Bogost has a FASCINATING POST up discussing the withdrawn object of cities. Between conversations with Ian and offhand remarks he’s made on his blog and elsewhere, I sometimes wonder if the doesn’t have a book somewhere on cities in him. At any rate, Ian writes,
All that said, the main problem with West’s approach can be found in the implication of Lehrer’s title—”A Physicist Solves the City.” For indeed, nothing is being solved, at all. Rather, West is deploying techniques to capture and measure the radiation of a city, the concepts and effects that emerge from it like heat rising from asphalt. The city itself is not its components nor its history, but a thing rising above its constituents and its flow through time, existing independently from them. West’s attempts at characterizing the hidden, inner mechanisms that drive cities offers one example of the principle of withdrawal in object-oriented ontology. A unit like a city doesn’t just experience growth, renewal, and decay, but also withholds something in reserve.
What a gorgeous turn of phrase: “techniques to capture and measure the radiation of a city”. Bogost bases his observations on an article in The New York Times that I can’t recommend enough.