Metacities – visualizing digital streams of conciousnesses:

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home.  as a network of geo-located tweets 

I’ve decided to start on a project based on Calvino’s Invisible Cities where i would reflect on each city every day and then come up with a series of search terms which i would then push through the twitter-verse.

Since twitter could almost be seen as a textual manifestation of the internet’s stream of consciousness, it doesn’t seem absurd to use these ideas and metonymical utterances in an attempt to locate Calvino’s cities on a world map.  The resulting maps are aesthetic explorations in meta-architecture- they become a form of emergent psychogeography where places and locations are connected not by physicality but by ambiguous narratives, strung together or torn apart by the real-time climates or the fleeting winds of the twitterverse.

This piece is eventually envisioned as a visual projection of 3D objects that constantly evolve according to not what content the twitterverse is offering in realtime, but where these contents are made.  They ask the question, where are you within a global digital community whether actively participating or not; what form does the evolution of ideas take in today’s world.  They also probe twitter as a multi-tiered system of systems, and the creation or creative organization of meaning around streams of disparate narratives.

This project is inspired by Nico Varchausky’s “Greetings from the Fearful Sphere” project

More soon.

//Updates through the process:

it strikes me that there is a similar emphasis or de-emphasis on time and timelessness in both the imagining of cities and the online feeds.   Often the salient features of Marco Polo’s cities respond to unique situations or places, or even conversations (as later in the book Khan reverses this role by describing the cities in his imagination and then verifying if they do actually exist) in the same place and time of his describing.  The shapes, architectures and narratives of these cities are forged by a blend of real time ideas and memories.  This is the obvious genius in Calvino’s book – but can the same be said of the architecture of the twitterverse – where content rolls into each other, and the shape, form, fluidity, content all stem from the current – the trend of the ‘now’.  There is an intrinsic grounding of this project in and space-time-specificity that is interesting – and just like the cities in Polo’s imagination, running the search algorithms again at a different time yield entirely different architectures.

— im beginning to realize that the search terms are like hash tags in themselves.  To characterize the city, it will be interesting to see how these hash tags eventually become synonyms of each other, which will become a truer reflection of the way these cities are imagined.

— search terms cannot be disambiguated on the fly – for instance, ‘order’ in city 7 Zora represented legible patterns in the city that you could remember, but the tweets for instance “Mail order bride guy at work said, Alex, don’t ever get married” reflect something else.

“It makes no sense to divide cities into these two species, but rather into another two: those that through the years and the changes continue to give form to desires, and those in which desires either erase the city or are erased by it” 35. Zenobia


It is interesting to see if there are emergent properties to this system.  What linkages between cities could we make that we couldn’t before?

for practical reasons, the maximum number of data points im using in the plots is 1000.though the harvesting of text is something that goes on for a day.

#City 1:

Bronze statues, pantheon, familiar beauty, September evening; feeling that you’ve been here before and have enjoyed it the last time.

Search terms: September, deja vu, pantheon, familiar

Im still deciding if content should be screened / filtered to weed out geographically biased reports (e.g. a large number of tweets with ‘evening’ in them came from US in tandem with the Oscars).

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#City 2:


what you think about when you desire the city. buildings of spiral staircases, perfectionists, passionate cockfights, nostalgia – or somewhere you dream to be.  dreams as a young man, arrives in old age.  “Desires are already memories”

Search Terms: perfectionist, nostalgia, youth, desires, memories.



#City 3


2 ways of describing the city – numerical, architectural, geometrical, 4 towers, 7 gates, 4 canals, 9 quarters, 300 houses, 700 chimneys; or the city is known by the routes you take through it- the bustle of the markets, the characters of the people and the vibrance of the environments – and the routes that open up because of those you’ve encountered..

Search Terms: multiplicity, numbers, route,potential, bustling.

