Week 24: 25th to 29th July 2016


Ethics approval number: 16-142 granted until 19 July 2019.


Literature review

Gleeson, B. (2015) The urban condition

Hannah Arendt “The Human Condition” talks of homo urbanis, over consumption –> economic world order and the good city.

–> self-limitation as a pathway forward

–> age of cities and  risk –> leading to crisis (troubled times)
–> dialectic of modernity –> continous remake by capitalist modernisation

–> collision course of humanity –> status quo thinking

“consumptive city” looming over global environmental consciousness

–> love affair with cities –> neoliberal urbanism (Arendt (1998 (1958): 178)

“The new always happens against the overwhelming odds of statistical laws and their propability, which for all practical, everyday purpose amounts to certainty, the new therefore always appears in the guise of a miracle.” –> often a rebirth of the old.

Whilst social conduct always moves to a new possibilities, human assertion maintains the right to choose regress over progress, to redeploy ideologies that serve power, not improvement.

Adorno and Horkheimer (2002(1944)) –> “The enlightenment that guided modernity was a dialectical play of flare and shadows: a rolling, roiling fight between the prospect of human emancipation and the claims of social domination.”

Gleeson: We witnessed in the second half of the 20th century “excessive rationalism” the sought ascendancy for power/ order and subordination of human realisation.” p.6

The agonising dialectic of moderinty was to create rationalities that would obscure its deepest cause, emancipation, in what Lefebvre memorably termed “the heavy cumulus of scientism”

Modernist planning is a failed cause (UN- Habitat 2009)

–> too much is coming to an end, too little is beginning

“The effects of urbanisation and the climate change are converging in dangerous ways that seriously threaten the world’s environmental, economic and social stability. –> Homo Urbanis will meet its destiny in the city.” p.9

–> rise of new technocratic thinking

–> talk to “knowledge society” is an euphemism of “modernity” –> We are living in a risk society where non-knowledge is in common

The argument cannot be won by “more and better” knowledge –> “it is the product of more and better science” (Beck 2009)

Anthroposcene an epoch of human natural superiority. –> new world –> “is the next world” cities are the new homeland carrying us through transition.

“in dubito ergo sum” Arendt (1998(1958):279)

–> expand  human awareness in an age of “unknowing” (Beck 2009) –> by defining possibilities and pathways for new human beginnings.

–> ecological modernisation (restructuring the human order)

–> principle of self-limitation (Ivan Illich 1977)

rise of collective rights rather individuals” p. 28

–> collective values of metropolitan management

–> everything depends on who gets to fill it with meaning.

— call to reshape the origins of the urban process, with its manifestations. p. 29

–> call for collective realisation –> to transform the state of urbanisation

most evidence points towards collective melancholia that overtakes homo urbanis p.30

–> the city air makes us free but infected by disillusionment and fear.

urban age is a melancholic era p.31

  • depression will be the second most devastating disease in the world by 2020 (Bayley 2013) p. 31
  • epidemic of loneliness is surrounding (Douthat 2013) p. 32
  • lack of positive definition of “humanity” Kristeva (2010): p. 35
  • overcoming the limitation of neo-liberalism and commercialisation, positivist reasoning. –> we should insist on a richer, more complete cosmopolitanism than what is found today in the “melting pot” of globalism –> in light of universalised and standardised by markets, media and internet. p. 35

–> politics should not be replaces by ” pure administration”.
–> the city (urbanism) must once again nurture the cause of human realisation.
–> homo urbanis must dismantle its own work
–> the material and ideological apparatuses of modernity p. 36

Social dimension is the front line for change –> never the economic

Erich Fromm (2009 (1942)) warned “that the destructive contradictions of modernity would ever reveal themselves in this manner. The great unheralded cost of individuation was alienation form Earth, kin and community. This rupture would drive an exodus of souls towards the consolation of consumerism and other compensations for the ‘terrible burden’ of ‘self-strength’. This fight from desolation has defined the consumerist age of neo-liberalism, but it does not explain exhaustively the origins of the current human predicament.” p. 50

“Urbanism may be regarded as a particular form or patterning of the social process. This process unfolds


Perception of environment

Debord, Guy (1958) Theory of the Dérive and Definitions; in Gieseking J.J., Mangold W., Katz C., Low S., Saegert, S (2014) The People, Place, and Space Reader, p.66: “Men can see nothing around them that is not their own image; everything speaks to them of themselves. Their very landscape is alive.” Karl Marx

Personal space

Sommer, Robert (1969) Spatial invasion; in Gieseking J.J., Mangold W., Katz C., Low S., Saegert, S (2014) The People, Place, and Space Reader, p.61:  “The best way to learn the location of invisible boundaries is to keep walking until somebody complains. Personal space refers to an area with invisible boundaries surrounding a person’s body into which intruders may not come. (…) Personal space is not necessarily spherical in shape, nor does it extend equally in all directions. (People are able to tolerate closer presence of a stranger at their sides than directly in front.)” –> referred to as breathing room.

