> *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 of
> Omnitopia” (Hampton Press), defines omnitopia as follows:

> “When you can flow from place to place, experiencing it all as one vast
> interior, cocooned in your own bubble, interacting with other people
> and natural parts of the world only as a series of objects, you're in
> omnitopia.”

> As an experiment in 2004, Andrew flew to New York intending to drive the
> 3000 miles back to San Jose without saying more than 10 words a day to
> the people he encountered. As it turned out, he spoke only five words
> during the cross country trip through airports, motels, restaurants and
> gas stations.

> Andrew will describe his research on the rise of omnitopia and its
> enabling technologies (ATMs, cell phones, laptops, credit-card readers,
> ticket kiosks, iPods, online shopping), and discuss the implications of
> the increasing availability of technologies that remove the need for
> personal interaction.

Wood 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.

Omnitopia 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.

Wood 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.

Dislocation - 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 that comfortable.

Conflation - 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.

Fragmentation - 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.

Mobility - 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.

Mutability - 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.

Wood 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.

He 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.

The USA's most famous media bubble is the one around the President.

Omnitopia is all around us, it's not in either Burning Man or Mall of America or both.

Books Wood recommended include The Art of the Motor by Paul Verillio and translated by Julie Rose and/or A Small Place by Jamaica Kincad.

Tian Harter