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Volume 28 –2 Editorial The InternetArjen Oosterman of Things 5 The Common Sense Literally every-Mark Shepard thing in the worldInterviewed by Vincent Schipper is getting connected these8 Parallel Universe days, yourStephen Gage children, dog, car, fridge, even the10 Touching the Interspace trees in the park.Carola Moujan Connecting, transmitting,14 The Devil Is in the Details: exchanging,Critical Knowledge About Emerging responding, react-Information Technologies ing, adjusting –Shintaro Myazaki being connected is at the core.16 Noo-Architecture & the Internet of Things Does this changeDeborah Hauptmann architecture? Does this provide20 An Axis of Innumerable Connections: new opportunitiesthe Mundaneum to design andNina Larsen create? Does it affect the very25 Tracing Concepts material archi-Edwin Gardner and Marcell Mars tects work with?Insert Turbulent and exciting times in49 Smart Environments which a newKen Sakamura practice looms inInterviewed by Cloud Lab the horizon: correlation designing.52 Revisiting Yesterday’s Future:


Shadow Project

Nortd Labs 130 The Color of Ideas

Tuur van Balen 134

Meeting in the Middle

Ruairi Glynn Interviewed by Vincent Schipper 138 Virt-Oral History: A Story from Seven on Seven

Justin Fowler 140 All That Is material Will Be Standard and All that Is Personalized Will Be Virtual

Eduard Sansho Pou 142

The Tragic Lost

Vincent Schipper and Christiaan Fruneaux 148 The Act of Disconnection: Just Because I Do Not Send a Message within a Matter of Minutes Does Not Mean I Am Dead

Amelia Borg and Timothy Moore 152 Unlocking the Secrets of a ‘Forbidden City’

Lorna Goulden 155 21st Century City 156 Data and Owner

Usman Haque and Ed Borden

Lara Schrijver

158 Digital-Material Practices: Adaptive Architectures for an Idealization of the Soft


Mette Ramsgard Thomsen

the 1960s and the Internet of Things

Architecture as a Multi-Agent System

Tomasz Jaskiewicz 162 61

The City Is Becoming

Res Sapiens

Dimitri Nieuwenhuizen

Ben Cerveny, James Burke, Juha van ‘t Zelfde 166 Urban Content Management 66

Play Design

Mark Dek

Ben Schouten 169 IOOO – the Internet of Obsolete Objects 70

Check-In Urbanism

Dietmar Offenhuber

Jeroen Beekmans and Joop de Boer 172 72

Hylozoic Ground

Coders & Architects Do Not Communicate

Vincent Schipper

Philip Beesley 174 80

Being Somewhere

Losing Ground

Arjen Oosterman

Ole Bouman 176


81 Trust Design – Part Two: Internet of Things

Insert 121

Permission Taken for Granted

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Bart-Jan Polman 124

The Importance of Random Learning

Hiroshi Ishiguro Interviewed by Cloud Lab




ways of working and new territories for design come in view. There is a lot of talk about knowledge and creative industry as the new economy of today. For architecture that is no news. That’s always been a creative industry. The ongoing ‘connection revolution’ might be news, however. Literally everything in the world is getting connected; you, your children, your car, your dog, your fridge‌ even the trees in the park start talking to each other. Connecting, transmitting, exchanging, responding, reacting, adjusting – being connected is at the core of our lives. And to connect, isn’t that what architecture and urban design claims to do? Could this be a way out of the depression? Does this provide new opportunities to design and create? Since architecture is and has always been on the border of public and private – rarely is it just one of the two – it cannot escape that seemingly fixed notions are changing. Take ‘surroundings’, take ‘environment’. In times of interactive networks their meaning becomes fluid. No simple boundaries guard their integrity; private and public, spatial and virtual, living and innate, dichotomous thinking won’t help us to describe or understand our current condition. Our minds and bodies are nodes in multi-layered networks, transmitting and receiving information, we are not just discrete autonomous entities as we thought before. So yes, architecture and design have to enter new territories in order to continue pretending to ‘provide the counter form of life’, let alone if architecture is to remain conditional on society. It would require a big leap of the profession. There is still quite a step from providing physical products that can be touched and admired to designing the way things relate and interact. Let’s call it correlation designing for the moment. Now, fairly recently the stability of architecture was put into question. Basics like

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CorrelationTwo decades ago, Designingan architecture magazine would Arjen Oosterman be swamped with invitations for previews, tours and photo opportunities for projects ‘just finished’. A decade ago more and more press releases on prize winning competition entries would be added as part of the info mix. A little later the special mentions would get circulation; even entering a competition was seen as a publicity opportunity. It seemed only a matter of time before press releases announcing “we’ve started in the office this morning at 8.30 am, another great day in front of us, full of promise and opportunity� would surface. Publicity equaled economy. Maybe it still does, but not in the form where profiling projects, clearly identifiable as ‘someone’s’ work will necessarily result in a direct connection to new assignment. We know it is not like that anymore, not in most western countries, not for a lot of offices. In the late 90s, shrinkage was discovered as an interesting urban phenomenon, a new challenge for the profession; today this theme has reached the profession in the most unexpected way: no clients what so ever. This is not a global phenomenon. Asia will see a humongous design and construction task for decades to come. Latin America isn’t finished either, though the scope of what lies ahead is incomparable to what Asia confronts. And Africa, yes Africa. If it’s allowed to catch up, or does so on its own, the need and opportunity for design is also substantial. In the western world it is mainly about adapting the existing stock. Or is it? Changes in society suggest that new


