Monday, November 12, 2007

Physical space and the mobile

Rafael argues that Manila's topography and congestion create an environment conducive to the power of the crowd. He notes the importance of the 'view' in the West and it's absence of Manila: "In the West, the 'view' is understood as the site for evacuating a sense of internal unease and a resource for relieving oneself of pressure, both social and psychic. This panoramic notion of the view is not possible in Manila's streets" (413). The psychic congestion of viewlessness coupled with the physical congestion of the streets results in a "sense...that there is no single, overarching authority" (414).

I'm curious whether physical city structure inhibits or enhances crowd formation in general and how this effects political protests organized via cellular phones. Perhaps the reason the 2004 protest of the Republican National Convention in NYC was not as successful as similar mobile-powered protests in South Korea, Spain and the Philippines was not only because of the hierarchical dissemination of text messages (thus making them more prone to police infiltration), but also because of the ordered structure of New York City. Similarly, the absence of mobile mobilization in Tokyo is perhaps a result of the ordered nature of the city in conjunction with the "ultra-consumerist tendency of Japan's mobile culture and the relative inactivity of alternative political forces outside the mainstream in general" (Castells et. al. 281*).

* Castells, Manuel, Mireia Fernandez-Ardevol, Jack Linchuan Qiu, and Araba Sey. "Electronic Communication and Socio-Political Mobilisation: a New Form of Civil Society." Global Civil Society 2005/6 (2006): 266-285.

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