The Idea of a New Space in James Bridle’s "The Render Ghosts"

The ultimate idea that we have created a New Space, that is in-between the tangible world and the internet comes from James Bridle’s essay The Render Ghosts where he talks about architectural renderings and their „inhabitants“, so called Render Ghosts. Bridle (2013) describes them as „people who live inside our imaginations, in the liminal space between the present and the future, the real and the virtual, the physical and the digital.“ In the past ‚scale figures‘ were the most minimal gesture to represent a human being. A scale figure is neither old not young. It is a person without any qualities, yet shaped by a designer as either the starting point of design or the desired outcome of design.

However over the last few decades scale figures went through a rapid evolution. Nowadays scale figures are exact copies of us – avatars that are showing us possible futures. When in the past their ancestors often had no real limbs, ears or even eyes, today, Render Ghosts look just like you and me. Profanely speaking, Render Ghosts are photographies of people from databases – similar to stock photos – that are used by architects to help making their computer visualisations more lively. Therefore these‚ ghosts are set in environments and buildings that have not been build yet. They are living in places that we are preparing for – places of imagination, that we are designing that have not made it into our physical world yet but are imminent. Bridle (2011) says that […] these spaces of our imagination are entirely digital now. This is where we do our thinking, this notional space in which we imagine possible visions of the future […] It is a very strange looking, bizarre space. Liminal, in-between the physical and the digital – something that has not come into being. It is the Inter Orbis. Within this new space, people, like the Render Ghosts, get dehumanised. They are not seen as living individuals anymore. They are just used for a very special purpose – to please the architects as an object to understand proportions and fire our imaginations. Render Ghosts live a very dull life. Luckily, time is a concept that does not exist in the Inter Orbis.

Due to technological progress, media and the internet some images got payed particular attention. These images, like Lenna and Jennifer, have something special to them – something that makes them unique. They wrote history and set milestones. Both of them became one of the the most reproduced and altered images in computer history. Through the internet they became icons of the digital era. This kind of iconification of personas due to technology turned Lenna and Jennifer into objects, rather than human beings. They are personas of the Inter Orbis, turned from something made out of flesh and blood into something flat, impersonal. We do not see Jennifer Knoll or Lena Söderberg in them anymore. In fact they turned into reflections, or copies, of themselves. According to Bridle (2013) they are „[…] real people turned into ideal calibration markers for contemporary technologies.“Both Lenna and Jennifer became some sort of ubermenschen. Unapproachable, yet so concrete and accessible. Teachers, teaching us to tinker around with images, showing us that there are alternatives to the ‚real‘.

Inhabitants of the Inter Orbis speak a language that does not make sense – to us. However, it is a mumble that every designer is very familiar with. ‚Lorem Ipsum Dolor’ – a language which just serves as a placeholder tongue, because personas that are living in the in-between do not speak. We shut them quiet. We do not want to listen. Personas of the Inter Orbis just have to function, work for us. We created them and now we do not want to hear their screams, their pain – when they quietly whimper „Orbis Papyrus.“

03 December 2019
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