The Ownership of Physical Space

A year ago I started to look at the value of physical space in relation to digital realities and people’s understanding of “space”.

The question I asked myself is: “Does Walter Benjamin’s flaneur make still sense in the hybrid space?”

The kind of hybrid reality that apps like Detour are shaping helps me in the formulation of an answer. Indeed Detour, app created by Groupon co-founder Andrew Mason, de-tours people in urban space via audio stories that portray buildings in the past. Buildings tells stories about their past, about the people that lived there and, occasionally, they show evidences of it.

Imagine to wonder around urban space, in the same manner Situationists invited citizens, and listen to what the city might tell you about its past. However, will stops be “controlled”? Will hybrid cookies detect detours? Will physical space take us to specific routes?

Will physical space become a physical Groupon?

By means of tangible interfaces – like wearable sor “smart” objects” – the physical and material space behave as if digital.

Recently The Economist published an article reporting the Indian protest against Facebook Internet.org.

The ownership of the hybrid portrays a new colonial stage that doesn’t look strictly at territorial sovereignty, but at the ownership of people’s cognitive processes. The Westphalian treaties that defined our contemporary age move to an ontological territory, which ubiquitously transforms physical space in our understanding of material space.

Space is nonetheless physical, but this kind of physical ontological space is the one we embody. It is the kind of space that makes us entities belonging to a physical world. It is the space that shapes our identity; it is the space that political treaties conceptualise with national borders and with the Romantic concept of nation. It is the space that joined entire communities of people together to fight world wars. It is not “physical” per se, but it is physical in the way we understand it.

2.0 geography is one of the most relevant sciences right now. The understanding of the concept of territory is the topic to look at. It is the kind of space that global corporations like Facebook created via communities of people. It is the space that we dwell everyday, it is the space where we make friends, we meet people, we find new jobs.

It is our nation.