Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Disneyland with the Death Penalty

As fan of William Gibson and as an author who spent some time in Singapore while researching my new book, City Ubiquitous, I'm dumbfounded that I have never read Gibson's non-fiction essay, "Disneyland with the Death Penalty." Published in Wired in 1993, this piece lays out a number of themes that are likely to resonate with readers of City Ubiquitous. Today I rectified my error and read Gibson's essay.

With his typically bleak humor, Gibson spends a few days in the "air conditioned city." Labeling it a "smug, neo-Swiss enclave of order and prosperity," he compares it to early-90s VR: too crisp, too geometrical, too perfect. I was particularly interested to read Gibson's comparison of Singapore to an amusement park, relating micro-regions such as colonial-era Arab Street and Little India to Disney-esque theme park zones. Gibson even manages to drop a reference to the Atlanta convention zone, suggesting John Portman-like transits that elide the grimier vibes of public life. And naturally he spends some times in Singapore's malls. Here's a snip:
"Ordinarily, confronted with a strange city, I'm inclined to look for the parts that have broken down and fallen apart, revealing the underlying social mechanisms; how the place is really wired beneath the lay of the land as presented by the Chamber of Commerce. This won't do in Singapore, because nothing is falling apart."
Read the entire article:

(Photograph by Andrew Wood)

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