Abstract: In this talk I want to think about where code is at work in world and for what purposes. Playing on the popularist notion that technologies bring greater convenience to modern life, this talk looks at specifically at ‘conveniences’, an apposite space of modernity. I will analyse how public toilet spaces are being reshaped, with sensor technologies and software processes deployed that seek to render toileting practices into a sequence of touch-free activities, and attempt to diminish direct handling of the materiality of the bathroom surfaces and fixtures. Driven by a range of modernist discourses around hygiene, ease-of-use, and efficiency, it is apparent that many public toilets are now sites of code which reacts to humans without direct touch. However, the logics of software enabled automation able to overcome the fear of contamination and subconscious disgust at direct touching of surfaces shared with strange bodies is often nullified because the actual deployment of touch-free sensors is typically incomplete. The talk will conclude by considering why the spaces of touch are likely only ever to be partially reconfigurable by software technologies, and what this might mean for the algorithmic automation of other everyday environment and tactile activities.
Bio: Martin Dodge is a Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Manchester, and his research focuses primarily on the politics of mapping technologies, new modes of geographic visualisation, and cultural understandings of urban infrastructures. He curated from 1997 to 2007 the well-known web-based Atlas of Cyberspaces and has co-authored three books analysing technologies: Mapping Cyberspace (Routledge, 2000), Atlas of Cyberspace (Addison-Wesley, 2001) and Code/Space (MIT Press, 2011). He has co-edited four books on cartographic theory and mapping practice: Geographic Visualization (Wiley, 2008), Rethinking Maps (Routledge, 2009),Classics in Cartography (Wiley, 2010) and The Map Reader (Wiley, 2011).