Urban Heterotopia: Zoning Digital Space

JVF Conference Papers

Today we live in an “era of space” and, as Foucault explains in a lecture, delivered at the Parisian Cercle d’études architecturale on March 14, 1967, this era is an “era of simultaneity, of juxtaposition, of proximity and distance, of coexistence and dispersion.

The world is understood not so much as a big living organism which develops through time, but as a net whose skeins intersect and connect points.” Foucault’s problem of networked space thus gives rise to a rather unconventional definition of a specifically achieved utopia. “Heterotopias” are “counter-sites, a kind of effectively enacted utopia in which the real sites, all the other real sites that can be found within culture, are simultaneously represented, contested, and inverted.” Foucault’s examples of heterotopias are gardens, cemeteries, psychiatric clinics, brothels, prisons, the villages of Club Mediterranée, etc. These heterotopias form counter-spaces by creating illusions, which infiltrate reality. I argue that digital space itself constitutes such a counter-site, namely, a heterotopia in the Foucaultian sense.

Cyberspace – considered as virtualized reality, which composes the horizon of possible expectations – is not only a structural, but always a cultural, phenomenon as well.

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