This picture, taken by Kent Klich in Gaza, was one of the winners at Press Photo 2010.

Reinterpreting space

The tactical advantages of looking at the territory from unexpected perspectives.

I am fascinated by new forms of interpreting the territory from different dimensions, by seeing reality with different eyes to see what others can’t see. Those who know how to do it often have a tremendous advantage over their opponent.

Not the flesh but the nervous system

A few days ago, David de Ugarte signed an interesting article titled How ISIL is changing your way of seeing the world. De Ugarte explains that one of the tactics jihadists use to conquer is not to focus in geographic conquest or in square kilometers of land but in roads and nodes. Not on the flesh but on the nervous system of the territory.

The result is a faster and more efficient expansion, even if that implies less absolute land. It’s just the oposite idea of traditional conquest where soil and resources is what matters the most.

This idea reminded me two more examples of how the territory can be reinterpreted:

The walls become doors

The first one was given by Molly Wright Steenson, if I’m not wrong, at 2009’s Reboot in Copenhagen. It was about how the Israeli army reinterpreted the architecture of the Gaza Strip. Moral judgement aside, the idea left me stunned for a few days.

Apparently, one of the most serious problems Israeli commandos were facing was the lack of control over the houses, doors, windows and th enet of corridors in Gaza. Its architectural model was alien to them, hard to anticipate. In a field where they couldn’t dominate they ended up being easy target for ambushes. To regain the situation they had to chose between taking the fight to another field or to change the interpretation they made of the current one.

They went for the latter: they restated the architecture. They ignored the idea of up and down, of door and window. Houses became volumes with as many entry points as sides they had. Ceilings could be doors, walls could be windows.

The result was that they could go from A to B without putting a foot on the street and they remained protected from snipers and unexpected attacks from attics.

Switching the physics and the coordinate axis your opponent becomes confused and out of place. They turned the situation upside down with new tools that would allow them to dig holes fast. They called that tactic: ‘Inverse Geometry’. Don’t miss Eyal Weizman’s piece ‘Walking Through Walls’ on the subject.

Where opinion springs

The third example came with CartoDB developing a visualization of tweets favoring and opposing Scottland’s independence on the upcoming referendum. The map wasn’t showing votes but the sources of opinion, the nodes from which ideas are spread.

Click here for the animated visualization at a proper size.

This may not be their craziest example, there are more on CartoDB’s gallery, but it is a great example of the many other ways of reinterpreting space.

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