Disrupting Social Structure: Arch956

Our growing integration with and dependence on the virtual world in the 21st century is juxtaposed with our increasing sense of alienation present within the cities of the physical world. While our archaic social structures and misused public spaces discourage social interaction, Social Networking Sites (SNS) promote social cohesion by lowering or eliminating barriers to social interaction. This thesis attempts to translate these elements into physical form as an investigation into what role architecture plays into the creation of environments conducive to interaction among people that do not usually interact. The insertion of participatory interventions within the Park St. MBTA station serves to disrupt the inwardly focused, standoffish behavior most prevalent within the public realm.

Recommended reading:
Andreotti, Libero. “Leaving the Twentieth Century: The Situationist International.” Review of A Situationist International Anthology. Journal of Architectural Education (1984-), Vol. 49, No. 3 (Feb., 1996), pp. 196-199.

—. “Play Tactics of the ‘Internationale Situationniste.” October, Vol. 91 (Winter, 2000): 36-58.

Arendt, Hannah. “The Public Realm.” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 108-109. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

This opening essay to the chapter “Action and Public Space” in Situation defines public as “two closely interrelated but not altogether identical phenomena” (Arendt 108). Everything in the public may be seen and heard by everyone else. The presence of other people who see what we see and hear what we hear assure us of the legitimacy of our reality. Public is also defined as “the world itself, in so far as it is common to all of us and distinguished from our privately owned place in it” (Arendt 109). In closing Arendt stresses the difficulty living in mass society is not the amount of people, but that the public is no longer able to gather people together, relate and separate them. This excerpt vaguely defines one problem with living in a mass society without offering a tangible solution. As an introductory work to a chapter, it defines how public may be perceived by others reading the following works in the chapter. Arendt was one of the most influential political philosophers of the twentieth century. This excerpt is taken from “The public realm, the common”. In The Human Condition (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958): 50-53. It investigates the relationship among vita activa (labor, work, and action).

Bullivant, Lucy. “Playing with Art.” Architectural Design Vol. 77 No. 4 (2007).

Public museums and galleries in London are using the digital realm to break through hermetic constrictions and visitors are now encouraged to interact with the objects.
The piece provides evidence for a solution to Krzysztof Wodiczko’s claim against the validity and effectiveness of public art installations in “Strategies of Public Address: Which Media, Which Publics?”.

—. Architectural Design Vol. 75 No. 1 (2005).

—. “Alice in Technoland.” Architectural Design Vol. 75 No. 1 (2005): 6-13.

Cowherd, Robert. “Notes on Post-Criticality: Towards an Architecture of Reflexive Modernisation.” Footprint No. 4 (Spring 2009): 65-76.

Debord, Guy. “Preliminary Problems in Constructing a Situation.” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 110-114. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

Debord describes the reasoning behind the construction of situations, “The really experimental direction of situationist activity consists in setting up, on the basis of more or less clearly recognized desires, a temporary field of activity favorable to these desires” and what constitutes a successful experiment, “to break the spectators psychological identification with the hero so as to draw them into activity”. He suggests the need for their construction by people, “having recognized the present cultural emptiness and having participated in recent expressions of experimental awareness” and suggests that these may ultimately be a modern improvement to the idea of the theatrical spectacle. Functionalist has attempted to eliminate play and designers with failed utopian visions have blamed the people for their playful tendencies.

Guy Debord was a French Marxist theorist, writer, filmmaker, and founding member of the Situationist International (SI). His organization influenced the student riots that took place in Paris in May of 1968.

Kaprow, Allan. “Happenings in the New York Scene.” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 114-116. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

Happenings are essentially unconventional theatre pieces that do not appear to have anything of literary importance to say, however they do have an impact. They are distinguished from theatrical works by their context. “The most intense and essential Happenings have been spawned in old lofts, basements, vacant stores, natural surroundings and the street, where very small audiences, or groups of visitors, are commingled in some way with the event, flowing in and among its parts. There is no separation of audience and play.”

Although an older source, it is still relevant to understanding how some choose to present perceived problems in society to the masses. Kaprow was an American painter, assemblagist, and a pioneer in the concepts of performance art.

