Ether and Ore: An Archaeology of Urban Intelligences (Yale Architecture Forum)

Monday, September 30, 2019
6:30 PM
Rudolph Hall, Smith Conference Room, Room 322
Shannon Mattern (The New School)

Algorithms, artificial intelligence, surveillance technologies, and civic tech have given rise to a new urban epistemology. Yet these are not the first technologies to inform how we design, administer, maintain, navigate, and understand our cities. Millennia before the emergence of contemporary computational media, cities served as sites of calculation and data management and broadcast. Knowledge regimes of the past, shaped by the prevailing media technologies of their time, were, like our data-driven technologies of today, writ large in the material city. In this talk I’ll dig back through urban and media history to examine how legacy technologies have informed urban morphology and experience – and how those “residual” media continue to resound today. We’ll see that cities past and present mediate between various manifestations of intelligence; they’re both code and clay, ether and ore.

Shannon Mattern is Professor of Anthropology at The New School for Social Research. Her writing and teaching focus on archives, libraries, and other media spaces; media infrastructures; spatial epistemologies; and mediated sensation and exhibition. She is the author of The New Downtown Library: Designing with CommunitiesDeep Mapping the Media City, and Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media, all published by University of Minnesota Press. In addition to writing dozens of articles and book chapters, she also contributes a regular long-form column about urban data and mediated infrastructures to Places, a journal focusing on architecture, urbanism, and landscape, and she collaborates on public design and interactive projects and exhibitions. You can find her at

This event is part of the Yale Architecture Forum. For more information, see