Member 185
28 entries

Patrick Tierney (M, 34)
Princeton, US
Immortal since Oct 7, 2007
Uplinks: 0, Generation 1
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    Lebbeus Woods. Terrain 2.

    A little know, but incredibly influential and constricting aspect of the Internet (or any networked body of sufficient size), is the protocols used to transport information between nodes of the network. The protocols most people are familiar with are http and html (directly influencing css, javascript, etc). These two protocols completely determine what your experience on the web is like. In other words, if you're looking at a website, it is strictly conforming to http/html. The protocol of http/html, based around a grandmother's recipe catalog, is what forces 95% of the internet into looking like the world's largest magazine collection.

    Presumably we all see deficiencies in this protocol and believe that a Polytopian system is the solution. But, what, exactly, are the problems with the existing state of internet protocols? So far I have identified several deficiencies:

    • Lack of social presence on a "site". If 3000 people are all looking at a website at the same time, you are not aware of any of them.

    • A lack of perspective on the people using the Internet. If I want to see where clusters of people are, I am unable. If a crowd forms around an idea, if they're all listening to a particular feed of data, I am unaware.

    • Lack of a temporal dimension. Why can't I see these people as if it were an hour ago, why can't I visit a site as though it was a month ago, or a certain important date in the past.

    • A lack of communication. Besides a few hacks to http (Facebook, Gmail), I cannot communicate with any of the other viewers of a site.

    • A lack of social search. To use an analogy, when you visit a city for the first time, and are trying to find cafe, the first step is not to look through the yellow pages. Yet this is EXACTLY how the Internet is structured at the moment. Finding a cafe in a new city involves walking around, stumbling into new things, looking at the people cafes, listening to what they're talking about. Search has, and should continue to be, a social dance through space. The Internet must reflect this.

    • Strict hierarchy of media. Http/html favors text above all else (requiring no links, references, tags), followed by images (requiring slightly more work). Other media such as sound and video must be hacked on, and as such cannot be used as liberally as text and images. Vast numbers of other means of communication are ignored (3D models, gestures, collage [ie the links between items as a medium]).

    • Lack of change to the above media. It is impossible to change the contents of a website unless it is specifically hacked to allow it (forums, comment boxes, etc). Changes to video, audio, and images are impossible.

    I am curious what other people see as problems to the existing structure of the World Wide Web and the Internet.


    1. Galloway, Alexander R. Protocol: how control exists after decentralization. Leonardo Press, 2006.
    Mon, Oct 19, 2009  Permanent link
    Categories: architecture, Virtual Reality, internet
    Sent to project: Polytopia
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    Researchers from the Biomedical Engineering Laboratory at Keio University in Japan have developed a brain-computer interface that enables users to control the movements of Second Life avatars without moving a muscle.

    It's a brain wave scanner, and as the video shows it surprisingly good control over your avatar in Second Life for a device that doesn't need to be glued to your head (though it is a little slow).

    Shuhei Endo has been doing some interesting work with geodesic dome structures. One of his larger projects is the ECO House, a huge bean shaped geodesic dome with grass growing around much of the outside. He said it keeps the inside 10 degrees cooler on the inside without air conditioning (I dont know if it's Celsius or Fahrenheit). The ECO House encloses 9 tennis courts in one snaking bean shape without any obstructing walls or columns. He did a kindergarten in a similar fashion though at a much smaller scale. I like how it makes children sized overhangs.

    Kaichiro Morikawa gave a talk on the Otaku subculture in Japan on Monday. It was primarily an anthropological talk, though near the end he started making some great parallels between the internet, architecture, and user generated content. Otakus are the anime and manga obsessed citizens of Japan, and have created districts in Tokyo with distinct architectural and design styles based on the Otaku's needs and personalities. The buildings in Otaku districts are more private than contemporary buildings, yet also offer places to display user generated content such as fanzines and "garage kits."