Debord, Guy. The Society of the Spectacle. New York: Zone Books, 1994.

digBoston. “Black Lights, Ball Pits, And Killer Tacos: The Wandering Cricket Night Market” Weekly Dig. http://digboston.com/experience/2011/06/black-lights-ball-pits-and-killer-tacos-the-wandering-cricket-night-market/ (accessed October 12, 2011).

Fox, Michael. Interactive Architecture. New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 2009.

Gardner, Edwin. “No Need For Architecture, We’ve Got Facebook Now.” Volume (Amsterdam, Netherlands), No. 19 (2009): 122-123.

Gardner claims that the internet is shifting from one of anonymity towards a global village. Social networks fight social amnesia in our metropolises by constantly keeping us connected, regardless of location. The accumulative information from posts on Facebook and Twitter give friends a deeper look into who they are and these same networks also act as self-organizing means of socialization. The growth of this virtual social space diminishes the social space existing in the built environment.
Supportive real-world examples augment the validity of Garnder’s statements in addition to several academic sources cited, including sociologists and journalists. The writing style and depth of information assumes one who uses web applications such and is fairly mobile. It is relevant to my topic because it questions how well our generic, predictable built environment functions to promote social interaction among people.
Gardner is an architect by training who functions as a writer, curator, and design researcher. He regularly contributes to Volume magazine and Archis.

Higgins, Lynn A. “Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents.” Review of Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. South Central Review, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Fall 2006), pp. 95-97.

Knabb, Ken, ed. Situationist International Anthology Revised and Expanded Edition. Bureau Of Public Secrets, 2007.

Meireles, Cildo. “Notes on Insertions into Ideological Circuits.” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 121-122. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

The author explains the need for Insertions into Ideological Circuits as a system to exchange information without the moderation of centralized control. This means of circulating information to the public is a circuit. The circuits are influenced by the ideology of the producer, and are at the same time passive upon receiving insertions into their circuit. An insertion is a form of counter-information that contrasts awareness (the result of the insertion) with anesthesia (a result of the existing circuit). Meireles is a conceptual artist, installation artist, and sculptor. His installations encourage the viewer’s interaction.

McDonough, Tom. The Situationists and the City. New York: Verso, 2009.

—. Guy Debord and the Situationist International: Texts and Documents. Cambridge, MA: The MIT Press, 2004.

About a third of the book contains articles written by Guy Debord and his Situationist Colleagues during the movement popularity between 1955 and 1969. Their writings provide the framework for a doctrine and includes essays on derive, detournment, and construction of situations. In addition, newer contributors, including McDonough, reflect on Situationist accomplishments. Overall, the book provides a comprehensive amount of work to understand what the movement is about. Readers are urged to be careful and note that past works have no annotation and it is difficult to differentiate between the original contributors and more recent Situationist-influenced contributors.

Tom McDonough is Associate Professor of Modern Architecture and Urbanism in the Art History department at Binghamton University, and an editor of Grey Room.

Mitchell, William J. “Antitectonics: The Poetics of Virtuality.” In The Virtual Dimension, edited by John Beckmann. 204-217. New York, NY: Princeton Architectural Press, 1999.

Nieuwenhuys, Constant. “New Babylon.” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 123. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

This excerpt is taken from New Babylon, written by Nieuwenhuys in 1974. Constant’s vision for New Babylon is one where New Babylonians can customize their environment endlessly using technology. Their creative acts are social acts, “…as a direct intervention in the social world, it elicits an immediate response.” Each of the New Babylonians acts is collective, confront society, and result in eventual transformation into another situation. In 1974 Constant was already imagining how technology would enable people to modify their environments as individuals and a collective. Today we have the technology to allow a component of New Babylon to be partially realized. Constant Nieuwenhuys was a Dutch painter and it noted for his contributions to unitary urbanism.

Piper, Adrian. “Concretized Ideas I’ve been Working Around.” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 120-121. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

Piper argues that the impact of artwork is at its greatest when it is not defined as such to the audience. Knowing that a spectacle is artwork unconsciously limits the range of response to be prescriptive in nature based upon the audience-versus-performer separation one experiences psychologically in the theatre. She uses her Catalysis series of work in public as evidence to back up her argument. Her audience may be the curators who maintain the traditional way art is presented in museums, and the predictable way in which the audience responds. The value in understanding Piper’s observations is that any proposed architecture, if it can be categorized as art, risks being subconsciously interpreted as art, rather than making the impact it may seek. Adrian Piper is a conceptual artist and analytical philosopher who has taught philosophy at numerous American universities. In 2011, she founded The Berlin Journal of Philosophy, a journal that publishes articles on epistemology & metaphysics, logic, value theory, and the history of philosophy.

