Control Syntax Songdo

T Sensing Mark Wasiuta 1

Control Syntax Songdo argues that through Korea’s smart city investments and operations we are able to glimpse an emerging logic shaping the 21st century city. In Songdo, and other smart cities, the conventions of urban formal organization—with their hierarchies of visual, spatial, perceptual, symbolic order—shift toward a new urban vocabulary comprising motion sensors, traffic cameras, and operational data maps. Written into smart city control algorithms, these newly significant urban components produce an undifferentiated, non-hierarchical array of urban objects and actors. Control Syntax Songdo has two components: a physical model and 360º videos of key Songdo intersections. The videos mark sensor locations and illustrate the attentive, nervous, ubiquity of Songdo’s vision technologies. The model compresses Songdo into a single intersection, congested with compound traffic accidents. The model registers and catalogs this sequence of accidents as well as the anxieties that lurk within the imaginary of smart city algorithmic control and regulation. Incoming cars are monitored to track drivers, check records, and to alert the city of possible criminal intrusion. Each accident is the consequence of a particular failure of urban control, and illustrates a narrative of smart civic life gone awry. Yet, the model is less a scene of spectacular catastrophe, than it is an image of the predictive logic that forms the smooth rationality of the smart city, and of the computational governmentality through which Songdo both absorbs and limits urban life.