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#City 4


speaks to Kublai’s vanity – a city that matches his pomp, arrogance and subsequent need for preparedness and defence “high bastions”.  Not a mathematically derived city, but one made up of relationships between things.  stories, narratives that imbue objects and scene with worth.The city that soaks up memories and then expands.  Inscribing these memories into corners, lines, gratings, antennae, poles, this city is a repository of its past.  “a description of Zaira as it is today should contain all Zaira’s past”.

Search Terms: narrative, memories, inscribe, contains, past.

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#City 5


A city that superficially is invited for its food, ware, women, but its true essence lies in its reality.  that descriptions fail to capture all your simultaneous desires.  But these desires stem from an inner treachery of the city – she lures you into her desires by coercing you to make them your own; in so doing, you become her slave simply by being content.

Search Terms: food, essence, sinister, content, slave



#City 6


You are on a journey, and then you find this city.  do not see things but images of things … it is a superficial city, or at least that is all she lets you see.  signals warn of what is forbidden in a given place, but there is no attempt or need to transgress.  everything is well defined, even the gods are told apart.  Everything has a function and place, even if it were not named, its very positioning in the city will tell you that. The city “makes you repeat her discourse… (but) you leave Tamara without having discovered it (p14).  What’s it worth?  Do you know what lies beneath this thick coating of signs? or does it even matter.

Search Terms: images, superficial, function, depth, worth



#City 7


Unforgettable city, but because it is unusual.  nothing is exceptionally beautiful, but it possesses patterns that can be read as a musical score – its order is legible.  This city is like a “honey comb in whose cells each of us can place the things he wants to remember”, and because these things are easily compared and contrasted, it is a city steeped in intellectualism, albeit one that is forgotten by the world.

Search Terms: pattern, order, compartment, contrast, intellectual

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#City 8


city where land meets the water.  It is as a ship that will take the visitor from a desert.  that will be cast off when the wind swells its sails – or when the engines of the steamboat kick in.  It inspires an imagination of all the ports, trade and taverns in vast lands.  From the perspective of the sailor, it resembles the camel, and imagines travels to the oasis of fresh waters in shade.  “Each city receives its form from the desert it opposes”, so the camel driver and sailor see Despina, a border city between 2 deserts.

Search Terms: duality, coastal, desert, both, imagine

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#City 9


memorable, a land of lunatics.  The city is redeundant because it repeats itself so that something will stick in the mind. anything.  Memory becomes redundant, because it repeats signs so that the city can begin to exist.

Search Terms: exist, redundant, repeat,stick, mind



#City 10


city of the thousand wells.  deep subterranean lake, an invisible landscape.  2 religions, mythic gods that live and feed underground; gods that live in the buckets, and the pulleys, norias, pump handles, trestles and upwards into the weathercocks in the airy scaffoldings.

Search Terms: invisible, gods, subterranean, lake, mechanical



Chapter 2

#City 11


postcards show its history.. much reverence for the postcard city, and regret for the current one (within limits) – postcards show the reverence and grace that could not be seen back then.  pointless to ask if the new one is better or worse than the old; since there is no connection between them.  they are only related by chance.

Search Terms:postcard, old, history, connection, chance



#City 12


middle of the city is a globe that shows a model of a different Fedora – forms that the city could have taken.  Made by architects who envisioned a city and made a model of that idea; but in the process of its making, strayed further from the reality of the city’s progression.  Fedora’s museum is this city of imagined future Fedoras – not real but assumed cities.  Visitors to this museum choose their alternate future, contemplating an architecture that corresponds to his/her desires.

Search Terms: model, forms, reality, museum, choice

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#City 13


traveller expects to know about the city – archetype as a place where buildings are distinguishable, strata is obvious and confirms that the city is made only of differences.  Zoe however only promotes doubt, the traveller cannot distinguish between features – those in the city and those in his mind.  It is a city of indivisible existence since all of these moments are experienced at the same time.

Search Terms: differences, doubt, city, indivisible, experience



#City 14


Many platforms, balconies, stilts, ladders etc.  a city of lines and grids; a form that emerges out of desire – superimpositions of desires on each other.  If you ask “him. .. to describe ehis vision of a happy life, it is always a city like Zenobia that he imagines.”

