URBANIZATION

The urbanization of the world corresponds both to the expansion of big metropolitan centres and, along coasts and traffic routes, to the spread of Le Bras’s urban filaments. The fact that the political and economic life of the planet hangs on decision-making centres situated in the world metropolises that are all interconnected, together constituting a sort of “virtual metacity”( to use Paul Virilio’s coinage), completes this picture. The world is like a single immense conurbation. But it is also true that every big town is a world, even though it is a recapitulation, a summary of the world with its ethnic, cultural, religious, social and economic diversity. These partitions, whose existence we sometimes forget when distracted by the spectacle of of globalization, return to confront us in a all-too-obvious form, pitilessly discriminating, in the strangely gaudy and tattered urban fabric. When people talk about problem areas, ghettos, poverty and underdevelopment, they are referring to the city. A great metropolis today absorbs and divides in all its diverseness and inequality. Trace of underdevelopment are to be found in places like New York, and the world network joins wealthy business district to the impoverished cities of the Third World. The cities-world by its very existence relatives or reduce to insignificance the illusions of the world-city. Walls, partitions, barriers are appearing on the local scale and in the most everyday management of space. In America there are already private town; in Latino America, in Cairo and all part of the world, private district are making their appearance, city quarters that can only be entered with the right identity and connections. Consumptions is only possible with the aid of codes ( credit cards, cell phones, the special card issued by the supermarket, airlines and so on). Seen on the individual scale and from the inner city, the global world is a world of discontinuity and interdict. By contrast, the dominant aesthetic is that of the cinematic long shot, which tends to make us forget the effects of this rupture. Photos taken from observation satellites, aerial shots, habituate us to a global view of things. High office blocks and residential tower educate the gaze, as do movies and, even more significantly, television. the smooth flow of cars on the highway, aircraft taking off from airport runways, lone sailors circumnavigating the globe in small boats witnessed only by the television audience, create an image of the world as we would like it to be. But the mirage disintegrates if we look at it too closely.

Marc Augé, Non- Places:an introduction to super-modernity

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