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March 09, 2005

Grid Ubiquity

In his chapter "From Grid to Network," Taylor's objects for study draw mostly on architecture and Fordist/Taylorist efficiency models, those privileging linearity or departing from it toward an antitheses, nonlinearity (the lists do a better job than I have here of explaining the differences).  I have a lot of questions about the suggestion of a shift from grid to network, and many of them are questions I suspect Taylor answers later in The Moment of Complexity, which means I probably ought to add it in its entirety to the growing list.  By and large, I'm most interested in his dichotomous treatment of grid and network.  Even with a particularly timely network momentum (what should we call it, proliferation?), grid-based systems are a (perhaps permanent) fixture.  By this, I mean that no matter the architectural exceptions--many of which are high-priced urban novelties, the city-attractions designed to exude a kind of local and regional signature or difference--grids are fairly stable and pervasive.  I'm open to critiques of the logic of grids, but I am skeptical of the suggestion that network culture subsumes or displaces the grid. For one: Systems for numbering streets won't change because of network logics, will they? 

Our house in Kansas City (just before moving to Syracuse), for example, was unusually numbered--numbered in a way that countered the logic of the grid.  At 7519, it wasn't located immediately next to the 7400s, nor was it where we might have expected--7.5 miles north of the Missouri River--the baseline for street numbering in KC.  Because grid systems were all around us, characterizing the vast majority of properties in the metropolitan area (4700s, for example, name the vicinity of the plaza and midtown areas, 4.7 miles south...and so on).  The ubiquity of grid logics/systems encroaches on the network alterity.  And what follows can be quite messy--the spoils of confusion over mail, pizza delivery, drop-offs of friends, service people (says the plumber, "I'm where your house is supposed to be.  Where are you?"). Great big locational systems, including gizmos like satelite GPS, are a combination of grid (longitude/latitude) and network, no?  I'm sure I'm glossing over many of the subtle distinctions Taylor does well to account for, I ended the chapter wishing for more qualification of claims such as, "Grids, which might have worked in industrial society, are obsolete in network culture" (37).  What kind of obsolescence is this?  Ideological?  The emergence of network culture, I'd say, must constantly confront the residue of grid logics which still seem commonplace, even ubiquitous. 

Posted by dmueller at March 9, 2005 10:16 PM


Weird. I read this a bit differently. I mean, I see how he is positing dichotomies with his lists and the structure of his article, but I also see how his ultimate example is Gehry's building that uses grids while he obfuscates them. I guess I saw Taylor more as someone who was advocating an in process shifting, one that incorporates old models rather than just cutting ties with them all together. Now, this is not to say that the presence of a progress narrative isn't alive and well in all of this, and that the network isn't privileged, but I am not seeing a wholesale break between the two.

I guess I am more interested in how his article itself presents a grid of historical movement, and how this grid works within his claims about the network. I mean, this is not a relational text. It is fairly traditional -- built on the structures of causality. If we are really entering a shift into the network philos -- without grids -- how would we even write about them? So, even if Taylor is attempting to illustrate a break, his words betray (or complicate) him. Does this make sense?

Posted by: jenwingard at March 10, 2005 08:02 AM

Yah...makes sense. I think the talks we had today in both classes helped me think in more depth about this. Weird that the stuff from 611 connects, too, considering that I hadn't read your comment before class. Read through the lens of historical progression, Taylor seems to set grid and network in a one-directional succession (never grids following networks, right?). That taken with a some of the clues about the incompatability of networks and grids led me to these first thoughts.

Posted by: Derek at March 10, 2005 10:12 PM