19-21 OCTOBER 2006

A 3-day symposium bringing together researchers and practitioners from art, architecture, technology and sociology to explore the emerging role of “situated” technologies in the design and inhabitation of the contemporary metapolis.

Organized by Omar Khan, Trebor Scholz, and Mark Shepard

Participants: Jonah Brucker-Cohen, Richard Coyne, Michael Fox, Anne Galloway, Charlie Gere, Usman Haque, Natalie  Jeremijenko, Sheila Kennedy, Eric Paulos, Karmen Franinovic, Mette Ramsgard Thomsen, Kazys Varnelis

Since the late 1980s, computer scientists and engineers have been researching ways of embedding computational intelligence into the built environment. Looking beyond the model of personal computing, which placed the computer in the foreground of our attention, “ubiquitous” computing takes into account the social dimension of human environments and allows computers themselves to vanish into the background. No longer solely virtual, human interaction with 
computers becomes socially integrated and spatially contingent as everyday objects and spaces are linked through networked computing.

Today, researchers focus on how situational parameters inform the design of a wide range of mobile, wearable, networked, distributed and context-aware devices. Incorporating an awareness of cultural context, accrued social meanings, and the temporality of spatial experience, situated technologies privilege the local, context-specific and spatially contingent dimension of their use.

Despite the obvious implications for the built environment, architects have been largely absent from this discussion, and technologists have been limited to developing technologies that take existing architectural topographies as a given context to be augmented.

At the same time, to the extent that early adopters of these technologies have focused on commercial, military and law enforcement applications, we can expect to see new forms of consumption, warfare and control emerge.

This symposium seeks to occupy the imaginary of these emerging technologies and propose alternate trajectories for their development.

What opportunities and dilemmas does a world of networked “things” pose for architecture and urbanism? What distinguishes the emerging urban sociality enabled by mobile technologies and wireless networks? What post-optimal design strategies and tactics might we propose for an age of responsive  environments, smart materials, embodied interactions, and participatory networks? How might this evolving relation between people and “things” alter the way we occupy,  navigate, and inhabit the city? What is the status of the material object in a world privileging networked relations between “things”? How do distinctions between space and place change within these networked media ecologies? How do the social uses of  these technologies, including (non-) affective giving, destabilize rationalized “use-case scenarios” designed around the generic consumer?

Through a combination of presentations, discussions, and performative design scenarios organized around the notion of “encounter” with the city, this symposium will explore how architecture might contribute to the development of situated technologies, and how a critical engagement with these technologies might extend architecture beyond itself.