So many of us in just another city designed to make our bodies move through space as quickly and as frictionlessly as possible, to get us to our next item on the day’s many agendas… touching in and out without touching anything, our eyes looking down making contact only with our screens...

We kick off the series in London with Episode 0, the starting line of tuning into the pulse of place. I’ve been geeking out on the pulse of London for years. Layer upon layer of building styles, rich architecture, heavy patina, storage vats of memory under every footstep. The city is lousy with it, but increasingly, there has felt like a steam-rolling of its guts in the pursuit of productivity, order and high-yield consumption patterns. And as we become more and more digital and distracted, more mediated and surveilled, the effect can feel like a flattening, a disconnection from where we are and who’s around us.

As a place geek and lover of spontaneous interactions, I started businesses focused on both through trading at food markets on the kerbs of the city. The market is the ultimate unmediated space: independent, chaotic, immediate. It’s where we were able to feel like the city was pliable and where we could create spaces that felt more participatory and human than the big towers of steel and glass that surrounded us.

From having a go on the streets of London, my business thrived, attracting more and more people to trade with us, eat with us and work with us. It was exciting and dynamic, but the more we grew, the further things felt from the guts of what moved me. Chest tight all the time, brain scrambled and pranged-out – everything was up HERE. The feeling of disconnection from my body and my surroundings was strong, forcing me to ask, how the hell did I get here? And more to the point, how did we get here?

The issue – ‘The tyranny of the algorithm: why every coffee shop looks the same’ – essential reading on the accelerating flattening of culture
The antidote – ‘Hippy, capitalist, guru, grocer: the forgotten genius who changed British food’ – in praise of the geographically and culturally distinct
Podcast – Richard Sennett and Anna Minton: ‘Building and Dwelling’

Part precursor, part trailer, the prologue is the set up for the series and a hint at what’s to come.