Conceptual Cluster 07: Container Technologies

by evaminoura


The images here are by the artists Maya Lin and Andy Goldworthy who both work in with landscape and in blurring the concepts of natural order vs. human order, by restructuring and sculpting that found in nature. The readings on Container Technologies made me think about their work as I reflected on the notion of capsule versus pod. Is capsule the techno variant of a pod? To me a pod has more natural world connotations. In any event, the three texts also address the blurred meanings. I can’t help but reflect in Sloterdijk’s text that since we started as single-cell organisms, have we come full circle?


But what is capsule-living really? Sloterdijk explores this, calling capsule-living self-referential. I wonder though if many tendencies today are not reaction against this ‘Modern’ lifestyle. I see tendencies toward social manifestations of community in community-gardening, walking school buses (where parents take turns gathering the neighborhood kids to walk to/from school), and street flea-markets. These trends have neighborhood-referential undertones. I see in this an interesting challenge for urbanism today. Cauter wonders if architecture is not a “third skin”. I would pose then that urban form, in it’s role as delimiter of space, framing a space, defining a place, represents a “fourth skin” if you will. Exoskeletons as a defense against stimuli (and more critical to survival than intake of stimuli) are thus able to be materialized at different levels of scale. If suburbia seeks to disguise it’s own locality in an archipelago of silent spaces (Cauter paraphrased), might urbia then be the counterpoint? That is more confrontational, more present in it’s locality, fixed in a network (rather than floating in an archipelago) and ultimately an aggregation of loud spaces. This is my interpretation of antisuburbia based on Cauter’s text. Cauter refers also to Fredric Jameson’s use of the concepts envelope & enclave in a discussion on heterotopian urbanism. Separated and turned inward unto ourselves.  While we may be sedentary nomads in spite of all our mobile technologies, I don’t agree that “we don’t live in the network, we live in capsules”. Don’t we when we have a choice prefer nested capsules of different social scales? We do in some sense inhabit the network also. At least when the preconditions are present. I’m thinking of the streets, boulevards, plazas of engaging public spaces which we choose to stay in.


On an urban scale, the exoskeleton is a defense against social contact materialized. This is the consequence of an aggregate effect of many “private one-world bubbles” to borrow Sloterdijk’s phrase. This is, currently, a modus operandi in recent urban architecture which seeks to configure buffer zones, materializing avoidance of others’ noise and sight-lines by placing physical distance and impermeable walls between us. This architecture of avoidance is based on fear of disturbance. In essence, it applies a suburban formula for urban production. A mismatch which poorly adresses the social component of shared space, at least in terms of an exoskeletal function that might performed. Jardine writes that there is no more nature. . .or won’t be very soon. If all is a constructed landscape, or soon will be, will the blurring of natural vs. human order still be a relevant dichotomy?


Peter Sloterdijk , ‘Cell Block, Ego-Spheres, Self-Container’ in Log 10, 2007, pp. 89-108.

Lieven de Cauter, ‘The Capsule and the Network: Notes for a General Theory’ in Capsular Civilisation: On the City in the Age of Fear, Rotterdam: NAi Publishers, 2004

Alice Jardine, ‘Of Bodies and Technologies’ in Hal Foster ed. Discussions in Contemporary Culture, New York: DIA Art Foundation, 1987.