Search Terms: lines,happy, emerges, desire, superimpose



#City 15


80 miles into the Northwest Wind – headed SE.  Trading port.  merchants land there only to leave again.  But buying and selling is not only why people travel up rivers and cross deserts.  It is for the stories that people trade fireside at nights.  Stories that are triggered in memories by a simple ‘key word’.   Here, memories are traded, and you leave Euphemia with a different person’s story as your own.

Search Terms: wind, memories,trade, stories, keyword



#City 16


The White City. central myth of a dream of a woman running at night and the men of the city pursuing her.  The roads/paths built are as a labyrinth intended to prevent her from escaping.  The positions of the arcades are however constantly changing as more men enter the city with similar dreams.  This city is a trap.

Search Terms: myth, labyrinth, flux, dreams, trap



#City 17

Hypatia(the longest description of a city)

A city of deceiving signs; but not in a sinister way.  Feeling cheated, Polo goes in search of the sultan but ends up directing his attention to the philosophers.  They tell him in a puff of opium smoke, “Signs form a language, but not the one you think you know”.  Freeing himself from the images/semantic content in the past, he begins to read Hypatia in a different way, where love is found in the stables and music among cemetries.  And when it is time to leave, he will wait at the top of a citadel for a boat to go across.

Search Terms: deceive, signs, philosopher, language, freeing



**last coded April5 2015

#City 18


Unfinished city.  no walls, no ceilings, no floors, only water pipes that rise vertically and horizontally.  pipe-city.  Abandoned but not deserted -since the pipes are homes to nymphs, young women that live and bathe in the bathtubs and under showers.  Their invasion may have driven out the humans, but perhaps the city was built as a peace offering to them, and they are happy.

Search Terms: unfinished, abandoned, nymph, invasion, sacrifice

#City 19


A city of strangers  who never talk but all interpersonal exchanges are imagined.  A city of fantasy, where glances are like lines that connect one figure to a web of possible .  All interactions are possible but only imagined  – meetings, seductions, copulations, orgies are consummated without a word exchanged, without a finger touching anything.  The moment any of these are brought into reality, the carousel of possibility is lost.

Search Terms: strangers, imagined, exchanges, fantasy, chaste

#City 20


2 cities – one real, and the other reflected and all actions repeated.  There is no leaving of any action to chance, because the inhabitants know their actions have a mirror-image, albeit one that is cold and limpid.  The two cities live for each other, but there is no love between them.

Search Terms: reflection, repeated, mirror, purposeful, cold

#City 21


a city of industry, built not by words but by actions, spirit of a free life and refined civilization.  Always joking, laughter abounds even in the darkness.  Words are used to describe Olivia, but if it truly existed, it would not be like what was described.  In this case, not words, but things are what is false.

Search Terms: industry, free, joke, description, false

#City 22


2 half-cities – one is a circus, the other is stone and marble- commerce, industry, production. The latter is temporary, industry gets shifted away in caravans and transplanted to the vacant lots of another half-city based on its annual itinerary  Now it waits for the caravan to come back before a complete life can begin again

Search Terms: half, circus,commerce, itinerary, complete

#City 23


many cities not just one, scattered over a vast plateau.  but only one is inhabited at a time.  When weariness sets in, the whole citizenry decides to move on and renew themselves.  Each takes a new job, a new wife, see another landscape open at the window.  No great distinctions of wealth or authority so transition is seamless.

“Thus the city repeats its life, identical shifting up and down its empty chessboard,. . . the inhabitants repeat the same scenes, with the actors changed”

Search Terms: multiple, renew, variety, same, empty

#City 24


beholder’s mood that gives it its form. gaze and perspective leads to knowledge of the city.  since most of the inhabitants are pessimistic, their gaze cannot be detached from the drainpipes and cobblestones, sinking down into the lower Zemrude.

