[iDC] Call for Questions

Mark Shepard 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:// 
www.situatedtechnologies.net ]

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  
questions were:

> 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?


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