[iDC] Call for Questions
mshepard at andinc.org
Sun Sep 10 00:08:16 EDT 2006
Hello iDC list,
With the Architecture and Situated Technologies symposium now less
than 6 weeks away, we'd like to ask for your help in shaping the
questions we'll address next month in NYC. What questions would you
pose vis-a-vis the confluence of Architecture and Situated Technologies?
We're bringing together a fairly diverse and interdisciplinary group
of people – including architects, artists, historians, sociologists,
technologists and theorists (some wearing more than one of these
hats) – to examine, explore and enact ideas for a near-future world
of networked "things" and other "situated" technologies. And we've
planned an intensive three days of presentations, discussions,
workshops and performances in an attempt to approach the subject from
a variety of formats and methods.
[ More information about the symposium is available here: http://
The thoughts, references, provocations, rants and raves contributed
here over the past two months have already helped to shape the
discourse. Now we ask for your questions to help shape the debate.
Some have asked, what exactly are "situated" technologies, and what
might they have to do with architecture?
When we began thinking about the subject, we identified two usages of
the word "situated" to work with:
> 1. Situated: located: situated in a particular spot or position;
> "valuable centrally located urban land"; "strategically placed
> artillery"; "a house set on a hilltop"; "nicely situated on a quiet
> riverbank" - http://wordnet.princeton.edu/perl/webwn?s=situated
> 2. Situated Action: every course of action is highly dependent upon
> its material and social circumstances focusing on moment-by-moment
> interactions between actors, and between actors and the
> environments of their action - Lucy Suchman, Plans and Situated
> Actions: The Problem of Human-machine Communication (Cambridge
> University Press, 1987)
The first is clearly related to architecture in that architecture
often begins with the site (a specific place or location) as a
primary force shaping the act of building. The second stems from a
critique by Lucy Suchman of assumptions about purposeful "human"
activity common to artificial intelligence research at the time,
which tended to think of this activity as a something that proceeded
by an a-priori plan that was perfunctorily executed. Both invoke
context (a site, an environment, other people) as determining factor
in trying to understand the object or event in question.
> Locative Media, Responsive Architecture and Participatory Networks
We also looked at recent architecture, art and technology practices
that in different ways attempt to address issues of "context" through
a wider lens. In contrast to Manuell Castell's placeless space of
flows that characterized much of late 20th century discourse on
global networks, we found a renewed interest in questions of
location, place, embodied interaction, behavior, responsiveness and
participation. We saw seeds of recent work in Locative Media,
Responsive Architecture, and Participatory Networks in experiments in
architecture, art and technology from the 60s by Archigram and the
Metabolists, Alan Kaprow and Vito Acconci, and the Architecture
Machine Group at MIT, to name just a few.
> The Coming Age of the Internet of Things
But where do we go from here? At the dawn of an era of networked
"things" – where the built environment itself becomes imbued with the
capacity to sense, record, share, contextualize, and respond to what
happens in physical space – questions of context reach a new level of
complexity. "Things" themselves become actors, affecting change
through their observations and assertions. Here, communication
becomes less about the exchange of information between people, and
more about people and "things" co-habiting within communicative
In thinking about how to approach these issues, some of our initial
> What can we harvest from recent work in Locative Media, Responsive
> Architecture, and Participatory Networks that might help "situate"
> our thinking about the Internet of Things?
> How might this evolving relation between people and "things" alter
> the way we occupy, navigate, and inhabit the built environment?
> What post-optimal design strategies and tactics might we propose?
> How do distinctions between space and place change within these
> networked media ecologies?
What would you add to this list?
More information about the iDC