About the Archipelago

Please state the main goal behind your app Archipelago Town-lines.

Archipelago Town-lines is the first installment of an app trilogy entitled MMM Street Trilogy. The trilogy is a collection of notes, texts, videos, street reportages, photo galleries, and interactive data visualizations about urban matter as it has been shaped since the beginning of the MMM (the third millennium). I like to say, half-jokingly, that it is a trilogy from the street, for the street, about the street, remembering that the English expression ‘What is the word on the street’ matches the Italian ‘cosa dice la piazza?’ Since the piazza is now dead, victim of the virtual revolution, perhaps it is better to concentrate on the street, or on what it has become.

Archipelago-town is a term I’ve coined. The two words it joins are important and are used in their etymological sense. I started thinking about them when I realized that everybody keeps using the term ‘city’ without realizing it has lost its original meaning. What the present scenario actually shows is a ‘pornographic’ picture in which the difference between ‘urban’ and ‘non-urban’ is blurred—I say ‘pornographic’ because the increasing sprawl eating away at urbanity is, to me, just that.

The semantic confusion about the term ‘city’ is, in my judgement, the reason why there hasn’t been a convincing theory about the problem of urbanization for a long time. Words have weight. The word ‘archipelago’ is very popular today, and it is often misused. So for clarity’s sake, let me say that an archipelago is a cluster or a collection of islands. The word ‘town,’ instead, according to an etymological survey, was coined—in most North European languages—to identify a built or unbuilt space, defined by a fence or ‘town.’ That makes origin of the word, which is different from the way it has progressively been used, quite interesting and gives it a built-in, not as yet fully expressed potential that could be essential in defining ‘limits’ and ‘distances,’ the two key concepts on which an archipelago is formed. It might also be useful in distinguishing the built from the unbuilt. For me, ‘town’ coincides with the German ‘Zaun,’ which is to say, fence.

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