On civilised urbanism

Samantha Suppiah
24 min readJun 22, 2021

This is a transcript of Tyson Yunkaporta’s talk at Media Futures Hub, University of New South Wales, in late May 2021.

What’s the difference between good story and bad story?
You gotta have your foundational narratives right.

Let’s kick off with some story with the word smart — smart houses, smart contracts. Let’s see how clever they really are.

If you really are making sure that the foundations of your knowledge are sitting in good story, there has to be room for new ones, always.
Bad stories don’t have that.

For a start, good story has place, but also there are places for new ones. You need to look at the stack that you’re inhabiting intellectually.
Look at the different layers of abstraction that have been built into that stack, and how much of them are actually rounded in that mycelium of good story.

Placelessness is one of the landmarks of bad story, but there are other things as well. Having absolutes and having no room for nuance is one of the other things that makes your foundational knowledge not very smart.

In Melbourne there are some groundwaters around here that are still good. Some rivers have been diverted in their course to go somewhere else. But the original river is still running under the ground as well.

Yarra River, Melbourne (u/badstance, 2020)

In the architectures of civilisation, there are a lot of complicated considerations to bring into place. You might have an undesirable community with river frontage. It’s easier to move the river than to move the community — to sort out your zoning and real estate concerns. River frontage at some stage wouldn’t have been a great place to live, but then all of a sudden it is, it’s desirable. Suddenly it’s, “we can’t have all these poor people sitting there, these marginalised groups. We can’t have all these enthnicities taking that space, doing well out of that.”
I got no proof that that’s the reason for moving the river, but it’s always a consideration in zoning and urban…

Samantha Suppiah

Southeast Asian trickster. Design strategist for decolonial sustainability & regeneration. www.possiblefutures.earth/samantha