Keller Easterling: Believers & Cheaters (November 17, 2004)

Marcelo Spina introduces Keller Easterling, describing and her role in the emergence of digital design at Columbia University. He explains that Easterling’s work draws from the post-war landscape of U.S. history. He also cites her influences, her mentors, and identifies her approach as highly speculative and provocative as she draws from an eclectic group of thinkers.

Easterling explains the topic of her lecture, “Believers and Cheaters.” She identifies a series of political figures, and reviews the modern political landscape and its actors. She draws comparisons between these actors and physical constructs that exhibit some of the same characteristics.

Easterling documents her research in collaboration with students. The first step in this research involved the identification of global sites that exhibited certain characteristics. Each of these is described as a spatial product, similar to software (rather than hardware). Each is dislocated, measured by statistics and acronyms. Each is valued more as streams of data than a physical form. These sites include automated container ports in Hong Kong, golf courses in China, and the global demolition industry.

Easterling presents case studies of three different sites characterized as “Believers” and “Cheaters.” The first is El Ejido in southern Spain, a high-tech agricultural site. Next she focuses on global trade hubs like Hong Kong and Rotterdam, which are positioned within a global network of similar enclaves, and existing in special economic zones. Finally, she addresses North Korea and its attempt to promote tourism.

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