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program, budget and even location as a starting point for design became less and less fixed from the start. This ‘programmatic instability’ was presented as a new and major challenge for designers. For a profession with ‘function’ at the core of its activity, this was a serious problem. Today, architects have become accustomed to producing designs that are flexible, multi-usable and poly-interpretable. They solved the paradox of how to design a functionally ever more neutral structure with (the demand for) an ever more outspoken presence. It was an impressive demonstration of architecture’s ability to adapt and transform. But it came at a price: social irrelevance. Today the challenge for architectural practice is even bigger: to transform in such a way that architecture regains its social significance when ‘the social’ is less and less connected to a particular place and time. It’s become ‘footloose’ so to say. There are signs that architectural practice could rely on its age-old knowledge of public and private spatial qualities, in combination with a clear understanding of the new social and interactive networks to give space and place a new presence and role. Not necessarily as the next step in the ever fastening reproduction of capital, or the ongoing accommodation of consumer society, but as a recalibration of the city’s social dimensions. First signs, no more. To make things even more complicated, there is another trend challenging our understanding of architecture. If designing for merging physical and digital worlds is a major task, then the stability, objectivity and trustworthiness of what surrounds us is another. The EU ‘cookies debate’ (that everyone should be able to say no to cookies) reveals a glimpse of the world we’re entering. Tracking and measuring technologies have become so refined that they can profile and approach you individually. It won’t be long before aug-


mented reality techniques will not only provide all sorts of added information in your visual and sensorial surroundings, but will also be dedicated to you personally. Every individual will be enveloped by an information ‘bubble’ that accompanies her or him on the go. And each will be different to that of your neighbor. Objectivity and even inter-subjectivity will be notions of the past, at least on the level of observation and awareness. The smooth, continuous surface we call the Internet, this endless source of information and comfort, in combination with ubiquitous computing is a maze, a trap and a delusion machine. ‘Reality’ as something shared and stable has had a problematic reputation at least since the advent of deconstructivism, now it’s becoming even more fragmented. Reality is being served to you personally and it is becoming increasingly difficult to know the cook. But there are other opportunities in the game as well. As some authors in this issue argue, the Internet of Things may provide new opportunities to create coherence, togetherness and democracy on a smaller and local scale. There are opportunities for architecture in all the before mentioned domains. Is it ready and able to grab them?

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Photo: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

NYU photography professor Wafaa Bilal displays the digital camera attached to the mount implanted in the back of his head.



The CommonVS A good place to begin Senseis with your 2006 symposium Architecture and Situated

Mark ShepardTechnologies and the resulinterviewed by Vincent Schipperting exhibition Toward the

Sentient City.

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Photo: Reuters/Jessica Rinaldi

When one talksMS The symposium about the inter-Architecture and Situated activity of objects,Technologies, which I orbuildings andganized with my colleagues environments newOmar Khan and Trebor relations are madeScholz, was a response possible throughto a call for proposals little bits of tech-by the Architectural League nology, sensors,of New York. The League and informationwas organizing a series they produce.called ‘Architecture and ‌’ These haveto celebrate the 125th year become increas-of its founding and wanted ingly embeddedto explore different trajecand out of sight,tories architecture could however they playpotentially take as it entered a significant, if notthe 21st century. The syma paramount roleposium was an early attempt in how we engageto bring architects into and create thethe discussion surrounding emerging environ-the proliferation of a wide ment. In thisrange of mobile, embedded, interview Marknetworked and distributed Shepard discussestechnologies throughout the some aspects ofcontemporary city. the sensor culture As with any successful and the data itdiscursive event, the sympoproduces.sium raised more questions

than offered answers. In order to pursue these questions further we have produced a series of pamphlet-length publications entitled The Situated Technologies Pamphlets Series which outline and differentiate these various communities of practice. Back in 2008, for instance, Benjamin Bratton and Natalie Jeremijenko wrote a pamphlet entitled ‘Situated Advocacy: Suspicious Images, Latent Interfaces’ that addressed the Internet of Things in terms of the metaphor of a planetary sensing apparatus – a global extension of distributed sensor networks reporting states of infrastructure, services, urban systems, natural systems and so forth in realtime in order to understand some of their implications and affordances. They do a lot to try to debunk popular myths about this. Natalie in particular focused on the problem of data gathering. We tend to think that if we distribute enough sensors throughout the world we will come to know something qualitatively different about it. She points out that how you gather data is critical to how any resultant data visualizations materialize and informs what information can be interpreted and interpolated from them. In the fall of 2009 I curated an exhibition called Toward the Sentient City which aimed to commission a series of projects providing concrete examples to further these discussions. The hope was not so much to forecast or predict future technological developments, but to try to organize a debate about what kind of future we might want. This resulted in a series of five urban interventions throughout NYC.



