Quotable (#192)

The cyberpunk-urbanism circuit deftly described:

… the ideas of science fiction resonate very powerfully with how contemporary cities are shaped. Another example might be the designs of Shanghai’s Pudong district, where there’s a very palpable sense of Blade Runner-esque atmospheres. Blade Runner itself was partly shaped by Ridley Scott’s ideas about oriental urbanism and slightly orientalist treatments of street life in the supposedly futuristic Los Angeles. And ideas about Blade Runner are clearly influencing Chinese elites’ ideas about urban futurism. […] … there are even more relationships that are at play here, because once these cityscapes are built — once this extraordinary Blade Runner-esque cityscape in Shanghai is constructed or reconstructed, once Dubai is ratcheted into the skies — then the next generation of sci-fi movies are then filmed in these places to represent the future. You’re already getting a lot of sci-fi movies — like Code 46 by Michael Winterbottom, for example — filmed in these cities. They then become the exemplars of the future, which works very powerfully to help brand these cities as futuristic places, which is half of the battle for these elites: Once they become images for the future, then that’s it.

It does seem like asking whether the chicken or the egg came first, in that sometimes it’s sci-fi inspiring our cityscapes, and other times it’s our cityscapes inspiring sci-fi.

It’s reciprocal. There isn’t an obvious start point for this.


A wide-angle view of ‘Extrastatecraft‘ and its zones of escape:

No matter its ultimate effectiveness, the zone has proved durable; most recently China’s adoption of the formula has produced an especially potent and self-perpetuating version. If the Export Processing Zone was Zone 1.0, then China’s Special Economic Zone is Zone 2.0. Established in the early 1980s, the first SEZs — Shenzhen, Xiamen, Shantou, Zhuhai, and the entire province of Hainan — were planned as experiments with market economies. By 1984, China had created 16 more, and since then they have established literally thousands of SEZs. Most of these diverge from the typical EPZ, to the point where China now constitutes its own zone category; and an immense one — by 2006 the International Labor Organization had estimated that of the 66 million workers employed in EPZs worldwide, 40 million were in China.