submissions

Alexei Shulgin, Desktop Is (1997)

Issue Three: Cyberspace
Now closed for submissions

In 1984, science fiction writer William Gibson coined the term cyberspace, “a consensual hallucination experienced daily by billions of legitimate operators.” As the internet became commercially available, architects hoped that this virtual “space” would form a computer-generated public commons. “Cyberspace is mythic … it could be the very essence of architecture,” wrote critic Aaron Betsky in a 1995 publication. The physical landscape of shopping malls, bars, and post offices quickly became enmeshed with the digital spaces of online stores, dating apps, and email inboxes. Amidst the coronavirus pandemic, the relationship between the physical and the virtual is once again changing—the internet has become a primary site of work, education, and social interaction. Many have conceptualized cyberspace as either distinctly utopian or purely dystopian; the third issue of Take Shape aims to explore its potential to be something else entirely.

For individuals, cyberspace can provide room to envision and build alternative realities—with new conceptions of work, leisure, and selfhood. Online, we can inhabit identities that may differ from our physical bodies, create communities that cross borders and other legal boundaries, and access knowledge outside of traditional educational institutions. But digital spaces can also provide a breeding ground for the worst elements of human impulse—from YouTube conspiracy theorists inciting real-life violence, to Facebook content moderators trapped in a cycle of graphic videos and PTSD. How do our physical realities influence the virtual spaces we seek out? And how has cyberspace influenced the planning, mapping, and architecture of physical spaces?

At the structural level, tech monopolies and law enforcement surveil cyberspace with little accountability. Internet companies have grown into monopolies that profit from the collection and sale of personal data. Law enforcement uses cell phones to digitally track people’s movements in real time. The state’s use of cyberspace intersects with its “broken windows” policing of the urban landscape, perpetuating the criminalization of black and brown lives. Cyberspace isn’t immune from ideologies such as liberalism, color-blind multiculturalism, traditional visions of family, and the idealization of capitalism. But hackers and other cyberpunks also use digital technology to divert and counteract the agendas of the powerful. How might we use cyberspace to reinvent and challenge existing mythologies, rather than perpetuate them?

Take Shape is a nonfiction publication at the intersection of leftist politics and the built environment. Our third issue, “Cyberspace,” will primarily exist online. We’re accepting two types of submissions; first, we seek writing, including longform journalism, interviews, and creative nonfiction. We’re looking for well-researched work that would interest a general readership. If you would like us to send you a PDF of a previous issue to get a sense of the work we publish, please ask.

Second, we invite 3d artists, architects, and video game designers to submit interactive, virtual environments for our readers to explore on our site, takeshapemag.com. Organized by guest editor Paolo Yumol, these spaces should meaningfully engage with the politics of contemporary cyberspace. They could, for instance, play with the tropes of online real estate tours, resuscitate a space from Second Life or Minecraft, or imagine the perfect sphere for virtual pandemic socializing. Some projects we’re interested in include artist Lawrence Lek’s simulation Unreal Estate, indie developer Kitty Horrorshow’s game Anatomy, and artist Cao Fei’s urban imagining RMB City. We are currently accepting submissions for virtual spaces primarily in the form of in-browser WebGL games or interactive apps that can be hosted on itch.io. We are also willing to collaborate with any 3D artists or architects who are interested in producing a virtual space using 3D modeling software but would require assistance in building it into an interactive app. (If you have an idea but are unsure whether or not it will satisfy the above criteria, feel free to reach out.)

Those interested in submitting either writing or a virtual space should email the editors by July 31 at takeshapemag@gmail.com. In your email, please include a brief pitch outlining the subject and stakes of your submission as well as a work sample. As a volunteer-run publication, we can offer an honorarium of $75 if your pitch is accepted. You will work with an editor to develop your piece over the course of two months, and you will retain the rights to your work. You will aim to submit a final draft by the end of September. We will select approximately twelve writers and five virtual space makers. We look forward to your submission.