As I prepare to attend Expo 2010 in Shanghai this August, I imagine the development of a potential article that, maybe, might set up the larger "tiny towns" book project. While my goal is to avoid excessively covering the same ground addressed in City Ubiquitous (which, after all, is grounded the first Victorian-era world's fairs) I do hope to expand on an already fruitful framework to explore terrain that fascinates me: the ways in which places shape human interaction and perception.
Thus I approach the Shanghai fair as a contemporary manifestation of the modern world's fair idea that "civilization" as a rhetorical concept is best defined through contraction rather than expansion. In other words, recalling my oft-asked question to students in COMM 149, "Who's in, who's out, and who decides?" This process of distillation, one that likely arises in any "tiny town," tacks between overt restriction and the more subtle, potentially insidious, illusion of completeness.
What I hope to find in Shanghai, though, is not merely another example of the well-known trope of the "God's eye view," the perspective of human power subverted under the presumption of cosmic detachment, but rather a material evolution beyond historical and extant practices, a mutation that surprises. That disjuncture, especially when it helps us see aspects of contemporary life that otherwise elude the thoughtful gaze, is worth investigating.
Keep checking back with this blog. I hope to expand on these ideas in the coming months.