[iDC] Cities, Speculation, and the Non-addressable

mafox mafox at foxlin.com
Tue Sep 26 23:58:16 EDT 2006

I as well have been quite interested in the recent posts by Mark, Usman,
Omar, etc.   I hope it does not digress to "fetish of form-making" once
I was thinking that that the symposium could be a good opportunity to
reconcile some of the terms that seem to constantly turn up every day on
this list and recently the architectural community at large.  

"Smart Environments" 
"Intelligent Environments" 
"Reactive Architecture"
"Interactive Architecture"
"Smart Architecture"
"Embedded Architecture" 

It seems I could define a recent project with any one of the terms above
with a hazy generalized satisfaction, and I am sure there would be those who
object because they have a specific definition of whatever term I might
choose. Architects are great at borrowing language for innovation in the
field and then we always seem to redefine the term. 

Inspired by Mark 
"Still another might concern language. For example, the words  
"intelligence" and "programming" mean something different to computer  
scientists than they do to most architects."

Perhaps a good first step in profiling the future might lie in coming to
some consensus of the language to define it. Go to an AAAI (American
Association for Artificial Intelligence) "Intelligent Environments"
symposium and you will understand the confusion. 

-----Original Message-----
From: idc-bounces at bbs.thing.net [mailto:idc-bounces at bbs.thing.net] On Behalf
Of mollybh at netspace.net.au
Sent: Monday, September 25, 2006 4:21 PM
To: idc at bbs.thing.net
Subject: [iDC] Cities, Speculation, and the Non-addressable

Dear Mark, 

Thanks for this excellent post, so full of great questions and thought 
provoking comments. I have thoroughly enjoyed it. I want to respond and hope

that I can cover most of what I thought about when reading...

First of all, thanks for validating as you have the work of Archigram in
of their creative urge to consider technologies in light of the future of 
cities, or, rather, to incorporate many of the new technologies of their day

into their ideas about habit, dwelling, networks, etc. Secondly, for giving 
back to Guy Debord and his crew the efficacy of the Situationist's artistic 
bent. "Urban play" is not situationist unless it carries with it their 
extraordinary politics, that is for certain. I actually think that much of
so called "play" around appears to be a form of "work" which the SI would 
certainly have eschewed, since we are never supposed to do that! I mean, in 
terms of cities, Guy Debord was a critic and an intellectual and he devoted 
much of his life to writing and talking about and working on poverty - 
see "Son Art et Son temps" - his last film - in which he explores the 
prankster youth of housing outside Paris as revolutionary impetus. 

About "blobs" (not blogs) - We, Archimedia, myself and David Cox, did a lot
work around blobs in about 2000-2001, and an interview with Geert Lovink,
we had brought to Brisbane, Australia, for his first time to talk about 
Digital Cities Amsterdam, (still an amazing prototype for what we are
about even if not "architecture" in the "real" sense of the term). We claim
our website, because we had not heard it anywhere before, but the blob 
phenomenon was just starting then - that we invented the term
as a way of talking about a history of blobiness in design - from the 60's
also from Kiesler and from Macintosh - as well as "blobiness" as a
idea, which could not be formed because it was about "formlessness" in the 
sense that George Bataille writes about it in "Against Architecture" - for
at least, the imagination of blobiness - and there are some blobby images on

our site which David made - was about a state of transition and
But, curiously, blobbiness as "style" which I think is quite different than 
what we were talking about, may be just the problem with higher level 
architectural education which does help to create trends and styles based
what people will pay for or what they want for status. This to me is a
of the practice of architecture - well, not a problem maybe, but a reality -

that it still does have to do with "taste" - Wright's many houses were many 
precisely because he ingeniously cast them as something which one could no 
longer live without and still be modern - and "the future" is something, 
which, let's face it, has largely been publically imagined by corporations
their media - so if blobbiness will sell, then sell blobbiness. But this is 
also a mistake in terms of how ideas get defined because after all, mass 
produced domes/blobs/pods could well house all the homeless people in 
Manhattan and they could also have a wireless connection. I don't mean to be

cruel or facetious. 

