Cityspace, Cyberspace, and the Spatiology of Information

Michael L. Benedikt


Published in 1996* but not widely read, this article argues that space and information are so deeply related that the universe at every moment is exactly and only as large as it needs to be to “contain” the information it in fact is. Using three thought experiments—one about data visualization, one about cellular automata and consciousness, and one about the analysis of architectural space using isovists, each experiment blurring (or rather, uniting) the phenomena of psychological and physical space, the article argues that what we experience as “space” is that set of dimensions which provides the largest capacity for the world’s other qualities, objects, and events to express their variety most fully. The natural universe is incompressible, expanding only as, and because, it becomes richer in information (i.e. cools and evolves). Imaginary and virtual worlds obey the same rule: they are “naturally” as big as they are rich in information. But the possibility exists in cyberspace—as it does not in nature—to choose which dimensions will serve as the spatial framework, and which will become/appear as properties of the things themselves. Data visualizers know this well. One wonders why virtual worlds to this day look so similar to ours, then, rather than to the one envisaged by William Gibson in 1984 and 1986 and which he called “cyberspace.” A failure of architectural nerve? A constraint upon computation? Or has cyberspace proper yet to evolve?


cityspace, cyberspace, virtual worlds, architecture, information

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