Friday, August 26, 2011

Living in Disneyland

William Gibson writes about the future of urban life in the latest Scientific American:

That's the danger of choice reduction, of top-down control. And the curse of gated attractions, the ultimate fate of every Disneyland: you can't repurpose a theme park. Cities, to survive, must be capable of extended fugues of retrofitting. Only the most pubescent of cities have never witnessed, to whatever extent, their own ruins.

(From "Life in the Meta City," Scientific American, September 2011.)

He goes on to describe Paris, New York City, and London as culprits of "Disneylanding." I wonder what Los Angeles's Disneylanding will eventually look like. Yes, there's Hollywood Boulevard. It's a cartoonish exhibit of past glory, but current blight never fails to soak through everywhere. L.A. sprawl seems to mitigate against Disneylanding, since everything becomes absorbed into the seemingly undifferentiated sea of concrete and glass, Home Depots, shopping centers, fast food outlets, and on and on.

Elsewhere in the issue, Edward Glaeser writes about the tragedy of "urban renewal," with the striking image of the futuristic, human-friendly People Mover still functioning over Detroit's barren cityscape. The connection between the images of Disneyland and its Monorail and the image of such technology hovering over a wasteland seems prophetic. I've recently been lamenting the lack of a Monorail type network in L.A. Maybe I'm deluded into thinking that would actually help things. Cities are indeed as beautiful and thriving as the people within them. Then again, maybe Monorails would help bring us together more, and save energy at the same time.

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