Invisible Cities

It’s been a long time in the making but Invisible Cities is set to launch in just a month!


The project continues my investigation into the relationships between people and place, begun during my Human Ecology MSc thesis. Invisible Cities involves digital technologies to map and unlock audio-based memories and stories held in the Melbourne city centre.

Invisible Cities was going by the working title of ‘Urban Myths’ for a long time, but just recently I flicked through my copy of Italo Calvino’s ‘Invisible Cities’ when I had the idea of naming the project after the book. Some notes written my scrawly handwriting on the inside back cover caught my eye:

One can never know a city in its entirety. It is a mystery that will only be understood in pieces, a few pieces per person. Only together can we understand the city. But even then, we can’t. Never assume you know a city.

The city is still under construction. Made not just by the cranes and the road workers, but by the buskers, the street artists, the shoppers, the workers. We create the landscape, the soundtrack and the personality of the cities as we live their lives in and through it. But still we can’t know it.

I would have scrawled this and then forgotten about it in 2008 while reading for my Masters dissertation about resilience in urban communities. But I guess those thoughts stayed with me as it’s nearly identical to the description I’ve used in the series of projects I’ve been developing about people and place, in which Invisible Cities, Die Insel and The People’s Wangaratta fit. It all started from Italo Calvino. Who knew.

See the Invisible Cities page and website for project details.

5 Replies to “Invisible Cities”

  1. I downloaded the app after hearing you on radio national. then i had to wait till my next trip to Melbourne.
    I really enjoyed my walk, although i only had time to do about 8 sites.
    ive already told a few friends about the memory of the memory that i carry of that woman in the lane when the probably bride to be swept past on her hens night and “said I think ive made a terrible mistake”. “Sleep on it” she called back. You know the site i mean of course.

    I love the whole concept and would love to see what you could do if you had an unlimited budget! (Dont we all)

    thanks and well done


    1. Thanks for your message of long ago, Merran! I’m glad you liked the app back then – and sorry it’s taken me so long to say so. Can I ask if you happen to be WA based? Because Invisible Cities is on its way to Fremantle…

  2. This is such a lovely idea and one which I wanted to take part in. However, you’ve not realised that over two-thirds of mobile phone users have Android phones.
    Still, I expect you won’t mind having a minority take-up. But so much work deserved a wider audience surely?

    1. Hi Avoca,
      Thanks for your message. I completely agree with you; it is a pity that with the small budget I’ve been working with, we weren’t able to build an Invisible Cities app for Android. But! I’ve since decided to go for it anyway and we’re now in the process of building the Android app in the hope that some funding will magically appear and backpay me. If you’re on Facebook, click ‘going’ to the Invisible Cities event and you’ll find out when the free Android app is available for download so you can hear the secrets stories of the city.

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