The Right to the City – Diagram versus Wiki

SquatSpace are currently involved in an exhibition at the Tin Sheds Gallery called The Right to the City. We decided to start plumbing the depths of our own history, based on the idea that, “after a decade of ratbaggery, if we don’t write our own history, who the hell will?!”

The exhibition has a large blackboard diagram beginning in 2000 (when we began) and continuing into 2012 and beyond. On the chalky diagram, we try to map a bunch of activities by protagonists from SquatSpace, as well as those in our nearby networks. I’ll put a photo up of the diagram soon – it looks a bit like a pebble dropped into a pond, or a weather map, or the circular rings of the cross-section of a tree.

The good thing about these big diagrams is that they give a kind of “world view” – in a glance, you can get the sense that “a shitload of things have gone on” in our world during the last decade. This visualisation of “a lot of things happening” is an end in itself, quite beyond the more detailed understandings about what those things actually were, that can be discovered by zooming your attention into the diagram.

But no matter how detailed, a two-dimensional diagram has limitations. First of all, the problem is that if too many connections are drawn on the diagram, the whole thing becomes a tangled mess, and ends up not communicating much at all (except the rather obvious fact that “there seem to be a lot of connections”). And as I’ve observed when making these sorts of complex diagrams in the last few years, when actually drawing up these diagrams, there’s a clear relationship between the amount of space on the page, and the flow of ideas in the brain. I’ve noticed that at the beginning, content and connections flow fast and thick, while towards the end, when the amount of “page real estate” gets more limited, my ideas start to slow down too. How could we go beyond this spatial limitation?

Well, in the case of this particular project, we decided to try out a “post-digital” method – to combine the old-skool analogue chalkboard with a new-skool digital tool of pedagogy: the wiki. The good thing about the wiki is that it is infinitely expandable: there is no end to the amount of stories, and versions of histories, that can be added, and the links that can be made between them. The limitation of the wiki is that you only ever see one detail at a time, rather than the whole world view. (And based on our experience so far, although the learning curve is not steep, it takes a surprisingly long time to craft decent wiki pages…) So the chalkboard and the wiki walk hand in hand.

SquatSpace is inviting anyone who was ever involved in our stuff (or we in yours) to contribute – as well as those whose work was influenced by us, which influenced us, or which seemed to coincide with what we were doing in a coincidental zeitgeist kinda way. The wiki is here.

One thought on “The Right to the City – Diagram versus Wiki

  1. lauren

    hey lucas – the wiki is a great idea. i’ve heard rumours about wiki workshops at electrofringe/TINA this year too – looking forward to investigating these ones soon.

    although, i gotta say, i have come to really love the aesthetic of a connection map. having just done one myself for fun. maybe that’s your fault though. 🙂

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