In his new book "Me++: The Cyborg Self and the Networked City", William J. Mitchell tells the story of the reciprocal relationship between man and technology - how one shapes the other in a cyclical and temporal process. These mutually reinforcing phenomena are most visible when looking at design and architecture and their manifestation in cities in particular. The characteristic new architecture of the 21st century occurs at the intersection of three realms: electronic information flows, mobile bodies and physical places. So, what we are experiencing is not the replacement of the physical space with electronic versions, but the sophisticated integration of digital networks within physical supply chains.
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"Embedded within a vast structure of nested boundaries and ramifying networks, my muscular and skeletal, physiological, and nervous systems have been artificially augmented and expanded...My biological body meshes with the city; the city itself has become not only the domain of my networked cognitive system, but also – and crucially – the spatial and material embodiment of that system."
This is the fundamental thesis in Mitchell's book. It largely rests, as he states, on Gregory Bateson's insight that if you want to explain the locomotion of a blind man crossing the street "you will need the street, the stick, the man, the street, the stick, and so on, round and round." In Bateson's view, there is no clear distinction between internal cognitive processes and external computational ones. Mitchell translates this into the present by saying that we perceive, act, learn, and know through the mechanically, electronically, and otherwise extended bodies and memories that we construct and reconstruct for ourselves. And, as we are beginning to see, there is no clear limit to this extension. This is his explanation for why mankind is not only its own bodies, but tightly intertwined with its surrounding technologies: