Visual Regimes & Virtual Becomings: The Production of (Augmented) Space in the 'New Berlin'
This thesis is grounded in the belief that the city is a key site of contestation in an ongoing theoretical debate concerning the nature of the relationship between new media and society. It is guided by a desire to engage with two distinct, but related, theoretical frameworks for making sense of this relationship, the ‘virtual city,’ as informed by the work of Paul Virilio, Jean Baudrillard, and cyberpunk author William Gibson, and the ‘augmented city,’ derived from Lev Manovich’s “The Poetics of Augmented Space.” After providing an overview of these two paradigms of knowledge, it attempts to address the limitations of both frameworks, which the author claims are reductionist as the former tends towards a binary distinction between the material (urban space) and the immaterial (virtual space), while the latter is underpinned by a narrow, Euclidean understanding of space that limits its efficacy in an urban context. In order to address these concerns, the author proposes a methodology for understanding the city as a virtual space that is distinct from the ‘virtual city’ paradigm of 1990s cyber-theory by attempting to open up a dialogue between the work of Deleuzian philosopher Pierre Lévy, and the Marxist dialectician Henri Lefebvre. Using Berlin as a case study, this framework is deployed in an attempt to generate an understanding of how the city functions as a mediated landscape whose space is produced socially as a result of a dialectical process involving the accretion and entanglement of an ongoing series of representations, political decisions, and social experiences. As a mediated space, the city is understood as being produced and reproduced through acts of representation in both cinema and new media, as well as through the distinctive visual regimes that emerge out of them, which in turn structure the way the city is experienced. It also reads the city as a discursive space and draws connections between the discourses of the ‘New Berlin’—the space that emerged after the city’s reunification in 1989—and the promise of the new inherent in the discourses of new media technologies. Finally, the study argues that the discourses and visual regimes of augmented space in Berlin are not merely informed by virtual processes, but that the virtual and the distinctive social space of the city out of which augmented space emerges work in conjunction to actively structure the ways in which augmentation should be understood as both techno-cultural formation, and as (urban) spatial practice.