VS What would you say is the current state of penetration of the sensored environment, both in mindset and actual sensors being placed in places?

MS What we see now is that the conversation has evolved and is beginning to mature. It is a very wide field that incorporates a variety of players. For example, through its Smarter Cities program IBM is investing $50 million worth of consulting services to 100 cities worldwide over the next three years. So you have the large technology companies involved – firms such as IBM, Cisco, consultants like Accenture, and so on – which form one set of players. On the other hand you have research labs and academic institutions like the Senseable City Lab at MIT which has been operating within this area for about seven or eight years now. And then you have architects, artists, technologists, and other independent practitioners trying to address the issues from still another perspective. Ultimately, large corporations and government agencies are likely to develop new ways to consume, manage, optimize and control. Law enforcement agencies are already actively leveraging the existing network of sensors. Take for example certain RFID systems which on the surface are designed to enable quicker passage through toll-booths on highways and paying fares for public transport. But new forms of tracking are also emerging, such as systems that issue a traffic/speeding ticket based on the computation of the rate at which you had been traveling. As long as the point where you enter and the point where you exit is known, given the time difference between these two points and the distance between them it is a simple calculation to know your rate of travel (speed). Or take the recent disclosure of Apple’s use of crowd sourcing methods for mapping WiFi access points with iPhones. Even if your phone’s location services are turned off, it still logs positions of these access points, which are used to provide location-based services in areas where GPS signals are weak. This is of course not so much a question of tracking, security or privacy but simply Apple’s realization that they can put you to use for mapping out the wireless topography of urban environments and can then capitalize on that by avoiding the expense of having to collect this data themselves (as Google does with its Street View car, for example). So the field is broad. Some have approached it from the perspective of urban computing, which generally implies software apps for mobile devices. Others are invested in the development of what might be called ‘ambient informatics’ which focuses more on what happens when informational processing capacity is literally embedded in and distributed throughout the built environment. Here one is reminded of Peter Cook’s claim that the weather has as much to do with the experience of the city as its architecture and how we might address the atmospherics not of rain clouds but those of the data clouds currently descending over our city streets. Firms like Arup and others are very much involved in this area right now, producing data visualizations that bring this informatic overlay into focus.

The weather has as much to do with the experience of the city as its architecture.

VS These sensors and information types are very much the foundation for ‘interactive architecture’, but taking the discussion beyond just interactivity, what is it that we should keep in mind in terms of senses within the city? What is behind the interactivity? MS I do not want to say that interactive installations are not delightful in their playfulness and in what they achieve, but what is interesting is to consider what else

What happens when salmon become constituents in environmental debates.

VS Many of the sensor technologies are here, however the appropriation of these technologies by the masses doesn’t seem to happen very easily. One famous example is that of the RFID tags, a 70s technology that is only now becoming known to the general public. In addition, the lag in the popular appropriation of technologies seems to underline the idea that we cannot actually change the course of technological development or the embedding of these technologies. What leads to this and what are its implications?


MS This is a very important line of questioning that needs to be broached. We need to be careful not to fall into the trap of technological determinism whereby technological development is understood outside of culture and outside of social, economic or political considerations. We also need to recognize that these technologies are becoming more accessible. As programmable microchips and low-power wireless networking become smaller and cheaper – many components costing as little as $20 or $30 – you find an increasing number of people getting involved, working with platforms like Arduino microcontrollers and ZigBee wireless networking, for example. At the same time, the open source software and hardware culture from which much of the current tinkering emerged has facilitated knowledge sharing to the point where the technology itself is almost trivial. Today undergraduate students in schools of architecture use and program microchips to do things which would have required highly specialized knowledge and significant resources twenty years ago. VS It would seem we are not talking about some sort of science fiction, that is to say, our past and present fantasies of what the future would be like. MS The ‘future’ is already here. But as William Gibson noted, it’s just not very evenly distributed. If you look at the early visions for ubiquitous computing, introduced by Mark Weiser at Xerox PARC in the late 80s, you find projections for what computing was envisioned to be like in the 21st century. We now live in the 21st century and I would argue that ubicomp is here, but that it didn’t arrive in the ways initially imagined. In the west we see many different ways people use mobile phones (arguably the most ubiquitous computational device on the planet), ways which are very different than those in African countries, for example, places that largely bypassed wired, landline communications infrastructure and leaped straight to mobile devices and wireless networks. There are many different scenarios for how these phones are being used which contrast sharply with those in the Netherlands, for example. How these technologies themselves are in fact culturally situated is incredibly important to recognize; how these technologies perform in the world presents challenges to certain visions of a seamless, unified system – a top-down approach resulting in things like New Songdo (the Korean ubiquitous city designed by KPF with Cisco) or some of the urban development that is happening in the Middle East now; whether it is Abu Dhabi or Dubai – classic master planning. Much of the more interesting developments are happening through ad-hoc, patchwork, bottom-up approaches where things are beginning to be able to communicate, share and talk to each other in ways that are only partial and seam-full. They are not global, they are not universal, in part because their application spaces are so different. VS There is of course huge fragmentation in terms of the production of information. I think Boris Groys mentioned this at a certain point regarding television or radio as their relation to information is very passive. Now as it would seem we are all empowered with these phones and/or sensors and produce huge amounts of information such that the question, “Who actually consumes this information?� begins to emerge. But taking a step back, who is generating data? MS The question of who is able to write to this data set and not just consume it is important. If we take the nuclear disaster in Japan as an example, we find people