Also, I think this kind of mixed message in discourse is the problem behind 
the notion that new technologies are not being explored enough by
For one, this idea obscures the fact that architects work with many new 
technologies - solar, wind, water treatment and there is amazing work being 
created for sustainable kit housing and so forth. Not wireless maybe, but 
green - and many people, even people sutured to Bluetooth devices - find the

idea of green design hippy dippy - and they are simply ignorant - ignorant
two things - one that green "movment" is as rife with corporate jargon as it

is with sincere environmentalist designers keen to stop the gross
of resources. So, when we speak of new technologies which ones are we
about? And, do we really think that we can convince the public to believe in
future of ubiquitous intelligent buildings any faster than Wright could 
convince his patrons to get rid of their Victorian cellars, or that people 
could be convinced that the tv set wasn't worse than death - every
and almost every good idea has been beset by moral panic of one sort or 

You are right, many architects are not embracing these new technologies, 
because architecture is still a conservative profession, in many ways,
to bank on solid investements in traditions and cultures and they aren't
to build a blob anytime soon, much less the construction industry.  But, 
Future Studio in Uk has been making some gorgeous blobs...

I just think the problem with much architecture is "style" and the critical 
discourse around professionalized architecture relies on magazine
largely to "bring" architecture to the public. I think we have to look in
cracks and crevices of architecture and design to find where these 
technologies are taking root and why. This is one reason why I am enjoying 
teaching in Interior Design at the moment, because, although where I teach
fairly straightforward design program, my own proclivities are to mingle 
interiors with a history of immersive and projection environments. 

I think we need an elastic mind these days to consider the totality of 
technologies being researched and designed into water systems, airways,
workplaces, transport, etc. We are surely in the midst of a ubiquity boom
I liked the idea of Trebor's that we want to inhabit that space in order to 
have some influence on it - I don't know, I guess I would like to go, but it

sounds too much like Singapore or a state of the art prison, maybe, as
Gibson writes about in his critique of Singapore - I mean, there was a Time 
article recently on the new office - with places for laptop users to chill, 
and other people to talk so as not to interfere with workers' in blobby 
cubicles. Doesn't this remind anyone of the diagrams which the SI created 
about work and the body relative to a desktop????
(Sadler) Maybe this trope of technological discovery is another extreme 
mystification of social relations - such that we end up just as flexibly
en masse as we were using pencils. Flexible office structures are hardly 
critical of the political economy of how things get made or done in this 
century, even if they are sexily aware of interpersonal office politics etc.

and you'd be surprised how many new cubicles have no ergonomic perspective
all, despite all the Bluetooth enable connectivity. My back is out...I have 
yet to exhaust my full interest in Archigram in my dissertation, but I hover

there in a space regarding portability. And, I'd like to throw in the idea 
that "the blob" for example, can simply be an idea that is yet to be formed 
and is therefore, a signal to effective democracy of collaborative practice,

one reason why, for example, Asymptote, resorts to blobs a lot in their 
images, is that I think they like to leave stuff really open to change. I 
think this is important work in a time when so much, particularly
is in a state of high rhetoric.

Good luck!
Molly Hankwitz (Cox)

