Collective Intelligence, or Collective Stupidity?

Detroit?  Bangkok?  Manila?  Manaus?  South Africa?

The above image is circulating on the internet accompanied by all sorts of captions of all sorts of cities on all sorts of continents, showing us how images, so easily appropriated and manipulated today, are deployed toward all sorts of ends, all too often sensationalist, demagogical, and misleading.

According to “Del Tirador a la Ciudad“, the architecture and design blog of El País, this image is of Detroit, Michigan. Last time I visited Detroit, in 2001, there weren’t any palm trees to be found, but who knows, maybe global warming has somewhat altered the flora of the Motor City over the last decade.

I suspect the author, Anatxu Zabalbeascoa, pulled the image from this post at Decrece Madrid, a grassroots environmentalist, anti-consumerist and anti-capitalist organization in Madrid calling for the “degrowth” of that metropolis. 

In both of the above websites, this image of “Detroit” serves to highlight the built manifestation of extreme socio-economic contrast, which is certainly visible in this image, and which can certainly be seen in parts of Detroit. Except that this isn’t Detroit. Poverty in that city actually looks very different, occupying run-down 19th and early 20th century houses originally built for a white middle class that fled to the suburbs in the 1950s and 60s.

A reverse image search (conducted by talented architect and photographer Manca Ahlin) reveals a list of further places which this image supposedly represents: Manila, Manaus, South Africa and Bangkok.

Is this collective intelligence, or is this collective stupidity? You can take your pic(k).

About Rafael Gomez-Moriana

I am an architect, writer and educator. rafagomo.com chronicles my architectural making, writing, teaching and curating activity, while criticalista.com is an archive of my writings as well as a platform for venting personal rants and observations. I studied architecture at the University of Waterloo (Canada) and at the Berlage Institute (the Netherlands). I direct the University of Calgary’s architecture term-abroad program in Barcelona and teach at CIEE, and have previously taught in the Metropolis Masters Program in Architecture and Urban Culture as well as at Carleton University and the University of Manitoba.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s