January 5th, 2011

techno hippiedom

Here among friends I'll admit, I spend every January looking at my house and routines, and thinking of remodeling it all with a match and a big can of petrol. I would talk my way out of arson charges, and the next day, be on my bike.
Yet another episode of madness has come over me, this week's inspired by the i-phone and an all-you-can-talk plan, with generous data limits, and no doubt some eyebrow raising direct debits into the future. Even while the sales assistant is still blabbing on, like they do, I am imagining myself riding all day every day, taking care of my emails and calls without even stopping. (True story: I once gave an interview to a journalist while riding. I felt so ahead of myself, as though I were important enough to play catch if catch can with the media now). So I'm still thinking about gadgetry to turn my bike into my office, and even get as far as pricing a pair of Bose blue tooth noise cancellation headphones for pilots—AUD$1600, fantastic!,let's build them into a nutcase bike helmet— when I stop and remember, how I actually saw a documentary perhaps as long ago as the '80s, about some geek who combined his love of cycling with his job freelancing for computer magazines. Two minutes later, I've googled him down.    

His name is Steve Roberts, and from 1983 he crisscrossed America, typing with keys under his hand grips, and spending each night in a different hotel. Not sure if he was married with kids. Most likely not. Reviews I've read of his book suggest he had his hands plenty full enough with bicycling groupies. Don't we all know the type!.

Now the nearest equivalent to the Steve Roberts utopia, from the annuls of whacked out ideas mooted by architects, is one put forward by those attention seeking Italians, Superstudio. Anyone, at any time, could lift any of millions of tiles covering the earth, and fine a socket delivering all the essentials of life: water, data, food, more pot booze acid and mushies, somewhere to shit... they didn't actually get too far into the details. There would certainly not have been shaving equipment. The most gaping of all of these flaws though, is that people would only have skipping ropes for getting around. Now if I actually read all of Steve Roberts's articles, I suspect I would find some reference to Superstudio, whose vision he was in some sense completing, by adding the bike. (Reader, you will let me know, won't you, if someone has skipped around the US, typing articles with computer keys in their hand grips?)

More recently, Mark Wiggly has written about architecture as an enabling prosthesis. Then, if you review precedents and texts fanning out from this general idea, you'll hit predictable suspects like Le Corbusier, Freud, Archigram, etc.. The image to which any such discussion will usually gravitate, is that of a minimally equipped nomad, taking his daily needs with him, and finding nightly needs wherever he happens to camp. We're talking Buddha with an i-phone and some kind of wheels.  

Now, you only need to ride in a few Asian taxis to see, that a populous spending their work day on wheels, will crave things from home. Not the techno hippie though. He is a pure rationalist. Instead of taking a teddy bear to bed as a child, he petted mental visions of 3,4,5 triangles and 4-dimensional solids. He grew up to work for Apple, designing i-phones and i-pads, and being a Buddhist.

At the nexus between architecture, bicycling, and techno-hippiedom, is a vision of the whole world as ones office and house. The globe itself is your building. To work and survive here, one need only tap into an information grid (transmission towers, wi-fi transmitters, whatever), and a hotel chain. I've decided to pass on that mobile phone contract. It would only leader to much harder stuff.