[iDC] Introduction

Mark Shepard mark.w.shepard at gmail.com
Wed Jul 5 04:06:47 EDT 2006

Hi there,

As one of the organizers of Architecture and Situated Technologies,  
I'm really looking forward to the coming months' discussions. It's  
great to have the opportunity to discuss these issues on this list.

By way of introduction, I'm currently teaching in the departments of  
Architecture and Media Study at the University at Buffalo, where I am  
co-director of the Center for Virtual Architecture and coordinator  
for the Media | Architecture | Computing program.

The Center for Virtual Architecture’s research is located at the  
intersection of architecture, new media and computational  
technologies. We are interested in the possibilities offered by  
computational systems for rethinking human interaction with (and  
within) the built environment. Our focus areas include learning  
environments, design environments, responsive architecture and  
locative media. Computational technology provides both a means and a  
medium for this research: an operative paradigm for conceptualizing  
relations between people, information, and the material fabric of  
everyday life. URL -  http://cva.ap.buffalo.edu

The Media | Architecture | Computing program at UB was established to  
investigate confluences in architecture and media art brought about  
by computational technologies. As sites of practice for architecture  
and computational media converge, new avenues for research and  
experimentation arise that require an expanded knowledge domain.  
Working with faculty in the departments of Architecture and Media  
Study, students in the program conduct research and creative  
explorations in responsive architecture, robotics, networked  
performance, physical computing, locative media, virtual reality +  
game design, kinetic structures, parametric design, and digital  
fabrication. With a focus on providing a critical context for  
experimental practice, this program provides architects and media  
artists an opportunity to explore contemporary confluences of  
architecture and computational media.

My own work focuses on the impact of mobile and pervasive  
technologies on architecture and urbanism. I am interested in not  
only how these technologies alter how we locate, interact and orient  
ourselves within, navigate through, and otherwise inhabit the  
contemporary city, but also how the design of the (built) urban  
environment might respond to these changes.

I'm currently developing a project titled the "Tactical Sound Garden  
[TSG] Toolkit", an open source platform for cultivating virtual  
"sound gardens" in urban public space. It draws on the culture of  
urban community gardening to posit a participatory environment where  
new spatial practices and social interactions within technologically  
mediated environments can be explored and evaluated. Addressing the  
impact of mobile audio devices like the iPod, the project examines  
gradations of privacy and publicity within contemporary public space.
The Toolkit enables anyone living within dense 802.11 wireless (WiFi)  
"hot zones" to install a "sound garden" for public use. Using a WiFi  
enabled mobile device (PDA, laptop, mobile phone), participants  
"plant" sounds within a positional audio environment. These plantings  
are mapped onto the coordinates of a physical location by a 3D audio  
engine common to gaming environments - overlaying a publicly  
constructed soundscape onto a specific urban space. Wearing  
headphones connected to a WiFi enabled device, participants drift  
though virtual sound gardens as they move throughout the city.

The TSG Toolkit is a parasitic technology. It feeds on the  
propagation of WiFi access points in dense urban environments as a  
free, ready-made, locative infrastructure for cultivating community  
sound gardens in contemporary public space. The concept leverages the  
fact that the protocol for WiFi networks requires access points to  
publicly broadcast their SSID (Service Set Identifier). Access points  
producing the WiFi signals used to determine the location of a  
participant may be open or encrypted, and need not be "owned" by  
those deploying the TSG system.

I'll be presenting the project in its first city-wide incarnation  
this August at the ISEA 2006 / ZeroOne San Jose Symposium and  
Festival. Drop me a note if you'll be there ...

URL - http://www.tacticalsoundgarden.net

Best regards,

mark shepard

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