The Physical Network

Photo of people talking on large open space created in Vienna Gurtel in summer 2020 (Gurtel Pool).

4.  The Physical Network

By Andrew Nash

Episode 1: Vienna Woods    … Episode 2: Bunker Business   … Episode 3: Red Herring Keller

“OMG, someone thinks we’re a threat to the Metaverse,” Adrian exclaimed.

“And they don’t like it,” added Pat, probably unnecessarily given they were hiding in an underground bunker.

“What do you mean Adrian?” asked Sibel.

“Well, probably you’ve heard about the Metaverse, it’s been in the news lately. The Metaverse is an immersive computer world like ‘The Matrix’ where people no longer interact physically, but only through an artificial interface like VR. In other words, social networks attacking more of our senses. And Facebook’s just decided to spend 10 billion dollars building it. Wow Andrea, did Facebook try to buy us?”

“NaJa, he didn’t mention names. But he did ask a lot about our app’s physical world connections. And, like I said, he didn’t sound serious. I planned to mention it next time we went for beers. Sorry.”

“I don’t get how our app is any threat to the Metaverse,” said Maria.

It was Sibel’s turn to surprise them, “Don’t you see, our app is designed to encourage physical interaction, the Metaverse is designed to replace physical interaction. I hadn’t thought about it that way before, but that’s what it does.”

Poster from System Change not Climate Change for teach-in about stopping Vienna Lobau Freeway projects November 2021.“Look how the Lobau activists have been using the demo app to spark real conversations about Donaustadt’s future – instead of just stoking social media flame wars.”

“And when people put down their phones, sit around and talk, they might find they have more in common than they think” added Adrian, “They might even decide they like the physical world better than the online world, which wouldn’t be so good for the Metaverse.”

“What a funny coincidence” Philipp interjected, “automobiles made it possible for people to abandon cities, places where they had to live and solve problems together – like in the Gemeindebau – and now digital technologies are turbocharging that separation. It’s ironic the activists are using our app to fight freeways – the original separator.”

“Yeah, but Lobau’s not really about roads and freeways, it’s about how we want to live in the 21st Century. Vienna’s doing a great job with its planning and climate programs, but just building a better suburbia in the Donaustadt isn’t going to solve the climate crisis or help make Vienna resilient to coming challenges,” Sibel really talked like a professor sometimes, “Our app, by helping people work together to create high density urban places – like central Vienna, not the Speckgürtel – would not only provide design input, but help build the social ties needed to make these new districts work.”

“Sounds like a digital Gemeindebau” Andrea mumbled.

“OK, I get it, but we’re no threat to big mainstream social networks. And our app isn’t even finished.” said Maria.

Pat’s phone buzzed. “Sarah from Senderkeller says she saw a bunch of big guys nosing around my Red Herring Keller, but they’re leaving now. I asked her to keep an eye out.” Pat had a nose for wine as well as security, Sarah and Peter made some of Vienna’s best Gruner Veltliner and their Heurigen was famous for its fantastic organic food.

“Where will they go next?” Andrea wondered out loud.

“Well, they could have found me from my Radlobby work with the Lobau activists.” Philipp said, “So that explains why they were in front of my apartment. And our name’s on the door at cowork.”

“Damn!” exclaimed Pat, “My office is upstairs, and the address is on our contact list. The Red Herring Keller threw them off, but they’re probably heading here now. And, since they’re pros they’ll surely find the bunker. Given the traffic they’ll probably be here in 30 minutes or so.”

Read episode 5: Time and City Spaces

Andy Nash

December 1, 2021


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