    How we design buildings and structure cities is primarily based on global trends (the glass and steel of modernisms for example) or "capitalism translated in to space" (giving the biggest buildings and central locations to rich corporations). These two design methodologies often dont reflect the subtle needs of subcultures. The internet knows this all too well, and it is this feature of the internet that has given rise to so many diverse groups. How can architecture catch up?

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    Yoshiharu Tsukamoto, co-principal of the Atelier Bow-Wow firm out of Tokyo, just gave a talk at Perlof Hall here at UCLA, and showed off a few of his buildings and projects. One of the most striking ones, and one that really to me thinking about a great style of building was his Tower House.

    The house is incredibly narrow, only several meters across, and fits a fully functional house, as well as a patio on top. I'm imagining placing houses like this anywhere in Los Angeles you have 12 feet by 30 foot lot.

    One of the best parts is that the couch, library, and living room are all on different levels. This generates "3 dimensional conversations."
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    Let's take a definition of architecture as any constructed environment designed for beings to live, work, or exist. While this would include some odd environments such as cattle pens (constructed from little more than wooden posts and barbed wire), I think as a whole it encompasses most of architecture. It leaves out forests and other natural habitats where beings exist and live, and includes virtually every structure traditionally defined as architecture. It also leaves out sewers, trenches, and other pieces of construction which one shouldn't call architecture (unless you adopt a rat's point of view). Thus, architecture is a build or constructed space that beings inhabit.

    Using this definition, I have chosen for my space digital space, or cyberspace, to use a term coined by William Gibson over two decades ago. His descriptions of cyberspace described shafts of light, large spaces, and a psychedelic environment you could touch, manipulate, and become engulfed in.

    While I have included this three dimensional, tectonic space in my collage, I have also shown a space which beings of a much lower order than us inhabit. This space is unlike the three dimension worlds such as Second Life or video games. This space is a space made of bandwidth and computing power, operated by machines for machines, which allow some programs to duplicate themselves, modify themselves, move from machine to machine, gain power and loose it. All of these programs live in an environment based on algorithms and, ultimately, how well a particular performs its given task. Google for instance has machines to roam the Internet searching for information. Cryptography companies use programs to sift through and interpret data[1]. Each program is given access to some data and freedom to move from computer to computer, gathering data. Some make sense of the data and are allowed to reproduce. Those that output gibberish are deleted.

    The environment these programs inhabit is not like the three dimensional space we live in, in fact, it is unclear as to how many dimensions these programs live in. For instance, while we define ourselves by three spatial coordinates, these machines might define their location by a data bandwidth dimension, charting how much data it can receive, or by the number of times it can replicate itself, or to what extent it can communicate with other programs occupying the same state. A programmer determined all the qualities of each location in this environment. Since physical location matters little to these programs, they might describe each location by a thousand different dimensional qualities, and base how they move by factors we cannot imagine, as entities in our space do not have limitations on reproduction or viewing bandwidth. So, is this environment space, and if so, is it architecture?

    It seems to satisfy half of our initial condition. It has been constructed. As much planning and design goes into designing the computing environment for these autonomous machines as would go into a constructed building. The environment has constraints and boundaries, and therefore walls and enclosements. Enclosement defines interior space. It also seems to satisfy the second half of our definition, that beings live, work, and exist in this environment, provided that these digital machines are in fact beings. Thus the problem with labeling this digital space as architecture lies not in measuring breaths, widths, spans, or volumes; the problem lies in defining life.

    I would argue that these machines would constitute some kind of rudimentary life, and therefore can be categorized as beings. The book Vehicles, Experiments in Synthetic Psychology by Valentino Braitenberg maps out a way to construct simple machines with incredibly lifelike characteristics. His book is backed up by neurological research showing how simple the brains of many insects and lower order animals are, and how easy parts of these brains can be replicated in the computer. Thus, we can construct an insect like program and place it in our virtual space, design the parameters that limit where it can move, where it can eat, what it can see and where it can meet other insects. If an insect is a being, and if this software is much like an insect, this software is a being. Therefore, it would seem that this environment satisfies the conditions of being architecture.
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