“Dear Lost: People want to sit beside you while you’re playing because they are fascinated. Change your attitude and regard their presence as a compliment, and it might be easier to bear. P.S. You might also change your piano bench for a piano stool.” (Abigail Van Euren, San Francisco Chronicle, May 25, 1965)


Gibson, James J. (1979) The Theory of Affordances; in Gieseking J.J., Mangold W., Katz C., Low S., Saegert, S (2014) The People, Place, and Space Reader, p.56

“The affordances of the environment are what it offers the animal, what it provides or furnishes, either for good or ill.(…) refers to both the environment and the animal in a way that no existing term does. It implies the complementarity of the animal and the environment.”

“Why has man changed the shapes and substances of his environment? To change what it affords him. He has made more available what benefits him and less pressing what injures him.” –> enabling longer survival, comfort and health. But when did we reach the tipping point and started to over consume the earth? Have we really peaked or are we looking forward to very grim times?

Gibson further notes: “In making life easier for himself, of course, he has made life harder for most of the other animals. Over the millennia, he has made it easier for himself to get food, easier to keep warm, easier to see at night, easier to get about, and easier to train his offspring.”

He further says: Its a mistake to think that men created a new environment or an artificial environment. It is the same as the artificial were created from the natural. “artifacts have to be manufactured from natural substances”. The cultural elements are also not separated from the natural. –> after all it is only one world! “We all fit into the substructures of the environment in our various ways, for we were all, in fact, formed by them. We were created by the world we live in.” –> and we will be taken by it if nature chooses to do so.

On surfaces

“Geometry began with the study of the earth as abstracted by Euclid, not with the study of the axes of empty space as abstracted by Descartes. The affording of support and the geometry of a horizontal plane are therefore not in different realms of discourse; they are note as separate as we have supposed.(…) The earth has ‘furniture’ or as I have said, it is cluttered. The solid, level, flat surface extends behind the clutter and, in fact, extends all the way out to the horizon.” p. 57

“A slope downward affords falling if steep; the brink of a cliff is a falling-off place. It is dangerous and looks dangerous. The affordance of a certain layout is perceived if the layout is perceived.” p. 57

On objects

Objects affordance is extremely various and one can distinguish between attached and detached objects.

Detached objects afford behaviour. –> astonishing variety of behaviours in a manufactured and manipulated manner. Lifting, handling, grasping
“it is not true that a tactual sensation of size has to become associated with the visual sensation of size in order for the affordance to be perceived.” p.57

Orthodox psychology asserts that we perceive these objects insofar as we discriminate their properties or qualities.(…) objects are composed of their qualities.” p.58

Gibson claims that “what we perceive when we look at objects is their affordance not their qualities.” p. 58

“Infants do not begin by first discriminating the qualities of objects and then learning the combinations of qualities that specify them. (…) Phenomenal objects are not built up of quality, it is the other way around.” The affordance of an object begins by child’s noticing.

Thought: In relation to the Flow theory of “quality experiences” this would mean as soon as objects are in play it would be more accurate to describe them as “affordance experience”.

Highest level of afforance are other animals or other people. “behaviour affords behaviour” p. 58

On places and hidden places

Animals are skilled at what the psychologist call place-learning. They can find their way to significant places. So do humans. An important place is a hiding place- which involves social perception. Every child discovers, a good hiding place for one’s body is not necessarily a good hiding place for a treasure.(…) An observer can perceive not only that other observers are unhidden or hidden form him but also that be is hidden or unhidden from other observers.(…) A good hiding place is one that is concealed at nearly all points of observation. A translucent sheet transmits illumination but not information” p. 59

In conclusion

The theory of affordance is radical different from theories on value or meaning. It rather starts with a new definition of what value and meaning are. p.60

– it is not a process of perceiving a value- free physical object –> it is perceiving a value rich ecological object. “Physics may be value- free but ecology is not.” p. 60


Disruption of restorative cycle of nature by human –> Anthroposcene, however, it may just be a temporary state of perception of human condition controlling the climate. Earth is a complex system and everything that originates from it will be naturally controlled by it. The question one may ask how long can we be part of it, before nature strikes back. Can playful behaviour of individual identities reconnect us to nature and bringing us collectively closer to realisation enabling a value shift towards global consciousness.







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