digital hermits and new information and communication access structures, erected in the form of PKI, Kerberos, firewalls, etc. After laying out the metaphor of the new bitsphere upon the template of traditional urbanism, Mitchell explores the emergent outcomes of the information infrastructure. While distance communication is enhanced by new multi-model designs that increase interactivity well beyond traditional situated roles, for example, the dark side of technological advancement thrives in new resurrected forms such as lurking telepimps, telethugs, cyberpunks, and cybercriminals. City of Bits is a presentation of ideas that are compatible with the technological artifacts and their potential role in urbanism.

While reading this book , one question slowly comes to my mind. In this era, the world all wired with Internet, why still people want to move to urban places? Do all datas in the Internet keep the life in same quality as a city? I think the reason why people are still eager to move to the urban cities is that they want to be involved in social networking. Even though the Internet has great functions to socialize, the original datas and socializing are coming from the urban places. Still, online datas and physical world has not been connected deeply yet. Many people anticipate that the next generation of the Internet blur boundaries between physical life and online life.

W.J.Mitchell wrote series of telecommunication relating to physical world. It explains thoroughly how some telecommunications systems operate. I recommend the “City of Bits” as a quick read of great writing that may help to unlock the closed mind to the promises and issues of the electronically-mediated future comprised of ubiquitous intelligence- and telecommunication-enabled artifacts.

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