Steins, Chris and Josh Stephens. 2008. “Building Cities in the Virtual World: It’s Time for Web 2.0.” Planning 74, no. 4 (2009): 32-37.

Viveros-Faune, Christian. “The Situationists and the City.” Review of The Situationists and the City. Art Review, No. 41 (May 2010), pp. 135.

Wodiczko, Krzysztof. “Strategies of Public Address: Which Media, Which Publics?” In Situation, edited by Claire Doherty. 124-127. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2009.

Originally published as an article in the journal Discussions in Contemporary Culture, Wodiczko writes a criticism of “art in public places” and defines the role of critical public art as, “an engagement in strategic challenges to the city structures and mediums that mediate our everyday perception of the world: an engagement through aesthetic-critical interruptions, infiltrations and appropriations that question the symbolic, psycho-political and economic operations of the city.” He acknowledges that the situationist project of intervention requires evaluation and revision to be applicable to his times (the article was published in 1987). The organization which published his work, the Dia Art Foundation, included it as part of a lecture series on Contemporary Art. The specific volume his work was exhibited in addressed the cultural public sphere, the genealogies of art and theory, and the politics of representation. Wodiczko is Professor in Residence of Art, Design, and the Public Domain the Harvard GSD. He is known for his large-scale projection work on facades and monuments.

Haque, Usman.“Distinguishing Concepts: Lexicons of Interactive Art and Architecture.” Architectural Design Vol. N. (2007): 24-31.

Interactive design is multidisciplinary and draws on several lexicons. The author does not attempt to concretize definitions, but instead explains how different professions have used them. Haque is the director of Haque Design + Research Flt, founder of Pachube.com and CEO of Connected Environments Ltd. His focus is on responsive environments, interactive installations, digital interface devices and mass-participation performances. He designs, engineers, and programs the different spaces and the software that bring the spaces to life. Design professionals reading this are hoped to come away with a better understanding of how terms are used to avoid widespread misuse.

Understanding interactive, open-source, the user, and public vs. private vs. the commons are critical to properly conveying the thesis topic.

Haque, Usman. “Notes On the Design of Participatory Systems for the City or for the Planet.” Haque Design + Research. http://www.haque.co.uk/papers/notesonthedesignofparticipatorysystems_eng.pdf (accessed 06 November 2011).

Discusses paradoxical structures of collaboration and illustrates, through anecdotal examples, ways in which these paradoxes may be harnessed. Based on direct experience designing and building participatory systems. Topics discussed include: dilemma, incentives, increments, trust and evidence, tools for evidence, opting out, granularity, coupling, complexity, and public spectacle. Provides real world observations about how to implement participatory systems from a successful internationally known architect and artist. Supplements and affirms some personal observations about potential needs for the success of participatory systems.

Dubberly, Hugh, Pangaro, Paul, and Usman Haque. “What is Interaction? Are There Different Types?” in Interactions Vol. XVI.1 (2009): 69-75.

Designers often use the word interactive to describe systems that are simply closed-loop input-output reactive systems. In interactive systems, the way input affects output is dynamic. The computer-human interactive loop is unique because the human is directly in it, and the computer isn’t characterized in our loop system. Discusses different system types. Provides understanding for type of system to implement into design: whether reacting, regulating, learning, balancing, managing and entertaining, or conversing. Hugh Dubberly focuses on creating easier to use software through interactive and information design.

Ellison, Nicole, Lampe, Cliff, and Charles Steinfield. “Social Network Sites and Society: Current Trends and Future Possibilities.” In Interactions Vol. XVI.1 (2009): 6-9.

Information in public profiles eases barriers for social interaction among people that might not otherwise interact. Social networks let us digitally display our connections to others. Social Networking Sites (SNS) provide weak social capital “weak ties”, which are valuable for new information and different perspectives.
Each of the authors has an educator role at Michigan State University in the department of telecommunication, information studies, and media. Their research explores the opportunities of social networking and what may come of it in the future. The article helps brainstorm ideas for the implementation of an eventual spatial experience.