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does embedding sensing and actuating technologies into the physical environment afford the city? What does it enable us to think of in terms of the boundaries of the city, for instance? The city is no longer circumscribed by its material boundaries as we know them. To what extent does this open up new kinds of interactions with and through the city for its citizens? When we move beyond purely technological considerations and begin to address social situations it starts to get interesting. We know that with social media these technologies are able to connect people in new ways, but they also atomize or isolate people in new ways. So we have to be careful to avoid the blue-sky optimism we experienced in the late 90s with the Internet when people heralded it as an infrastructure that was free, democratic and open for all – that is, as long as you read English and had access to a computer with a fast modem. We are at a similar moment in terms of the sensors landscape. We need to begin thinking about the implications of things when they can talk back. The Senseable City Lab project Trash Track commissioned for Toward the Sentient City explores this. They attached smart tags to common articles of trash and followed them through the city’s removal chain. The project asked the simple question: “what happens when trash is no longer out of sight and out of mind?� We know a lot about the supply chain of cities but we know very little about the removal chain. How does a city’s digestive system work? When we buy a coffee from Starbucks or a similar franchise our direct relationship with that cup lasts maybe a half hour at most, but the energy invested in bringing it to us and then disposing of it when we are finished is not often considered. To what extent could simply visualizing this information change the way we think about the use of something as simple as a common disposable coffee cup? With Trash Track, the object has the authority to report back on its end-of-life journey. The project suggests a different relationship we could have with things and information. Bruno Latour talks about this in the context of the Parliament of Things and what happens when, for example, trees don’t lobby for themselves through human representatives, but have direct representation and are able to address the environmental conditions of where they are growing or not growing. Or consider salmon: what happens when salmon become constituents in environmental debates, sitting next to us at the table, talking about how they actually don’t appreciate what has been happening to their constituency as they are prevented from swimming upstream in order to reproduce just so people in California can have sushi. So we are talking about a broad set of changes and their implications are vast. Yet we don’t yet have the appropriate conceptual models or theoretical frameworks to address all of this.


providing real-time readings of radiation levels throughout the country using the data-sharing platform Pachube (developed by Usman Haque, an architect). Here you have a crowd-sourced process of data gathering that is conducted typically by government agencies. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in the US, for example, is very careful about releasing information to the public regarding such things as air and water quality for a variety of reasons. First, we know that data is highly dependent upon the way in which it is collected and there are important reasons why there are specific practices and procedures scientists use to reduce error in the data that is collected. This is the argument generally used to restrict who can produce, interpret, and share specific kinds of data. Yet at the same time we also know that with extreme events, in times of crisis, sometimes the need for rapid access to large samples of data across broad areas exceeds the capabilities of the few experts in place authorized to report on these conditions. So in these situations the crowd-sourcing of this type of data by a large number of people makes sense. Even if individual samples may be of questionable value, when aggregated and processed statistically these data sets can provide a reasonably accurate picture quickly. I suggest that examples like this enable us to look more closely into some of these issues so we don’t fall back onto simple arguments about how crowd-sourcing is bad because it is dependent upon amateurs or expertise is bad because it is dependent upon a very few highly trained specialists. We can start to look beyond the polemics and understand some of the more nuanced conditions within which these issues actually play out.

Much of the more interesting developments are happening through ad-hoc, patchwork, bottom-up approaches

functional application could begin to creep in. Consider the transportation chipcard in the Netherlands, a recent innovation. What I find interesting about the chipcard system is that when you use the card to pass through a turnstile you are presented with a message indicating the remaining value on the card, but depending on how quickly you are moving you are not necessarily reading the message that corresponds to you. Sometimes you’ll see the message that corresponds to the person in front of you. So what would happen if little comments were made about this person such as, “Oh, Mieke is late today� or “Why is Bas getting off here?� based upon a simple query and analysis of that person’s mobility patterns over the past month or two. How might these small bits of personal information made public alter the social dynamics of this transportation space? Interesting opportunities arise when these small, isolated systems start to become networked together into larger assemblages of people, data, and urban space. This is the promise of the Internet of Things, one of the possible outcomes of computation ‘spilling out of into the space of the city’.

