Somewhere between Urban Artifices and Realities
As the dusk sets in and the city fades away in time, the commuters in the ladies-local train compartment switch themselves into their virtual modes and head towards their destinations like on every other day. Earplugs, smart phones, video-calls and selfies have now become the norms of everyday lives. The persistent silence that is interrupted by the thuds of the 6:15 local, all make for a not-so-decent aural backdrop. As each individual slips away from the real world into preferred, distant territories, what strikes the mind is a paradox - do we really inhabit our cities? Do we fail to acknowledge physical space? And is this the real urban, we set out to build?
In an era, when terms like 'community development' and 'social networking and cohesion' are rampantly used, the virtual city-space puts forth challenges. The participants of this space, who have deeply rooted themselves into this domain, prove that entertainment and communication media have come a long way. This is a time when hand-written letters and notes are losing their distinctiveness and what remains are mere hordes of digital texts and visual/graphical resemblances. This new arena is constantly redefining the ways in which we converse, critique, portray, dream and chase. The transition from the old world of living-room conversations and the real sense of patience and togetherness to the superficial systems of survival - has been very quick.
If one considers the larger picture, the physical urban form and space have always allowed the city-dwellers to manipulate and use it in multiple ways. With strategies perfectly assembled by leaders, scenarios richly rendered and the profits in place - growth becomes inevitable. But, how do we inhabit this form, how do we engage in the right dialogues, the media that we choose and where is this growth leading us to, are to be reflected upon. What accompanies the urban form are the intangible assets that are often forgotten. The sights of clouds, shifting in the sky and the bougainvillea flowers, strewn on the streets, the conversations of the old men at the local katta and the twittering of the birds - all seem to be becoming redundant. The real world is being outweighed by the digital one and the intangible is being disregarded. The growing affability for the virtual space, serves beneficial as well as damaging(especially to mental and physical health). Thus, negotiating between the real and virtual space demands smart tactics.
Do we live in urban artifices then? Is this, that the future generations are going to inherit? Planning and designing are tools in the hands of a few people sitting in their offices, thus less responsive to local needs, conflicts and aspirations. What this results into, are thus, insensitively envisioned realms. The countless dreams, the ideas of 'home' and the sense of place are left out in favor of biased and 'focused' practices. What could possibly resolve such matters is the propagation of the right kinds of media outputs and people's participation in city-building, to achieve the right developmental goals. Also, attempts to gain consciousness about the spaces that we are inhabiting - both real and virtual, the predicaments and vision for cities that we share - could altogether help envisage, how the urban space should be.
Should we evade these artifices then, and reclaim the physical space?
Or do we navigate through these artifices, extract and reconstruct new, meaningful physical spaces?
How does one negotiate between the real and virtual space and is the 'urban space' being misread?
Somewhere between urban artifices and realities, hopefully we'll find ourselves back one day - resolute in our pursuits to evolve, one step at a time...