[iDC] a personal intro and questions on precedent

Khan, Omar omarkhan at ap.buffalo.edu
Sun Sep 10 13:43:29 EDT 2006

Hi Molly,

> - What precedents might we look to undergird our discussion of
> situated technologies, beyond the most obvious ones that we turn to?

1) I have also been looking intently at cedric price's work for the past year. My interest in him really comes out of my brief study at the AA where I had the opportunity to work with Gordon Pask. Pask is a necessary link in a very interesting puzzle that brings a variety of important characters together. 
Pask is a cybernetician of the second order type. His major contribution was to learning environments through such theories as Conversation Theory and Actor Network Theory both developed in the late 60s and mid 70s. I wonder whether Bruno Latour hasn't been hiding Pask in his bureau. Cedric Price of course consulted with Pask on the Generator Project. I am not sure but I think that wonderful diagram for Generator was in fact worked on by Pask. On the US side second order cybernetics didn't quite fit into the "fundable" sciences and marvin minsky went so far as to dismiss its contributions entirely in his 1969 book "Perceptrons". While AI was not interested, Pask found common ground with Nicholas Negroponte for whom he wrote an introductory statement for one of the chapters in "soft architecture machine". Negroponte is a significant player whose work in the machine learning group really needs to be revisited and of course how that was transformed into the MIT Media Lab. 
Other characters in cybernetics: W. Ross Ashby, Stafford Beer, Walter Grey, Heinz von Foerster.

2) Another line that I am not so well prepared to elaborate on is Gregory Bateson. Interest in artificial ecologies as metaphors or simulations of social systems really begin here. At the most recent Performance Studies International(June 2006) Baz Kershaw gave a very good paper on Bateson...The entire panel was very good:

Performance Ecologies and Biotic Rights
Arts Lecture Theatre
Chair: Martin Welton

Baz Kershaw (University of Bristol) 
Stephen Bottoms (University of Leeds) 
Matthew Goulish (Goat Island, School of the Art Institute of Chicago) 
The panel will consider several sightings/site-ings of humanism's ghost through an exploration of the 'performance ecologies' recently begun to be theorised and practised, in which performances are understood as literally sharing the characteristics of ecological systems. 


> -----Original Message-----
> From: idc-bounces at bbs.thing.net [mailto:idc-bounces at bbs.thing.net] On
> Behalf Of molly wright steenson
> Sent: Sunday, September 10, 2006 11:03 AM
> To: IDC list
> Subject: [iDC] a personal intro and questions on precedent
> A bit of a personal introduction first, by way of introducing my
> question. Trevor asked me to introduce myself a while back and I've
> been on the move for the last month. This is the first chance.
> I'm Molly Wright Steenson. In a past life, I was a professor at the
> Interaction Design Institute Ivrea, in Ivrea, Italy, where I led the
> connected communities research area. (Karmen Franinovic, one of the
> people participating in the symposium, was one of the students I
> advised). Thanks to people like Karmen, I found I was more interested
> in architecture than virtual interactions on screens. Previous to
> that, I started working with online community in 1992 and the web in
> 94, was active in the webzine community in the late 90s: I was the co-
> founder of Maxi, a pop-culture feminist webzine. I worked at places
> like Netscape, Reuters, and a variety of web design studios leading
> design and application projects. I was also very active in the AIGA
> Experience Design group.
> I'm now attending the Yale School of Architecture (where I'm pursuing
> a history/theory masters with Keller Easterling and Emmanuel Petit as
> my advisors), and am working on architectural, historical frameworks
> for mobile, social architecture. I am also interested in issues of
> development and technology. This summer, I spent six weeks in
> Bangalore at Microsoft Research India, where I researched how people
> in urban Bangalore share mobile phones. It turned out to be more
> collective than in countries like Japan or Korea.
> I'm finding myself a little disenchanted with projects within the
> locative media realm, and thus I'm researching modes of mobility in
> architectural work in the 60s and 70s to develop a framework to apply
> to more recent projects or studies of mobility. I'm less interested
> in the dérive and Guy Debord (which have been done, done, done, done,
> and done) than I am in the people who broke off from the
> Situationists. Right now, I'm writing a chapter on Cedric Price.
> Next: cybernetics, Yona Friedman, the Smithsons, and Constant are
> next (I'm open to other suggestions, too.). Later, Henri Lefebvre.
> Previous to these people, Walter Benjamin with Einbahnstrasse and the
> Arcades Project figure in, as do of course Baudelaire and the flâneur
> (though again, locative media's often fixated on the flâneur).  I've
> not listed the copious philosophers, sociologists, writers, media
> theorists, and so on, that I've been reading. They're too copious to
> list here. I'm curious about tensions like mobility vs. domesticity,
> which always seems to come up, whether then or now.
> And so I'd like to ask:
> - What precedents might we look to to undergird our discussion of
> situated technologies, beyond the most obvious ones that we turn to?
> - What fields might these come from? What sources? (For instance, I'm
> turning to cybernetics.)
> - What should we look to outside of the common discourses of western
> Europe, the US, and Japan (that is, outside of the Metabolists)?
> Might there be precedents in other parts of the world?
> - Where can we look for earlier approaches to networks?
> - What about the use of physical infrastructural networks? Cedric
> Price's Potteries Thinkbelt (1965-66) used redundant rail links.
> Projects in rural India (today) use the mail system to send DVDs to
> schools because mail is cheaper and ultimately faster than an
> electronic network. Where did we and do we see these connection
> points and how might we use them in work today? What are other
> precedents of this?
> Cheers,
> Molly
> On Sep 10, 2006, at 12:08 AM, Mark Shepard wrote:
> > 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 environments.
> >
> > 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?
> >
> > Best,
> > Mark
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> >
> > _______________________________________________
> > iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity
> > (distributedcreativity.org)
> > iDC at bbs.thing.net
> > http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> >
> > List Archive:
> > http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/
> >
> _______________________________________________
> iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity
> (distributedcreativity.org)
> iDC at bbs.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> List Archive:
> http://mailman.thing.net/pipermail/idc/

More information about the iDC mailing list