To conclude, your often quoted line is: “Imagine future interactions that take place as computing leaves the desktop and spills out onto the sidewalks, streets, and public spaces of the city�. What does this entail in terms of architecture and how does that manifest itself?

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MS That line refers to the paradigm of ubiquitous computing which envisions a shift from interacting with a computer, keyboard, mouse, etc. to the condition where computing is all around us and we constantly interact with a variety of computationally enabled devices and systems which have disappeared into the background of our daily lives. One can look to Reyner Banham’s book Architecture of the Well-tempered Environment for clues how architecture might address this condition. Banham was studying how different technologies for the conditioning of space – lighting, heating, cooling and humidity, for example – have been dealt with throughout the history of architecture. Which is to say that they were not dealt with but rather buried behind walls or concealed behind ceilings or within basements. One might take a similar approach to examining these urban informatic systems, whether they manage traffic flow on streets, or monitor environments within buildings. Lighting systems, for instance, are already computationally controlled. Lights in large skyscrapers turn on and off depending upon a preprogrammed schedule. But if we were to look beyond the more prosaic applications of embedded systems, what happens when we imagine, for example, subway turnstile systems that deploy smart cards not just for paying a fare? Other layers of information which do not necessarily have a specific


an academic. I studied at the of Architecture in London in the nineteensixties where I was greatly influenced by Cedric Price, Peter Cook, Gordon Pask and subsequently Heinz von Foerster. My resulting understanding of architecture was that it must be considered as time based. At that time we dreamed of an interactive architecture that has since become a reality. I then worked in central government research where I learned that the actual day-to-day occupation of a building can only be considered as performative, that is that building users share different constructed performances where the building and the objects support the enacted performances. I taught at the AA in the seventies and eighties and was very impressed by the work being produced in John Fraser’s unit at this time. This work is summarized in his seminal book An Evolutionary Architecture published in 1995. Fraser’s work spanned cybernetic performance and the parametric generation of form, with an increasing emphasis on the latter. While I am interested in the former I am not convinced about the latter, because it freezes a ‘moment’ in architecture and is the antithesis of a time-based understanding. Peter Cook invited me to teach at the Bartlett (University College London’s Faculty of the Built Environment) at approximately the same time as John left London for Hong Kong. I was determined that a discussion about architecture and cybernetics should continue in London and formed the Bartlett Interactive Architecture Workshop (BAIW). The Workshop has concentrated on interactive performance in architecture with eminent alumni including Usman Haque, Jason Bruges and Ruairi Glynn. The work of the BAIW resides in the Internet of Things. I shall discuss whether there is a parallel universe to the ‘Internet of Things’ and, if there is one, how the two might relate. If the distinction is of value then I have a strong suspicion that architecture lies at the boundary between the two conditions. The Internet of Things depends on communication. Whether analogue or digital, biological or inorganic its objects are by definition sophisticated. The actuality of birth and death coexists with its metaphor because in a general way the living things within it live and die and the inorganic objects wear out, go out of calibration, fail or become obsolete often in very short timescales. Obsolescence and replacement are central to this universe. Many attempts have been made to place architecture in this universe over the past half century. A key player in this has been Cedric Price whose attitude to the virtues of obsolescence bordered on the religious. Price’s work has to be understood in a mid- to late-twentieth century British cultural context which was characterized by a lust for heritage that carried a strong whiff of necrophilia. However, taken objectively needless obsolescence makes no economic or ecological sense. Constructed landscapes and buildings can last for a long time, far longer than electronics or a human lifespan. Stephen GageAA School

Does the advent of an Internet of Things have consequences for design and designers? Does it change the rules of the game? Stephen Gage considers the technology of building to test the issue.


