[iDC] iDC Digest, Vol 66, Issue 9
shannon at wordsinspace.net
Fri Jul 23 01:04:11 UTC 2010
Thanks for posting these provocative questions, Noah. For the past ten
years or so my own work has focused on libraries -- an institution,
like the university, that has been fighting (successfully, in many
cases) to claim is place in an ever-evolving cultural, political, and
socio-economic climate. I've especially enjoyed thinking about the
spaces in which these institutions are housed -- the places that make
manifest who they are and what they do. Libraries, in thinking about
library design, have grappled with many of the issues you've
identified in your post, Noah: how to leave behind a modular (and
often Brutalist) past; how to accommodate new ways of learning, new
ways of accessing and using media, new models of service; how to blend
the physical and digital; how to program a space for an institution
whose mission, social function, audiences, etc., are evolving.
Remodeling a library, or moving into a new space, or designing one
from scratch, provides a great opportunity to figure out how to give
"form" to identity...or ideology...or pedagogy. The same goes for
Some recent educational spaces that have been grabbing attention
include the Fumihiko Makis' new MIT Media Lab (http://www.media.mit.edu/about/building
), which uses the old "transparency equals openness" (or "freedom" or
"collaboration") trope. At the same time, as Metropolis's Karrie
Jacobs points out, "many of the labs have names befitting ballparks:
the MasterCard Lab for Future Transactions, the Motorola Innovation
Lab. Other unnamed labs are awaiting sponsorship." Then there's
SANAA's Rolex Learning Center (http://www.rolexlearningcenter.ch/), a
huge slice of Swiss cheese spread out on Swiss soil: its undulating
rhythms supposedly create zones of varying character, while its open
floorplans (predictably) promote fluidity and (of course), cross-
disciplinary collaboration. It's the same metaphors all the time!
Design Boom (http://www.designboom.com/weblog/cat/9/view/9197/sanaa-rolex-learning-center.html
) reports: "It offers flexibility to use the building in many
different ways, now and in the future, to absorb new technology and
working methods, as they come on stream, many of them developed within
EPFL itself. The building emphasises sociability, getting together for
coffee, for lunch, for study, for seminars, to stimulate informal
encounters between people of all the key disciplines."
At the opposite end of the spectrum from these big-budget, big-design
projects are the more DIY proposals that emerged from the Open
Architecture Forum's Classroom challenge (http://openarchitecturenetwork.org/competitions/challenge/2009
). The projects range from subterranean school/community centers for
migrant salt-pan workers in India to a "zero technology" bamboo school
in central Nepal. Given that many of these proposals were intended for
"off the grid" locations, it is not at all surprising that media and
IT were very rarely mentioned (even through project participants were
provided with resources related to IT in education). In an environment
where there is "no water feeding, no power supply, insufficient fuel
resources and no palpable prospect of improvement," free computers, I
hope we'll agree, are not the solution.
Plug-in-ability -- of the architectural kind -- was, however, a
recurring theme among the proposals. One project advocates for a
"Portable Educationally Adaptive Product of Design, the PeaPoD"; while
promotes the use of "mobile, self-contained educational modules" in an
abandoned car factory in Indianapolis. There are of course historical
examples of adaptive and plug-in architecture, including Archigram's
Plug-In City and its extension, the Plug-In University Node. Junya
Ishigami's Kanagawa Institute of Technology Workshop might not have
moving components, but it does allow for the creation of flexible
zones; its randomly distributed columns can be grouped and regrouped
into dynamic nodes of activity.
Thinking about the *places* of learning -- from corporate-sponsored
media labs to grass huts to blended learning spaces -- can force us to
literally de-construct the institutional architecture of education,
and then build new spaces that give shape to a more responsive, more
relevant, more functional institution.
The New School
On Jul 22, 2010, at 8:00 AM, idc-request at mailman.thing.net wrote:
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> Today's Topics:
> 1. Information Architecture? (noah brehmer)
> Message: 1
> Date: Wed, 21 Jul 2010 23:12:03 -0400
> From: noah brehmer <noah.brehmer at gmail.com>
> Subject: [iDC] Information Architecture?
> To: idc at mailman.thing.net
> Message-ID: <5E4B094B-BDDC-4D44-A454-79DF99226A47 at gmail.com>
> Content-Type: text/plain; charset="us-ascii"
> "To reformers, like other middle- and upperclass observers, the
> manufacturing process was a marvel of rationality, efficacy, and
> speed. Workers were required to conform to the demands of
> production, to be prompt, to follow orders, and occasionally to
> solve problems encountered on the factory floor. In other words,
> they needed self-discipline and attentiveness, along with deference
> for authority. Such expectation appealed to the Protestant values of
> early school reformers. They sought similar goals for children in
> their institutions, claiming outright in some instances that the
> duty of the school was to prepare students for the demands of the
> emerging industrial order. Even as some factory owners pulled
> children away from schools, many educators emulated the industrial
> system as a model for their new organizations. It was a powerful
> metaphor for the future social order."
> A great majority of our schools were built under the epistemological
> dictums of an industrial labor economy. A Fordist economy,
> characterized by tight divisions of labor, hierarchical chains of
> command, as well as systematized and linear production/dispersion
> models. The American school system was designed to accommodate the
> demands presented by the factory labor environment; emanating the
> epistemologies supported by this new economy in the physical/
> symbolic layout of the school. Modular classrooms, brutalist
> architecture, and a general fixation on the solidification of space
> are the characterizing traits of the modern school building.
> The physical remainders of the Fordist economy have continued to act
> as an imposing force, molding the socio-temporal relations within
> the school under the auspicious of a culture and economy that have
> passed us. It's a substantial problem and an issue we most face if
> we are to prepare students for the post-fordist societies they will
> enviably operate within. My question is what can be done about this?
> The easy answer of course would involve the popular proposition for
> E-learning, but I think the most viable solution will involve the
> facilitation of a learning environment that could support a nexus
> between a digital and physical ecology.
> With that said, what organization models could effectively integrate
> the students web-based learning ecology with the students provincial
> And given the importance I would suspect the great majority of us
> place on experiential learning models [consider Ranciere and the
> great majority of the other progressive education theorist and
> actors] can we elaborate a built environment that would foster a
> nexus between the students digital and physical commons?
> I'm thinking of generative architecture, a built-environment that
> could facilitate transversial+transdisciplinary organizational
> models. An architecture that would speak to the student of the
> digital ethos. An architecture that would adapt as we act upon it!
> Art School Propositions for the 21st century, Aesthetic Platforms
> Brendan D. Moran
> p.35 "The educational arena is increasingly comparable to the
> hardware components within computing, which must not only multitask
> in support of myriad software applications but that we want to house
> both efficiently and attractively, within a variety of other
> contexts. Allowing for infinite possible plug-ins, the seamlessly
> productive platform of the factory, as in Andy Warhol's
> exhibitionistic one, facilitates the types of recordings, and
> transcodings that generate new textures and practices of art
> production, distribution, consumption, appreciation, and ultimately
> education for any and all interested comers. The expansive locus of
> contemporary art education, like any good operating system, needs to
> provide a flexibility of connections between the arts and, perhaps
> more important, between art and nonart-especially since the most
> inventive contemporary work questions assumptions about the clarity
> of such distinctions."
> + I will follow up this post with an essay I've been working on
> concerning new institutionalism and the pedagogical turn. I will
> focus my attention on the work of Marion Von Austen and Irit Rogoff
> - looking at "reformpause" and Rogoff's Summit project.
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> End of iDC Digest, Vol 66, Issue 9
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