> Today's Topics:
>    1. Cities, Speculation, and the Non-addressable (Mark Shepard)
> ----------------------------------------------------------------------
> Message: 1
> Date: Mon, 25 Sep 2006 00:31:58 -0400
> From: Mark Shepard <mshepard at andinc.org>
> Subject: [iDC] Cities, Speculation, and the Non-addressable
> To: IDC list <idc at bbs.thing.net>
> Cc: Adam Greenfield <ag at studies-observations.com>
> Message-ID: <30BF0F8D-FF5F-48FE-9195-60D9D7BEE199 at andinc.org>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset=ISO-8859-1; delsp=yes; format=flowed
> Usman wrote (way back when),
> > It seems quite strange to me that architects these days don't
> > appear to be participating in the kinds of imaginings of the future
> > that they used to (e.g. Archigram, etc.). Some might say this is a
> > good thing of course; but isn't it funny that, although Tony Dunne
> > (of Hertzian Tales) has spoken frequently about how the
> > architectural process of speculation was a great influence on the
> > way he thought about designing objects back in the early 90s, now
> > it is architects (myself included) who refer to him because of his
> > designs for "hertzian space"?
> This quote _still_ resonates with me as I try to grapple with why
> architects remain reluctant to address how pervasive, networked,
> embedded, and context-aware computing pose both opportunities and
> dilemmas for architecture and urbanism. If anything, I would argue
> that it is this silence on the part of architects that actually
> contributes to a future so many here have expressed concerns about.
> Here's what Marina Vishmidt wrote on the Empyre list about New Songdo
> City:
> > Here we have an r&d theme park being promoted as some sort of
> > tenable proposition of how we'll live in the future - this is
> > nothing new of course ("past futures"), in fact is symptomatic of
> > 20th century technological determinism of all stripes, hegemonic,
> > subversive, capitalist, communist, modernist, totalitarian - is
> > even endearingly retro in a way - but it reiterates a populist-
> > media narrative of how profit-led innovation and investment is
> > currently the only driver for social change, which actually means
> > it is not a question of retro-futurity at all.  It is the opposite:
> > an elimination of all futures, to be supplanted by a timeless and
> > normalised/normative crisis of accumulation, conflict, and the
> > short-circuiting/management of its dysfunctions by technological/
> > military/carceral means.
> I don't think this discussion (at least most of it) is "just an
> excuse not to talk about, think about, touch the things" that really
> matter. New Songdo underscores the need to "occupy the imaginary" of
> the near-future city (as Trebor likes to say), so that we might
> influence how it evolves. Although I suspect doing so is more about
> negotiation than resistance or imposition.
> To the extent that architecture as a practice is based on processes
> of speculation and projection, and concerned with how the
> organization of space influences (and is influenced by) how we occupy
> it, architects could play a key role in the negotiation.
> But why aren't they?
> One reason might have to do with architecture's continued fetish for
> form and material (I'm thinking here of the fascination with "blobs"
> and new materials so fashionable at the top architectural schools
> recently). Concepts of "hertzian" space and networked things
> destabilize strictly architectural conceptions of space, place and
> material form in ways that are hard to account for within a
> discipline that to date has focused primarily on shaping the
> _physical_ world. Until architects can see these technologies as
> "material" to be formed (rather than simply products to be
> specified), as something more than just a way to optimize the
> environmental performance of a building, as more than a means to
> visualize or represent spatial flows as formal propositions - it is
> unlikely that we'll see many significant contributions.
> Another reason could be the intractability of new patterns of use and
> behavior that some of these technologies enable (not in itself a bad
> thing). The traditional (modernist) idea of an architectural
> "program" - the association of defined spaces with specific
> activities organized by a rationalized "plan" - is of little use at a
> time when activities within contemporary spaces are defined more by
> codes (legislative, economic) and the affordances of wireless
> networks and programmable devices. And while many (myself included)
> have looked to research in both architecture and computing from the
> 60s that rejected the idea that behavior and activity can be reasoned
> about in terms of a static organizational diagram, a return to anti-
> plan, hybrid or generic "programs," or to second-order cybernetics as
> a means to _control_ the indeterminate in interactive systems, would
> be equally problematic.
> Still another might concern language. For example, the words
> "intelligence" and "programming" mean something different to computer
> scientists than they do to most architects.
> Adam Greenfield gave a provocative talk at Conflux last weekend
> titled "Lynch Debord: Killing the Fathers, or if you meet Jane Jacobs
> on the road...", suggesting we need to "jettison our dependence on
> the beloved heroes and heroines of 20th century urbanism in order to
> understand what's happening all around us." But unlike assertions
> that the dérive and the Situationists "have been done, done, done,
> done, and done" (which sounds like an academic bandwagon to me), his
> point was more that we are no longer living in a time where the
> individual can claim an alterity through radical urban play or where
> the Lynchian "Image of the City" is legible in terms of urban form
> alone, but a time where Jacob's West Village finds its progeny in
> Celebration, Florida.
> With the introduction of the next version of Internet Protocol - the
> protocol by which computers are associated with a unique numerical
> address - enough unique addresses will be available to cover every
> square meter of the planet. As "information processing dissolves into
> behavior," non-addressable space becomes ever more valuable. This is
> not a call for the architectural equivalent of an RFID zapper, the
> construction of "cell-free" zones, or an architecture of "blankness."
> Maybe it's less a question of grand, heroic social agendas that take
> oppositional strategies for granted. Maybe it's more about minor
> tactical maneuvers, incremental acts, and subtle modulations that
> seek to expand upon (not limit) the quotidian aspects of urban living
> that are always partial, non-addressable, and full of contradictions?
> Regards,
> Mark
> ------------------------------
> _______________________________________________
> iDC mailing list
> iDC at bbs.thing.net
> http://mailman.thing.net/cgi-bin/mailman/listinfo/idc
> _______________________________________________
> Institute for Distributed Creativity (iDC)
> _______________________________________________
> www.distributedcreativity.org
> _______________________________________________
> The research of the Institute for Distributed Creativity
> (iDC) focuses on collaboration in media art, technology,
> and theory with an emphasis on social contexts.
> _______________________________________________
> End of iDC Digest, Vol 23, Issue 29
> ***********************************

This email was sent from Netspace Webmail: http://www.netspace.net.au

----- End forwarded message -----

This email was sent from Netspace Webmail: http://www.netspace.net.au

iDC -- mailing list of the Institute for Distributed Creativity
iDC at bbs.thing.net

List Archive:

More information about the iDC mailing list