polis: a collective blog about cities worldwide

City of Algorithms

by Vivien Park

"New York City is being optimised to run like a motherboard ... It’s being smoothed into the performance characteristics of a microchip and you — all of you — are just loitering; because whatever it is you’re doing in that valuable space couldn’t possibly be as valuable as what a computer can do in that same office space." — Kevin Slavin, "Those Algorithms that Govern Our Lives"

Inspired by Kevin Slavin's talk at the Geneva Lift Conference last year, graphic designer Charlie Behrens became interested in how urban landscapes are being altered based on computer algorithms.

In a striking example, building structures and values in New York are changing to accomodate the demand for Internet hubs. Since most stock-market trading takes place using algorithms, financial institutions have been buying up buildings — like NewYork’s Carrier Hotel at 60 Hudson Street — and retrofitting them to house heavy servers, driven by the prospect of shaving off milliseconds from calculation times.

In his short film "Algorithmic Architecture," Behren composited mis-registered visual artifacts between Google Earth's 3-D street photography and 2-D satellite imagery. The result is a world in which glitch becomes the force that shapes the fabric of the city.

Credits: Opening image is from the film "Algorithmic Architecture."

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