Pulse, Code, Modulation offers a postmodernist attempt at deconstructing the distinction between architecture and building, while frequently detouring through hermeneutical questions about the sort of environments we’ve built around us.
It must be acknowledged up front that Pulse, Code, Modulation makes for challenging reading. The narrative includes some abnormalities of syntax, but the larger problem is the language itself. The author readily acknowledges that the book is not for “the uninitiated,” but that’s only part of the problem. Sentences rely too heavily on academic jargon and unexplained (or hastily explained) concepts, and once the reader grasps the sentence, it is not always clear that very much was said. A typical passage: “Due to complexities of communication in text and conversation [sic] it commonly leads to a dislocated narrative. This is primarily due to self-referentiality ‘devoid of both base and centre’ with the differential system.”
That’s not to say the book doesn’t have a point. It presents a wealth of provocative ideas. Among them: that our shaped environment is a realization of us and us (to some extent) of it; that through countless depictions of “ghetto,” the cultural meaning of socioeconomic depression has been co-opted and transformed (not necessarily for the better); that, in fact, much of the landscape we “experience” is merely simulated for us (i.e. through TV, video games, etc.), creating new and disconnected meanings; that a modernized landscape is one saturated by commodity culture; that utopian modernism has been replaced by fractured urbanism and (maybe) that’s just as well.
The author is careful to describe rather than judge, and his narrative is erudite, scholarly, and ambitious. But the scope of it is just too big and unfocused, as well as densely written, for it to be effective. Pulse, Code, Modulation succeeds in engaging with (albeit without always coherently articulating) some very big ideas. At its best, though, it reads like a promising student’s unfinished dissertation.
Also available as an ebook.