Kiez Notes : Our Death Traps by Friendly Design


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Kiez Notes : Our Death Traps by Friendly Design

-a quick sketch- / -work-in-progress-

Blätter and HKW’s Democracy Lecture series invited Richard Sennett, Francesca Bria and Andrej Holm to discuss and debate the “Kampf Um Der Stadt” last nite. In English: “The Struggle for the City”. But there was little struggle, and little fight. All-in-all it was an incredibly over- polite show about our massively terrifying global mess !

The intro already was a bit of absurd theater. The enthusiastic and cordial Blätter chief fawned over Sennett, the cosmopolitan thinker who has inhabited two of the greatest cities of the world New York + London. Let’s get real: these were 2 abominable vampiric imperial vortexes of the last 2-4 centuries that shaped, industrialized and financed the great anthropocentric consumer-culture frenzies that now have us all living on the slippery ravaged slopes of ecocide and mass extinction.

And all our 21st century mega-cities are STILL not remotely sustainable, nor headed in any reasonable or redeeming directions ! The latest pyramid-scheme runs and rabid goldrush of ever higher-tech industrialism, cybernetic life-compression and bunkering 1% elites all threaten the already thin thread to all our better social ideals, human potentials and desires ! There can be little hope that in the current predatory marketplace of “the future” that cities will suddenly become radically open, inclusive, friendly places for the majority of their ( locked-in ) inhabitants. Radical and tumultuous change is imminent !

But let’s not argue or resist… we are all one… Breathe in, chant Om … and let’s imagine more porous design, rather than closed, gated systems of control… and let us get to know our messiness and our even more disenfranchised neighbors better. …  Opposition sounds so troubling. Can’t we all just get along in the urban con-job jungles ?


Intentions were all mostly very sincere. Many things to learn from here. Like a class on The Enlightenment, without all the bloody historical entrails of militarism, colonialism, exploitation, crusades and imperialism to sully the charm (of the bourgeoisie). But much respects to Andrej and Francesca as they ARE doing their part – now with better and better access to the levers of city politics in 2 of the more progressive urban oddities we have – to be engaged and to formulate and expand the “rebel cities” ( and their networks ) … and to get a sense of what it might mean to establish some modern form of “popular sovereignty” and widening solidarities in these times of unprecedented upheaval. Civic participation and cultures of resistance ARE key and ARE taking interesting shapes on the fringes, in pockets, at a few front lines, and outside the netted metropoles.

But coming down the transnational pipelines are things far better described, at least in design terms, by someone like Keller Easterling, who wrote ExtraStateCraft, as just one quick example of the multiple dystopian disorders. We need more analysis and overview, and probably more outrage as we examine the hard facts of those big corporate-designed guns pointed at our communities, our fleshy bodies and fragile heads… and the fabric of “the social” getting tattered in the storms of a new industrial out-growth… or in-growth. Like a pscho-geographical global-scale tonenail, that needs to be removed. Like an as yet undetected cancer in the thought-patterns and behavioral manipulations. And we need to be organizing and mobilizing and constructing new praxis to react and protect ourselves from all the structural violence.

It would be ok to be a little agitated ( and/or fearful? ) by the overwhelming challenges ahead. At least then, we know where we really stand … and can take on some local and/or city-scale ideas that have some weight, and will not just be blown away in the torrential winds of krapitalist-wielded power and rapid imposed change !

And still no one puts Techno-fascism into the center frame.


You can perhaps find some other follow-up here :


We are still hunting for an image that Sennett used from Caracas, an aerial view of a highway cutting through the dense city. A stark compartmentalization, a separation wall, the class divides, high-tower architecture on one side, the chaotic favela dwellings on the other.



( Note: this is the  image, or very similar Sennett used to show, Petare is the name of the troubled favela district in Caracas that is on the right. Sennett was about to share his opinions of the Chavez govt, but then said he didn’t want to get too political. Nor was he about to mention US meddling in the global south. )

We were imagining this drasticly-designed urbanism as also a metaphor image for the digital culture… and the “digital transition” … the new “structural adjustment” – as Evgeny Morozov just called it the other day in a tweet … this corporate alien infrastructure air-lifted into complex inhabited eco-systems on the ground.

We would have also preferred to hear more on this panel about this hail of incoming closed-system technotopian disruption-du-jour, which some people ( like the democracy+tech fighters in Barcelona or Berlin’s rising new start-up hives ) … still dream! … as getting transmutated into forms of data sovereignty and happy interconnectedness. An imaginary openess for the upper-level city-dwellers maybe, total surveillance+contorl for those in the lower decks or on the wrong side of the borders, and still zero plans as yet to undo the deathtraps for those invisible elsewheres in cobalt and titananium mines, nor on the Foxconn assembly lines and maquiladoras. And as implied above in the unseen internal reconfigurings of our social rewiring.

And what about later down the line, 2050, when 2/3s of the population have been pushed into those soon submerged coastal cities across the globe, while all the machines of loving graze are still miraculously humming and extracting… violent displacement and a smooth, under the tables and pavement, plunder ?!

to be cont…


For all of Sennett’s sentiments for the porousness of the borders and “edge- conditions” … we would have liked to expand that idea of the interplay between the rural and the mega-cities… rather than making all that inbewteen space that gets gobbled up by the owner-class just a disappeared or deleted territory. Our own Btropolis has incredible potential to create some vibrant cultural interaction between these two artificially separated worlds !

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