Deligny's Lignes d'erre

On Urban Trajectology. Algorithmic Mobilities and Atmocultural Navigation (with Andrea Pavoni)

(Submitted to Distinktion. Journal of Social Theory)

Abstract

In this piece, we introduce the notion of ‘atmoculture’ as a conceptual tool to analyse the new forms of mobility supported and enacted by digital algorithms. In historical perspective, we analyse how modernity has created a movement-space where the problem of finding one’s way through an increasingly ‘displaced’ urban space first popped up, with noticeable psycho-social consequences. Reconstructing the new digital media as a continuation of this spatial imagination, we seek to zoom in onto the forms of mobility facilitated by digital algorithms. Urban digital navigation, we suggest, proceeds in parallel with a reorientation of the urban experience towards atmospheric considerations, maximising safety and pleasurableness in the user’s encounters with the environment. In this context, atmoculture appears a spatial-aesthetic, psycho-cultural, and bio-technological milieu that prepares space for convenient navigation. We discuss a number of consequences: first the disburdening effect, whereby subjects delegate to a number of perceptions and decisions to algorithms, expropriating the natural problem-solving aspect of subjectivity; second, the invisible transformations of urban space due to the biases and skews that are built in algorithms themselves; third, the tensional, even contradictory outcomes of atmocultural expectations, whereby the goal of a secure and pleasant environmental interaction is undone by the very quantity of information provided and the level of alertness required from the user.

 

Keywords

Spatial perception; Urban mobility; New media; Hodology; Urban Navigation; Urban atmospheres; Atmoculture