Scenes from the Augmented Street
These two images are from a street scene which was edited out of the final version of our recently published graphic novel Square Eyes. The book is a mystery story, which explores the shifting and deceptive terrain of the city in an age of robotics, augmented reality and digital memory.
The scene was intended to be an extended exploration of ‘street life’ in the city of the immersive internet. Certain characteristics of the canonical metropolitan subject — its beleaguered autonomy, its permanent overstimulation — are accelerated, while others are inverted. Conflicting registers of urban experience — on the one hand a pervasive solipsism, on the other, a digital augmentation of the street as an aesthetic space — as material for flânerie — are foregrounded against the actual neglect and accelerated material decay of the real ‘old’ city (represented by the fallen tree which blocks the road).
An unused part of the script reads:
“…massive apartment blocks in profusion, strange industrial plants, and areas of empty and abandoned buildings, some flooded in rising waters; the adverts don’t know who she is so they can’t address her by name in the way they normally would, and instead say ‘test user’ or ‘generic target’… every so often, she goes through a large towering cordon, a pink or green translucent film stretching across the road, indicating the divisions between areas delegated to rival security firms… ‘your consent is implicit, and we thank you for it…”
The price paid by the digitally maladroit increasingly manifests itself in the public sphere — in the ability to navigate the city, in one’s ability to self-present, in the visible limits of reality itself.