Electronic Images Change Perceptions of The City, Essay Says

Release Date: July 18, 1994 This content is archived.


BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The products of computers and other electronic interfaces, designed only to represent what is real, have become a new kind of reality, says Beth Tauke Ph.D., assistant professor of architecture at the University at Buffalo.

Tauke's essay, "IMAGinING the CITY," which recently won the 1994 Faculty Essay Competition of the National Institute for Architectural Education, explores how electronic images are replacing the physical as the authority model of our cities.

Tauke cites as an example the student who insisted that there was more to learn about how a city works from playing a computer game called SimCity, which allows the player to design and re-design an imaginary city, than from studying any actual urban center.

SimCity isn't a viable real-life model, she asserts.

The ideas that people have about cities are influenced by what they see on film, television and on computer screens, she writes. In turn, the architecture that results from these ideas is being influenced by television and computers -- the "televisual."

"Technology has made it possible for us to 'be' in many different places at the same time," says Tauke. "We can 'be' in our living room and, at the same time, 'be' on the streets of New York in our television screens." She cites Disney's Epcot Center, where visitors can experience condensed simulations of the great cities of the world without leaving the site, as a built reaction to this televisual multiplicity.

"What we make emulates what we see in the televisual world," she says. "Our buildings are becoming versions of film sets."

"These built simulations often copy the images promoted by television," she explains. "They mimic what the televisual represents as our world, rather than our actual world."

"The city is becoming one of many modes to affirm our belief in celluloid, in pixels, in the represented world -- the big business of illusions," writes Tauke.

She notes that some other examples of the way the televisual have affected architecture can be found in Sante Fe, N. M.; Aspen, Colo.; Disneyworld and Disneyland, and South Street Seaport in New York City.

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