2 July 2007
6.00 for 6.15pm
Speaker: Mimi Sheller (Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Swarthmore College, USA)
Discussant: David Lambert (Royal Holloway)
‘Infrastructures of the Imagined Island: Software, Mobilities, and the New Architecture of Natural Paradise’
Software is re-coding and re-scaling island space, assembling islands in new configurations of territoriality and governance while generating new kinds of atmospheres of place, landscape, and nature. Travel and leisure destinations, especially in the Caribbean, are being disembedded from national territories and repackaged as "natural" enclaves that are connected to "global" metropolitan transport, media, and data flows. This paper explores how informational space and tourist space are converging in new fantasies of mobility, accessibility, and island paradise. It aims to show how new metropolitan spatialities are affecting remote Caribbean islands and other dispersed enclaves as much as "advanced" urban complexes, as Caribbean states and territories adjust to complex new infrastructures and architectures of mobility. The paper first reviews recent developments in contemporary architectural theory associated with Computer Aided Design (CAD) and "liquid" or "mobile" architectures of hyper-urbanism, cyberspace, virtual reality, computer gaming, and evolutionary software. The empirical analysis then turns to two specific Caribbean examples of the disembedding of island space from structures of local governance and territoriality through which new virtual islands - amalgams of infrastructure, architecture, and software - are unbundled from local communities, citizenries, and publics, and repackaged as intensely capitalized destinations of "untouched natural paradise". The first vignette concerns Zaha Hadid's masterplan for a new resort on Dellis Cay in the Turks and Caicos Islands. The second refers to the new resort of Atlantis at Paradise Island in the Bahamas, especially its relation to computer gaming and fantasy spatiality. The paper concludes by drawing comparisons with other global island developments in regions such as China's Pearl River Delta and the United Arab Emirates (Dubai and Abu Dhabi), showing the wider implications of the emergent mobile infrastructures and virtual realities of the imagined island as it intersects with new forms of urbanism.