One could argue that the rate of change in current digital hardware and software is excessive and is commercially driven, but there is a foundation of change in fast moving and pervasive technology. The same is hardly true of building. A well-established society replaces its buildings and physical infrastructure slowly. Only after massive destruction or significant cultural change is a significant proportion of the built infrastructure replaced. In mature societies excessive replacement of buildings is commercially driven, a conspiracy between banks and builders to create property bubbles that are doomed to explode. Critical comments on obsolescence have been surfacing for some time, some of the most entertaining presentations were made by George Bernard Shaw in his play ‘The Apple Cart’ (1930) and by Alexander Mackendrick in his film The Man in the White Suit (1951). Not all highly durable artifacts are large. A good example is a stainless steel saucepan. The world is progressively filling up with these highly useful and almost indestructible objects. They are inert, the kind of objects that are located outside the Internet of Things. Only when used by a connected person or with a digital device, for example a thermal sensor, does the saucepan temporarily become connected. The saucepan is a metaphor for a wider architectural issue. Our question is: did the designer of stainless steel saucepans consider the Internet of Things in the design process? Or are stainless steel saucepans a kind of Corbusian ‘Objet-type’, a context to which ubiquitous sensor designers fit their designs? And if the stainless steel saucepan is a context can it be designed as such? This leads me to consider the nature of the parallel universe some aspects of architecture might inhabit. In this universe architecture is the context for something else, a landscape of possibility. I have addressed this landscape from the point of view of direct functionality and the relationship between the designer and the end user. Is there a way of considering it as a context for an Internet of Things? There are some tough questions. If we approach this landscape from the point of view of a designer of ubiquitous intelligent objects then we see the possibility of some wildly conflicting points of view. Apple has created a very well known set of similar landscapes in their international stores. These shops are elegantly minimal, with their technology largely hidden. At this level they resemble the company products, although they could equally be elegant clothes stores or food markets. At another level they are totally dissimilar, incorporating really ancient materials such as stone, timber and glass. Yet if we look at the software in the machines we see many references to obsolete technologies from waste paper baskets to magnetic compasses and bubble levels. This is the ‘user illusion’ to which Bruce Tognazzini refers. The context that interface designers refer to is the parallel universe that does not contain the Internet of Things. This inherent contradiction places the architect of this context in a conceptual bind. Should one maintain an ancient parallel universe so that the designers of the Internet of Things can mine it for metaphors? Furthermore, if the Internet of Things is ubiquitous then the context these things inhabit will be a mixture of places from different times: the deep past, the recent past, last year and next year. Should the designer of a

Should one maintain an ancient parallel universe so that the designers of the Internet of Things can mine it for metaphors?

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ParallelPerhaps I should introduce Universemyself. I am an architect and


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new ‘Internet Thing’ aim to situate it in a median temporal context ‌ perhaps in a context designed in 1930 (in the UK)? This is not unreasonable and is often the case. But where does this put the architect of new build context? It could lead the architect to create a pastiche of the same median temporal context, an infinite regress towards design stagnation. The parallel universe of context can be looked at another way. If it is to be mined by interface designers for what are, in effect, icons then should this parallel universe perhaps be iconic? Many famous and not so famous architects would welcome this tentative conclusion because it justifies the development of extreme form and the expenditure of substantial amounts of money on shape and decoration. There is an argument that the parallel universe of context should contain things and places that are not bland, that are instantly recognizable, different kinds of ‘branded’ context that can be reflected in and inhabited by the Internet of Things. Yet an emphasis on shape and form may miss the point. The majority of iconic historical context is initially based in iconic function and ritual whether this is consumption of a burger, a ride on a giant Ferris wheel, a state procession or a public execution. Should the parallel universe of context be designed to compliment or enable specific iconic functionality? This runs counter to the idea of the bland white (or black) box that could contain anything. It also runs counter to ideas of adaptability and ‘affordance’ and to more important ideas about social change and the reuse of spaces and buildings. I have argued elsewhere that we must expand our ideas about function if we are to deal with this issue so that it includes the concepts of ‘wonder’ and ‘delight’. It is perhaps appropriate to return to the Apple store and contemplate the staircase we find there. The first thing to note is that it is really easy to walk up and down. Secondly, the views up and down the staircase are well considered. Thirdly, the staircase is made of glass. These stairs fit the description of ‘iconic functionality’. This is a clue to a way forward in which the architect becomes the designer of a by no means empty set of contexts for everyday life and the special events within it. An historical model for this role is Inigo Jones, court architect to King Charles I in the early 17th century. He designed major court buildings but took as much time to design the plays (masques) that took place within them. If the architect is a designer of events then they must include the people and the objects of everyday life within them. At the start of the 21st century the people and most everyday objects are ubiquitously connected, can sense and interact to become the Internet of Things. The things from the Internet of Things become the players in these contexts. The things are temporary transitional observers and performers on a stage that is partially designed for them but which also addresses other issues. The Internet of things is also a place for architectural design. This point is well covered by others and becomes richer when it all pervasive rather than all encompassing.



TouchingThe word touch is on everythe Interspaceone’s lips these days. It Carola Moujandevices

The Bipolar Nature of Touch

Most of the time while discussing touch one thinks of the hand and its ability to grasp things. This, however, is a very narrow view of what this sense really is. The experience of touch concerns the whole body as skin sensations of temperature and humidity, pressure from internal organs, or experiences of movement and weight also belong to it. James J. Gibson calls this global understanding of touch a haptic system, describing it as a bipolar device through which an individual simultaneously gathers information about the surrounding environment and about their own body. The dual nature of touch has interested thinkers from different disciplines throughout history. Philosophers such as Husserl, for instance, have pointed out that touch is where the limit between ‘what is me’ and ‘what is not me’ lies, for it is through touch that a body


Š Keiichi Matsuda

The interface is defining for our orientation in the world. Touch seems the natural way to go, but how does it influence our own notion of being? Carola Moujan suggests that ‘interspace’ is the new realm for designers.

