The Flaneur in the Smart City

“The Flaneur in the Smart City” – A Talk by Conor McGarrigle

The flaneur as a concept originates from the birth of modernity, drifting through the urban crowd, strolling through the arcades as a detached yet astute observer, part of the crowd but also aloof from it. The historical figure of the flaneur is seen through Benjamin’s reading as the quintessential figure of modernity who perhaps alone fully understands the emerging modern city and its repercussions. Flanerie served to make the city legible through a close attention to the rhythms, patterns and usage of the city, and in certain readings is seen as a figure of resistance to the “work-a-day pressure of the punch-clock” (Shields) resisting the commodification of urban space and celebrating the city as lived space (Harvey).

Conor McGarrigle will talk about the Flaneur in the smart city, where infrastructural processes are governed, and urban space produced, by code-based processes. The widespread deployment of networked location-aware technologies such as smart phones interacting with often global software platforms not only enable a range of new spatial practices but also render the very act of walking in the city as data. As the city becomes increasingly described through data most, if not all, activities leave a data trail. This calls for new approaches to scrutinise and reflect on the nature and function of these urban spaces, for while the 19th century city of the flaneur and today’s city present radically different scenarios they share a moment of and perhaps the figure of the flaneur still has something to offer in this analysis.


1c34d65f-32b8-4d77-823c-5d2e176dff2dAbout Conor McGarrigle (IE) 

Conor McGarrigle is an artist and researcher working at the intersection of digital networks and real space. Coming from a background in net art his work is concerned with the ways that digital networks are entangled in all aspects of everyday life. This practice is focused on approaches that reframe, reimagine and resist pervasive technical systems creating new understandings of the action of networks in the contemporary city. His practice is characterized by urban interventions mediated through digital technologies and data-driven explorations of networked social practices; projects range from walking performances along the longest street in the USA documented by satellite, generative video work that appropriates 24 hours of hacked social media content to augmented reality mappings of the geography of the Irish financial collapse.