If we pay attention to the origin of the objects that surround us, be they food, furniture, appliances, we immediately peer into a planetary transport network that brings us closer to what would otherwise be unattainable for us. And if we open a tap we will have before us the water of a distant river; and if we press a button we will use the energy obtained many kilometers from where we are, or we will see images and we will hear impossible sounds by distant ones.
But if now we focus on the black sheet of our phone – almost, for sensitive, with qualities of water – and convert the small seals that float in it – the apps– in the objects that they represent and that perform their functions, that is, we give them their original volume, matter and weight, the world we hold in our hands will not amaze.
All this is the result of the fascinating history of the human being to reach the world, make it his own, and not be alien. This operation involves the effort to make the world a place. Evolution has left us in this world and we transform it into a place, and this means that we put it within our reach: we perceive it, we manipulate it and use it, we order it …
A place, therefore, is the area where the world – with what it contains and, also, with what happens in it – can be reached. I reach not only the things that are in it (space), but I also reach to witness what happens in it, what happens (time). The place gives us the experience of presence: the world is before us.
The place is a human construction. And it consists of a phenomenal contraction of space and time, so that the world is tailored to the human being, the extension of his arms, the displacement of his steps, the threshold of his senses … We speak of network of roads, network of transport, electrical network, water network, communications network … of the Network, of the digital network; and this image makes us think of the extension of a mesh made of roads, tracks, tubes, cables, signal frequencies …
But really a place is the contraction of space and time to put it within reach of the dimensions and capabilities of a human body. And in the center of this contraction we are installed … and also sheltered. Cobijados, because outside the place is the uncertainty, and we are out in the open.
The place is the area of intervention and order: we interact and order. And what is beyond our reach, beyond the place, is the world that for the moment we can not reach, random and unknown, blurred.
It is exciting to see how our place in the world has been built, from the bonfire that allows reach (that is, to approximate, appropriate) the forest fire or the lightning in the sky, and thus manipulate the fire, respond to the whim of the temperatures, stop the darkness of the night …, to possess the gravity of our current society with its power of contraction of space and time. And it is now when an unimaginable attraction, almost black hole, gets even closer to the world: the Net. But what causes? Alteration, disorder.
A place, therefore, is the area where the world – with what it contains and, also, with what happens in it – can be reached.
We had our place tidy, and a world in digital has just broken in, stirring the established. It has to be given place, but this occupation forces us to move many things that, in the face of the digital, are already seen as clutter, and it also asks us to take care of the new and dedicate time, more and more time.
The disorder continues to grow, and so many things are affected by obsolescence that looks like a storage room; at the same time that we do not know how to occupy our time to attend to so many instances, so we move restless and clumsy among this disorder. But with dedication we will avoid the shipwreck in this storage room, we will order it, and the astonishment of our new and now still inconceivable place in the world will come.
Antonio Rodríguez de las Heras is a professor Carlos III University of Madrid
Life in digital it is an imagined scenario that serves for reflection, it is not a prediction. Through him move the alefitas, prosthetic beings, in continuous connection with the digital Aleph, because the Red is a phenomenal contraction of space and time, like the Borgesian Aleph, and not a mesh