Search Terms: mood, gaze, pessimistic, lower, sink

#City 25


spoken descriptions are of proverbial virtue, faults and eccentricities.  It is known for being enduring, never changing. though bizzare and normal have switched places.  It lives more as spoken memory and expectation, rather than what is actually lived on the ground; so much so that even if Polo tries to keep the two separate, he can only speak of one, because the recollection of the other has been lost.  Words have imprisoned the city.

Search Terms: spoken, enduring, values, words, imprisoned

#City 26


a spiderweb city, strung across two peaks, over a void and a chasm. Everything hangs from this, houses, water, baskets, trapezes etc. Their future is not uncertain, they know the web will not last.

Search Terms: spiderweb, peaks, void, hang, certainty

#City 27


physically maps the relationships in the city through stretching strings from the corners of the houses – when they become too complex, they remove the houses and move, leaving the supports and strings.  from afar they looked like a labyrinth.  You come upon the ruins of multiple cities that used to be Ersilia, without the walls that do not last, without the bones of the dead which the wind rolls away.

Search Terms: strings, left behind, labyrinth, abandon, ruins

#City 28


city on stilts; lost in the clouds. only impression of the city is in the angular shadows the stilts make in the sun.  inhabitants do not need to come down for anything; they’re self-sufficient.  3 hypotheses for why they are so far up – they hate the earth, they respect it so much they avoid all contact, and that they love it as it was before they existed and they obsessively examine it with spyglasses and telescopes aimed downward.

Search Terms: stilts, cloud, high, contact, examine

#City 29


2 species too numerous.  One species at the door, the other in the kitchen – they belong to the house; and will stay with it long after the family is gone.  mythologies about each species; the Penates believe they are the city’s soul, and they believe they will take Leandra with them when they emigrate.  The Lares consider the Penates temporary guests, and that the real Leandra is theirs.  What is common amongst them is that they always criticize.  not only memories but daydreams about the future.

Search Terms: species, territory, temporary, emigrate, criticize

#City 30


Dialogues. the same dialogue lasts for years, renewing itself through new characters.  Sometimes one person will take multiple roles.. or one role could be doubled and multiplied.  The story outlives the inhabitants.

Search Terms: dialogue, renewing, characters, changes, outlives.

#City 31


networks of canals, multiple ways of getting from one place to another.. to map a journey, there are many routes, not just two.  as such the most fixed and calm lives are lived without repetition, and are spared the boredom.  A map of esmeralda will include all these multiplicities of routes, evident and hidden.

Search Terms: canals, zigzag, routes, map, hidden

#City 32


a city of surprises, cry with regret when you leave because it is an amazing, wonderful place.  But it so happens that you need to spend all your time and days here, cities fades.  Phyllis is a place where the routes are suspended between two points.  Looking at Phyllis is now like looking at a blank page.

Search Terms: surprises, bridges, but, invisible, blank

#City 33


fortified city, enclosed like a goblet.  But this city is just a name, once Polo gets there, if he ever does, then that’s all it will become.

Search Terms: fort, goblet, name, meaning, different

#City 34


reaching this city, polo remembers familiar faces.  resemblances to dead people make it feel like it is a dream, but if it is not, then he needs to look harder so these resemblances will disappear, and in their place, alien faces bearing anguish.  “You reach a moment in life when, among the people you have known, the dead outnumber the living.  And the mind refuses to accept more faces, more expressions: on every new face you encounter, it prints the old forms, for each one it finds the most suitable mask”

Search Terms: familiar, resemblances, dead, dream, mask

#City 35


there is a carpet that has a design of interwoven patterns.  But if you examine it closely, each place in the carpet corresponds to a place in the city.  All things are arranged according to their true relationship. It is easy to get lost here but if you stare at the carpet, you realize that to place you ended up at was your real destination.  The carpet becomes an oracle, or tells the immobile story of life for every person.  Accordingly, the carpet or the city, one is a form the gods have given, and the other, an approximate reflection.  Until now, the augurs had been sure the carpet was divine.  but which is really which? maybe the form the gods have created is just as the city is – a stain that spreads out shapelessly..

