> *Andrew Wood*
> *Living in a Bubble: The Rise of Omnitopia*
> Andrew Wood, an associate professor in the Communication Studies
> department at San Jose State University and author of the recently
> published book “City Ubiquitous: Place, Communication and the Rise
> Omnitopia” (Hampton Press), defines omnitopia as follows:
> “When you can flow from place to place, experiencing it all as one
> interior, cocooned in your own bubble, interacting with other
> and natural parts of the world only as a series of objects, you're
> As an experiment in 2004, Andrew flew to New York intending to
> 3000 miles back to San Jose without saying more than 10 words a
> the people he encountered. As it turned out, he spoke only five
> during the cross country trip through airports, motels,
> gas stations.
> Andrew will describe his research on the rise of omnitopia and its
> enabling technologies (ATMs, cell phones, laptops, credit-card
> ticket kiosks, iPods, online shopping), and discuss the
> the increasing availability of technologies that remove the need
> personal interaction.
began by telling us that he grew up in a small town in Georgia. Now
living in about the most ethnically homogeneous enclave around here,
Scotts Valley, it is hard for him not to be aware of that. He started
his research into Omnitopia when he realized that more and more of our
interaction with the world is intermediated by stuff. Wood was somewhat
tweaked by the way so many of his students were cocooned in their own
little worlds. He thought he had made up the term "Omnitopia" (from the
Latin for "all" and the Greek for "place") until he found references to
the term in other peoples work. Since getting that inspiration he has
made it his field of study.
began in the 19th Century, maybe in Parisian arcades or the Worlds fair
in London. I really got going at the 1939 Worlds Fair in New York,
where people rode conveyor belts past visions of the future that
included such high tech wonders as freeways and TV sets, which were
still new ideas nobody had seen in real life at the time. Many people
walked away from the experience with buttons that said "I have seen the
future", and in fact much of it did happen. Wood guesses the peak of
omnitopia today is the Las Vegas strip, where you have New York, NY on
one side of the street and the Eiffel Tower on the other, with many
other things jangled into the experience.
has identified five practices that he feels are key to omnitopia:
dislocation, conflation, fragmentation, mobility, and mutuality. He
took each of the five and showed a few slides and talked about the way
the term works in terms of the modern American landscape.
- was definrd as the separation of a miniaturized
version of "the world" from
the real world outside. He spoke to the general
uprootedness of the suburban culture that seems to never make anybody
- the image was of the Las Vegas Strip, a jangle of different
influences in a scientifically designed space where commerce could be
isolated from the dangers of an unscripted urban experience.
- the way in which monolithic structures are depicted to
have varied facades, each suggesting a sense of unique experience that
nonetheless affirm the same structure. The
image here was a strange modern building, where every side was curved
and reflected light in unexpected ways.
- the image here was the interstate highway system, where "you can see
the whole USA and not feel like you've seen any of it" or the airport,
which is designed to be a place you ignore while going through it.
- the image here was a Lexus ad in which places
and people conform to our technologically-aided editing, as we
enjoy a comfortable cocoon with the controls at our fingertips.
recommends "reverence" as an alternative to omnitopia, showing us
images of personal memorials to individuals and some of the quirky
Americana along Route 66. He explained that caring about place is part
of disengaging from a scripted mainstream experience created by people
that just want your money.
finished by saying we could find out more at cityubiquitous.com,
woodlandshoppersparadise.com, or on twitter at omnitopia.
There was a lot of Q&A.
USA's most famous media bubble is the one around the President.
is all around us, it's not in either Burning Man or Mall of America or
Wood recommended include The Art of the Motor by Paul Verillio and
translated by Julie Rose and/or A Small Place by Jamaica Kincad.