[iDC] a personal intro and questions on precedent

Mark Shepard mshepard at andinc.org
Sun Sep 10 14:02:46 EDT 2006

Greetings, Molly. Welcome to the discussion, and thanks for your  
inspiring post and questions. It's great to have you here.

> - What should we look to outside of the common discourses of  
> western Europe, the US, and Japan ...

I wonder if you'd like to share some of the insights you've gained  
from your experience this past summer researching mobile culture in  

> - What about the use of physical infrastructural networks? ...

You're probably familiar of First Mile Solutions - http:// 
www.firstmilesolutions.com/ - Did you have any contact with them  
while you were there? Their Boomi project would seem to relate to  
this question?

Bhoomi Pilot: World's First DakNet-Enabled Bus
A Mobile Access Point network was deployed for Bhoomi, a  
computerization of land records initiative in Karnataka which has  
been acknowledged as the first national eGovernance initiative in  
India. A MAP was mounted on an existing public government bus that  
provides connectivity to villages up to 70km away.


On Sep 10, 2006, at 11:02 AM, molly wright steenson wrote:

> 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
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mark shepard

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