Search Terms: carpet, oracle, truth, divine, stain

#City 36


transparent gates in the sunlight, coral columns encrusted with serpentine and villas with glass like aquariums.  A city with a hidden face, of rusting metal and sackcloth, planks and ropes from rotten beams.  Both sides are like two sides of a piece of paper – they can neither be separated nor look at each other.

Search Terms: transparent, columns, hidden, rust, sides

#City 37


glorious city with tormented history.  first ever city kept as a model of every splendor to compare against the current one.  Centuries of decadence and plagues, rearranged the city in a different order.  But during joyous times, the more the new city settled into the place and name of the first Clarice, the more it realized it was moving away from it.  “despite its pride in its new wealth, the city, at heart, felt itself incongruous, alien, an usurper.  And then they were placed in memorials.  So much so that the original Clarice now exists as a widespread belief with no proof.  Only this is known – that a given number of objects exists in a space, and the rule is to shuffle them each time, and then try to assemble them.

Search Terms: model, first, decadence, joyous, belief

#City 38


enjoy life and flee care; leap from life to death least abrupt, an identical copy is underground.  All trades, professions intact; with an emphasis on people in carefree moments.  The hooded brothers confraternity is the only one with access to this city and information about it.  It is said that the movement of people from up to down also happens the opposite direction; and that the city underground takes on a life of its own.  The legend is so strong that people want to model their living lives after the underground ones, and so it says that it was the dead that built the upper Eusapia, and there is no longer any way of knowing who is alive and who is dead.

Search Terms: enjoy, careless, identical, underground, legend

#City 39


suspended in the heavens, there is another Beersheba. but there is also another one underground.  The people believe the underground to have all manners of fecal, unwanted material, and that the celestial city is paved in gold.  But the underground city is where the most care and innovation happen (mechanisms, devices, gear systems) and the celestial one is where all the cast-offs go.  “a city, which, only when it shits, is not miserly, calculating, greedy”  Intent on piling up its wealth, city that for virtue what is now a mania to fill the empty vessel of itself.

Search Terms: celestial, mania, error, miser, greed

#City 40


refashions itself daily, throws away everything of yesterday.  The joy lies not in the experience of new things, but in the throwing away and discarding of the old.  The street cleaners are welcomed like angels.  And the rubbish that they collect pile up around the city in mountains threatening to avalanche and submerge the city in its own past.  The neighbouring cities are waiting with their bulldozers.

Search Terms: refashions, throw away, yesterday, heaps, garbage

#City 41


Visible city at dawn.  Wind brings the music of the city, and seen from a distance, the travellers all wonder how it would be like. (this is the first city that an account of Kublai Khan arises and is not in italics – shows how its being narrated in ‘real-time’).  It is an archetype of the city, one that changes as you approach, one that means different things for those who pass it without entering, and those who are trapped by it and never leave.

Search Terms: visible, music, distance, archetype, different

#City 42


city of earth instead of air.  Damp and dark, everyone is still and not moving.  From above, none of Argia can be seen, but putting your ear to the ground, you might be able to hear a door slam.

Search Terms: earth, dark, still, damp, hear

#City 43


A city that is continually in construction. scaffolds, cranes that hoist and support other scaffolds and cranes.  It is a fear of its own destruction that the construction persist.  when asked where the blueprint is, they wait for dark and point to the stars.

Search Terms: construction, fear, destruction, scaffolds, stars

#City 44



a city that you fly to. [?!?!? Marco Polo … Airport??]  exactly the same city as the one you took off from. Why come here, when you already want to leave.  The world is covered by a sole Trude which does not begin and does not end; only the name of the airport changes.

Search Terms: same, airport, eternal, leave, name 

#City 45


A city that exists on the spot smaller than the head of a pin. A city that grows outwards in concentric circles.  (CS Lewis idea?)  But the new city bears artifacts of the past – the walls carry with them the old quarters, and surround the newer quarters as they arise from the heart of the city.  Within this heart you can find the next Olinda and those that will grow after it.