Domestic Robocop

Of Touch and Power

The intrinsically dynamic property of touch, which is feeling and acting simultaneously, implies an active form of perception that is different from a passive reception

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generally refers to tangible and interfaces, a trend that possibly started with Steven Spielberg’s 2002 movie Minority Report, and of which the iPhone is the seminal example. The spectacular commercial success of Apple’s smartphone proved to the world that there is something in touch that significantly reduces the gap between humans and computers, and indeed interacting with objects through direct contact undoubtedly increases user pleasure. Some critics, however, such as Don Norman, have been pointing out the inefficiency of tactile interaction, going as far as calling tangible devices ‘as step backwards in usability’. Norman believes ‘natural interfaces are not natural’, that they trigger random and unwanted actions, do not rely on consistent interaction protocols, present scalability problems, etc.. He argues that a clear protocol should be adopted to make them fully functional, just as happened with visual interfaces. Norman’s essays bring a critical perspective into the current tactile craze. This raises a question however: if tangible devices are unreliable and inconsistent, unpredictable, and overall less efficient than previous systems why are people willing to pay (much) more and learn how to use them – no matter how intuitive they might be? What is it that makes them so pleasurable to use? And, importantly, would they remain as pleasurable if they were more functional? The pitfall in Norman’s argument is that he puts visual and tactile interfaces on the same level. In other words, he implies that a tactile interface should work just as a visual one does; and it is true that in most tangible interfaces as they exist today, the role of touch is restricted to the hand only, and envisioned merely from a functional perspective – i.e. as a replacement for pointers and mouses in command execution. This is a mechanical understanding that overrides the most powerful affordances of haptics which, I argue below, are not connected to function, but to experience.

becomes my body – in other words, it is the localization, through touch, of sensations as such, that makes us aware of having a body of our own. On the other hand, Aristotle – who gave touch a lot of thought – noted that, unlike the other senses the experience of touch is fusional: touch does not distinguish between ‘a touching subject’ and ‘a touched object’, both actors playing both roles simultaneously. Closer to us in time, Australian filmmaker and theorist Cathryn Vasseleu underlines two seemingly contradictory aspects of touch: one is ‘a responsive and indefinable affection, a sense of being touched as being moved’; the other is ‘touching as a sense of grasping, as an objective sense of things, conveyed through the skin’. While the first of these implies a form of openness, the second expresses ‘the making of a connection, as the age-old dream of re-appropriation, autonomy and mastery’, and ‘is defined in terms of vision’. This distinction is of major importance in relation to haptic design; what Vasseleu’s remarks suggest is that, out of the two aspects of touch, only one can be considered as ‘truly tactile’, the other being somehow ‘visual’ in nature. Stated plainly: depending on whether we adopt the ‘tactile’ perspective (touch as being moved – an open passage), or the ‘visual’ one (touch as grasping – a sense of control), the quality of the outcome will be very different. In one case, subject and object are on the same level and the goal is open; in the other, there is domination from one part over the other and the goal is a specific outcome – a pre-determined ‘function’.


Š Chris Woebken

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of stimuli. Although in all sensual activity both passiveness and action are present, in touch, the second is paramount. Therefore designing for touch implies a call to action on the participant; it enables them to drive the experience while remaining self-centered. To further clarify, let us analyze what happens in the participant’s body. Two anticipation films will help illustrate the purpose. The first, Keiichi Matsuda’s Domestic Robocop (2010), is an animated movie showing a vision of an ‘augmented’ future in which media has completely saturated physical space. Direct bodily contact with objects has disappeared, replaced by a visual representation of the hands which, quite paradoxically, conveys an impression of vintage imagery, as if the user’s gestures no longer belonged to the realm of natural movements but were a simulacrum of what humans used to do in a distant past. In other words, in the world of Domestic Robocop users do not touch objects themselves, but rather touch the image of touching them. One no longer grabs a real kettle, but instead we grab the kettle as an icon, as a gate towards concealed information. The act of touching remains present, but in the form of a simulation: we have replaced ‘the real thing’ (touching) by a simulation of touch. Considered from the tactile perspective, instead of being augmented this situation could be called reduced reality. But don’t get me wrong: I am not arguing against the concept of augmented reality (although I certainly would go for a change of name). I am critiquing simulation, a ‘visual’, autocratic approach to interaction which surreptitiously makes humans subservient to machines. Simulation is autocratic because it forces the participant into a single point of view (the one ‘reality’ it is supposed to recreate). This has two major implications: first, the reductive one I mentioned earlier – losing a dimension, exchanging the real for the fake. Second, the necessity to comply with the images’ demands which can be huge. In Domestic Robocop, for instance, the body is used as the image’s ‘control panel’ – it makes the image system work, activating the different variations and possibilities of the ‘film’ being shown. Attention is focused on



