(Flickr/Leeks)

The human imagination has been technologically transformed in the past century. Not only have the channels through which we communicate been fundamentally reshaped, but the content of what we are saying has changed. New media––new tools for speaking––create new forms of expression. With pocket-sized phones, our voices can be heard across oceans. On the web, we can videochat with friends on the opposite side of the Earth. The once insurmountable communicative barriers of time and distance are now afterthoughts. We are annoyed when our intercontinental Skype conversation freezes. We expect websites to load in less than two seconds.

Space Hacking is a short series exploring the always-rising layers of self-expression in contemporary society

Technology and urbanization have collapsed the distances dividing people and cultures. As populations flock to big cities, many of us now literally live on top of each other (in high rise apartments). And this physical densification, provoked by an expanding web of instantaneous worldwide communication, is reflected in the ways we think and express ourselves.

Today’s urban spaces are the increasingly dense products of interwoven human expression. Even our ‘natural’ spaces (parks, beaches, gardens) are landscaped: manipulations of nature rather than anything truly wild. Having become immersed in society’s manufactured products, our imaginative resources – the raw materials of thought – have already been designed and built. It’s no wonder we are a ‘remix culture.’

Space Hacking is a short series exploring the ever-rising layers of self-expression in contemporary society: the communicative skyline that shifts and expands even faster than the physical profiles of our cityscapes. What we often hear as a single voice is really the mingling of many. Load bearing walls have become art galleries and marketing platforms. Old LPs (records of music) are themselves now musical instruments. Some see sidewalk curbs and park benches; others see playgrounds.

The contents of the city – to a space hacker – are the building blocks of self-assertion. But what does it imply about our notions of individuality when those blocks have already been built, and are already assertions?