Super-tall & Ultra-deep: The Vertical Politics of the Elevator
Entire libraries can be filled with volumes exploring the cultures, politics and geographies of the horizontal mobilities and transport infrastructures that are intrinsic to urban modernity (highways, railways, subways, public transit and so on). And yet the recent ‘mobilities turn’ has almost completely overlooked the cultural geographies and politics of vertical transportation within and between the buildings of vertically-structured cityscapes. This research attempts to rectify this, first, by making elevator travel central to discussions about the cultural politics of urban space and, second, by connecting elevator urbanism to the even more neglected worlds of elevator-based descent in ultra-deep mining. The research addresses, in turn: the historical emergence of elevator urbanism; the cultural significance of the elevator as spectacle; the global race in elevator speed; shifts towards the splintering of elevator experiences; experiments with new mobility systems which blend elevators and automobiles; problems of vertical abandonment; and, finally, the vertical politics of elevator-based ‘ultra-deep’ mining.
Stephen Graham is a scholar and author who researches cities and urban life. He has an interdisciplinary background linking human geography, urbanism and the sociology of technology. Stephen uses this to explore the political aspects of infrastructure, mobility, digital media, surveillance, security and militarism, emphasizing how these shape contemporary cities and urban life. His books include: Telecommunications and the City (Routledge, 1995) and Splintering Urbanism (Routledge, 2001), both with Simon Marvin; Cities, War and Terrorism (Blackwell, 2004); Disrupted Cities: When Infrastructures Fail (Routledge, 2010); Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism (Verso, 2011), and Infrastructural Lives (with Colin McFarlane, Routledge, 2014). Graham’s latest research focuses on the political aspects of verticality. A book on this theme – Vertical: Sewers, Skyscrapers, Satellites (and Everything in Between) – is currently in preparation.
Park Vista Hotel, Gatlinburg, Tennessee. No Hay Problema by code poet (CC License)