what the image ‘does’ or ‘does not do’, following a predetermined program which pushes the participant to carry through a specific choreography. The succession of movements generates a particular quality of sensations which, despite its major impact on the aesthetic experience, is not acknowledged in the design outcome. John Dewey defined the notion of artificial as being what happens whenever ‘there is a split between what is overtly done and what is intended’. In this sense we can say that the system presented in Domestic Robocop is truly artificial not because machines or cutting-edge technology are involved, but because of this split – the simulation of touch that suppresses real touch. We could instead envision truly natural ways of embedding and accessing data, ways that start from the participant’s gestures instead of imposing gestures onto him. This approach is well illustrated by Chris Woebken’s Nanofutures: Sensual Interfaces (2007). According to Anthony Dunne (who curated the 2008 MoMA’s Design and the Elastic Mind exhibition where the movie was presented), the piece is a reaction to current views on nanotechnology which are primarily related to its capacity to improve functional characteristics of existing materials (e.g., increased resistance, reduced weight). Instead Woebken explored nanotechnologies as new design materials of their own. In particular he focused on ‘smartdust’ – a hypothetical system of multiple tiny microelectromechanical elements (MEMS) – trying to imagine the type of product that might emerge from this technology and how it could transform the very notion of interaction. Nanofutures: Sensual Interfaces shows an office worker interacting with his desktop computer through an interface made out of blocks of seeds (the seeds representing smart dust). The user breaks the blocks apart, spreads the seeds, plays with them. While the seed interface still fulfills a functional goal – sharing, breaking, mining data – it is actually the sensual quality of the manipulations that strikes the viewer. Beyond function, one would want to work with them merely for the tactile pleasure they would provide.

Š Thierry Galimard

Volume 28

Š La Fracture NumÊrique

La Fracture NumÊrique, Une Êpaisseur d’honneur, 2009



it is the physical contact with the fog, a caress-like sensation on the skin, that creates a feeling of immersion into a new spatial dimension. Within interspaces participants are the inflexion point, the place where multiple dimensions converge. Architects and designers have a choice when addressing this particular role: either pursuing a controlled, predetermined effect, or defining an operative mode that enables open responses and challenges conventional notions of reality. It is this second option where the true aesthetic potential of interspaces lies for by questioning the idea of an objective ‘reality’ – upon which we continue to live in spite of scientific evidence – these interspaces can open up new ways of experiencing and understanding space. And it is precisely along those lines that they fulfill a specific role left open by previous languages: the transformation of the material world into a less rigid, more fluid environment.

In his 2006 book Herzian Tales Anthony Dunne introduced the concept of ‘post-optimal object’. For Dunne, ‘design research should explore a new role for the electronic object, one that facilitates more poetic modes of habitation’. Considering that technical and semiotic functionality have already attained optimal levels of performance, Dunne argues that the challenge for designers of electronic objects now is to “provide new experiences for everyday life�. In that sense Nanofutures is a good example of how touch can radically change the way we relate to objects, opening up new possibilities for post-optimal designs.

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Š Elias Sfaxi

Touch and Interspace

With the development of ubiquitous computing, architecture has become sensitive. Spaces are now capable of responding to our actions, often in the form of images incorporated into the built environment. A new spatial category, paradoxical, unstable, and neither totally material nor fully digital, is born. Let us call it interspace. Through the articulation of brick-andmortar and electrons, interspaces create a new perception of reality. The bodily implication intensifies the impression of reality these illusionary environments convey; freed from mediation devices such as the mouse and keyboard, we internalize those spaces as their transformation, sometimes even their generation, happens through our bodies. Just as in any other architectural experience, touch plays a determinant role here for it is through touch that all experiences of space are shaped. Subsequently, if we want to create meaningful spatial experiences using digital media, experiences in which the images and the built space are bound together in such a way that we do not perceive them as separate elements but rather as parts of an organic whole, then the design ought to be touch-driven. In practice this is not always the case. Here again we could oppose the ‘visual’ to the ‘tactile’ as many interspaces today are vision-driven. Within this conception the piece is considered a ‘living painting’ or ‘living movie’ and the hosting space reduced to a mere support for the images – a screen. Once again we have lost a dimension: what was originally three-dimensional (a space) has become flat (a screen). Conversely, interspaces designed through a tactile approach feel more real, because through touch a physical connection with the body is created enabling new forms of inhabitation instead of the contemplative type of experience described above. A great variety of forms can emerge from this perspective for there are multiple possible tactile strategies. One example of this is the fog curtain used as a projection support by the Parisian collective La Fracture NumĂŠrique (a team composed by a video artist and an architect) in their 2009 piece Une ĂŠpaisseur d’illusion. As the participant walks through it images are projected upon it. Beyond its symbolic role in relation to the installation’s theme (illusion),

This work is set up to change between the ‘futile’ and ‘fertile’ text & colors as the stop light at the intersection respectively switches between red and green.

Volume 28

Warren Neidich: Resistance is Futile/Resistance is Fertile, 2006. Neon sculpture, 1x10 meters, Kunsthaus Graz, Graz Austria



Volume 28: The Internet of Things  

When things start talking back, you’ve become part of an Internet of Things. Auto-sensoring, basic intelligence, interaction, we’re increasi...

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