Search Terms: grow, concentric, surround, heart, next

#City 46


There are not only doubles of every inhabitant or dead, there are triples – those of the unborn.  Assigned spaces to these presumably infinite number of unborn people.  They can be imagined in any shape, or size, or pattern.  The city of the living come to ask the house of the unborn questions about themselves.  But the unborn are not consolatory, they transmit alarm because of their sheer number, or because all Laudomia will disappear when they reach a certain number and go no further.

Search Terms: unborn, silence, questions, alarm, disappear

#City 47


astronomers defined the place and day according to the stars, the passage of the sun and the zodiac.  Superstition guaranteed to reflect the harmony of the firmament – nature’s reason and the god’s benevolence shaping the inhabitants’ destinies.  But it is a city of monsters, and the astronomers have to decide if their calculations were wrong, or that the order of the gods is reflected exactly here.

Search Terms: astronomy, star, sun, zodiac, monsters

#City 48


Polo stays at the same room in the same inn; every year there are more faces outside the window; all alike, all seem polite, all chomping on kernels of corn.  Gradually the field vanished under these faces, a thicker and thicker crowd, covering the sky.  The faces crowd the window just like in the room, where all 26 of us lodge in this space.

Search Terms: same, faces, window, crowd, squeeze

#City 49


Life is unhappy.  you wake from one bad dream and another begins.  Yet, there is laughter and happiness from the people, there is love, there are very cheerful connections that form an invisible thread, binding one living to another – these draw new and rapid patterns so that at every second the unhappy city contains a happy city unaware of its own existence.

Search Terms: unhappy, bad dream, thread, happiness, unaware

#City 50


Every street follows a planet’s orbit – order of the constellations and positions of the stars.  The calendar is regulated and regimented.  The city life is clam, however, and inevitable without succumbing to human caprice.  This is the only city where Polo thinks it is best to remain motionless in time. The city and sky reflect each other.  Self-confidence and prudence.  Because they know all decisions matter to the interstellar dimensions, they calculate the risks for themselves, and for all worlds.

Search Terms: orbit, regiment, calm, decisions, world

#City 51


Industrious city.  Wanderers find that they cannot leave this place, and find that they have been going deeper and deeper into its streets.  The places have mingled, Cecilia is everywhere.

Search Terms: industrious, wanderer, deeper,mingled, everywhere

#City 52


2 cities one of the rat, and one of the swallows.  past and future.  a preparation  in the city for the swallowlike flight, heading for the transparent air.  In the city, you see a crack open and a different city appear, and then suddenly disappear  It is a city where actions, words are performed, but everything must happen as though by chance.

Search Terms: past, future, crack, performance, chance.

#City 53


the entrance to the city is a girdle of walls.  but you advance for hours and its not certain if you are inside or outside.  Penthesilea spreads for miles around with vague spaces, and awkward shops.  If you ask where Penthesilea is, you get very ambiguous answers.  When you leave, you wonder if an outside actually exists, or if you pass from one limbo to another.

Search Terms: walls, inside, outside, vague, limbo

#City 54


Invaded city.  not only human, but also serpents, flies, termites etc.  all species incompatible to the city had to succumb and very extinguished.  Final victory uncertain if it belongs to human.  So it becomes a great cemetery of the animal kingdom. Their libraries archive all the fauna that resume possession of their city.

Search Terms: invaded, species, extinguish, cemetery, library

#City 55


Unjust city on the surface.  But the hidden Berenice is just, with new precision mechanisms.  Instead of the lavish baths of the unjust, the just speak and recognize each other by their language, avoiding complicated and nervous moods, their sober and tasty cuisine.  These are the Bernice inhabitants of the future, after a possible awakening.  Temporal successsion of different cities, alternatiing between just and unjust.

Search Terms: alternating, hidden, language, cuisine, succession

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