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“Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City” M. Gandy

Gandy, Matthew. “Cyborg Urbanization: Complexity and Monstrosity in the Contemporary City.” International Journal of Urban and Regional Research 29.1 (2005): 26-49.











Cyborg: Hybrid creature composed of machine and organism


Cyborg Urbanization

As a conceptual tool in urban discourse, Cyborg extends analysis of flows, structures and relations beyond conventional boundaries that define ‘global cities’ to marginal, ordinary and neglected urban spaces

It is a framework of analysis that investigates the cultural and ideological realm of everyday life in relation to the ‘unconventional’ urban landscapes that have emerged outside of central metropolitan regions.

An imaginative strategy for opening up new modes of conceptualizing and acting on the city.

“The cyborg offers a sense of continuity in our critical technology nexus that underpins the contemporary city, but also as a corrective to those perspectives which seek to privilege the digital or virtual realm over material spaces.” (Gandy, 40)



Cyborgian Urban Metaphor Origins:

Donna Haraway
‘A Cyborg Manifesto’ (1985); Simians, Cyborgs and Women (1991)

Metaphor: The combination of virtual and corporeal experience of space; cyborg is a way of conceptualizing the social, material and economic growth and development of cities


  • 19th Century conceptualization of urban landscapes
  • City as an integrated body with identifiable, hierarchical organs


  • Hybrid conception of space: system of technological devices that enhance human productive and imaginative capabilities
  • Neurological reading of space : a diffuse/ interconnected realm of human interaction



Machine metaphors:
Chiattone; Marinetti; Sant’Elia


Computer metaphors:
Design inspired by nature yet remains purely digitized

Ex. Realized ‘In Vitro’ projects incl. Gehry; Eisenmann; Tschumi



Organic metaphor :

  • non-hierarchical concept of the city that includes the imaginary/virtual realm
  • not just an understanding of the physical realm but includes domain that generates new space/ideas

Ex. Computer-aided architectural simulations that produce physical space but resemble cyberspace

Deleuze & Guattari; Henri Bergson



‘Endo-colonization’ of the human body
ie. “The city in the body”

Fear of cyborgian urban development that has and will foster disconnected urban infrastructure that resemble military conditions (offensive/defensive) :

Ex. The destruction of essential technological networks such as water and power to oppress certain socio-economic populations and regions



Virtual bodies : can sense and act at a distance but remain anchored to ehir immediate surrounds

Hope to liberate the human body from the illusory skin-bounded limitations of the autonomous self

W. Mitchell

“Architects have been concerned with the skin-bounded body and its immediate sensory environment… now they must contemplate electronically augmented, reconfigurable, virtual bodies that can sense and act at a distance but that also remain partially anchored in their immediate surroundings”. (Mitchell, 1998: 173)


Cyborg City : post-metabolic city in which the information exchange, rather than material exchange, has become the dominant dynamic in the shaping of urban space 

“If the clearly defined human body of the industrial city as been replaced by the technologically diffuse body of the cyborg city, then what kind of bodily occlusions are implicated in this shift?” (Gandy, 42)



With blurred boundaries between the body and the city, our understanding of the human subject and human agency is shifting :

Agency and social power systems in the cyborg city can be seen in the public sphere, which was physically inherited from the industrial city yet is swiftly changing to new concepts of ownership and autonomy with technological advancements.










             ”          : PHANTOM SPACES AND THE PUBLIC REALM

Marginal spaces of the post-industrial city are littered with technological relics: a collection of metal and concrete that amass along waterways, transportation, roads and beneath the ground of urban areas

Agency and activation of these neglected, public environments is a focal point for cyborgian cities as there is a gradual detachment of modern infrastructure








“The development of the cyborg metaphor has coincided with the re-emergence of urban infrastructure as a discursive field permeated by crisis, uncertainty and political contestation. The association between the cyborg metaphor and the rediscovery of the jumbled mass of pipes and wires that constitute the hidden city reminds us that the technological fascination of the cyborg city…” (Gandy, 39)


             ”          : VIRTUAL CITY VS. CONCRETE CITY

Disjuncture between the technological sophistication associated with the virtual city and the dilapidation experienced in the concrete city

Divide between ‘wired’ and ‘wireless’ technologies that is not accounted for when assessing urban change

Post-Industrial City: characterized by centralized enclaves of a “hyper-connected” elite within a wider landscape of neglect and social polarization

ex. Manila, Mumbai.

“The idea of the cyborg is especially useful…by emphasizing the shifting interrelationship between ‘wired’ and ‘wireless’ technologies and the interdependencies engendered by these evolving structures and relationships. The cyborg metaphor allows us to conceptualize the interaction between social and biophysical processes that produce urban space and sustain the possibilities for everyday life in the modern city.” (Gandy, 37)







“By enlisting the cyborg as a conceptual tool in urban discourse we can develop an imaginative response to the unknowability of the city and it’s power to generate cultural energies that ultimately impact on wider social and political processes.” (Gandy, 42)





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