Talking about urban media archaeology (see previous post), notion that Shannon Mattern examines in her work, it is worth trying to give a definition -or, more precisely, various definitions- of the term.
Erkki Huhtamo and Jussi Parikka’s book Media Archaeology: Approaches, Applications, and Implications.
Below I cite the definition that Jussi Parikka gives in her blog Cartographies of Media Archaeology:
Media archaeology has succeeded in establishing itself as a heterogeneous set of theories and methods that investigate media history through its alternative roots, its forgotten paths, and neglected ideas and machines that still are useful when reflecting the supposed newness of digital culture. The definitions have ranged from emphasising the recurring nature of media cultural discourses (Huhtamo) to media archaeology as an-archaeology, or variantology (Zielinski) which in its excavation of the deep time layers of the way we sense and use our media always tries to find an alternative route to dismantle the fallacy of linear development.
Furthermore, I see media archaeology as a history-theory enterprise, in which temporal excavation of media functions as a theoretical force as well; a reading of old media and new media in parallel lines. Media archaeology is decisively non-linear, and rigorously theoretical in its media historical interest of knowledge. In a Benjaminian vein, it abandons historicism when by it is meant the idea that the past is given and out there waiting for us to find it; instead, it believes in the radical assembling of history, and histories in the plural, but so that it is not only a subset of cultural historical writing. Instead, media archaeology needs to insist both on the material nature of its enterprise – that media are always articulated in material, also in non-narrative frameworks whether technical media such as phonographs, or algorithmic such as databases and software networks – and that the work of assembling temporal mediations takes place in an increasingly varied and distributed network of institutions, practices and technological platforms. Indeed, what media archaeology investigates are also the practical rewirings of time, as is done in media artistic and creative practice work, through archives digital and spatial, as well as DIY and circuit bending which recycle, and remix obsolete technology as much as they investigate how technology is the framework for temporality for us.
During an insightful talk presenting her newly published book Deep Mapping the Media City, Shannon Mattern goes beyond the current discourse and neologies on the “media city” and the “smart city”, arguing that – and exploring how- “our global cities have been mediated and intelligent for millennia”. Her book advocates for urban media archaeology, a multisensory approach to investigating the material history of networked cities. Mattern explores the material assemblages and infrastructures that have shaped the media city by taking archaeology literally—using techniques like excavation and mapping to discover the modern city’s roots in time.
Today, among my readings, I read about Stelarc, a performance artist who has extended and amplified his body using prosthetics, robotics, a series of medical, virtual reality systems, the Internet and biotechnology to explore new ways of interaction between his body and the world.
Artist Stelarc performing using THIRD HAND at Maki Gallery, Tokyo in 1982.
One of Stelarc’s probably most known work is THIRD ARM, a mechanical human-like, capable of independent motion hand that is attached to his right arm. About his project, Stelarc states:
With my Third Hand if I am writing one word with three hands this seems to point to an additional capability. On the other hand of course it is also a constraint. You know there is an extra weight on my right arm; my two eyes don’t always follow what my three hands are trying to do. So when I construct an interface I don’t see it in either a utopian or dystopian way.
Here is an interview of the artist and here is WIRED magazine’s article about Stelarc.
Stelarc’s work is a paradigm of artificial bodily extension in a framework of research that has been developing rapidly during the last decades, producing a series of projects among various disciplines, including architecture.
How do wearable hardware, mechanical devices and virtual reality systems affect our perception of the material world?
Can we talk about limits of the body as we see them getting modified and extended, involving both humans and non-humans?
This is a discussion I will definitely come back to.
In his essay “Why Read the Classics?”, Italo Calvino considers as classic a book that “has never finished saying what it has to say”. Inspired by Calvino’s perspective, this post attempts to question on insightful, contemporary extensions of an architecture’s influential -and personally, a favorite- classic, George Perec’s “Species of Spaces and Other Pieces”.
French novelist Georges Perec with his cat, Duchat.
Throughout his 1974 work, Perec lets us vision the concept of a new kind of space, one that is found between the physical and the informational space and indited as a synthesis of various contexts and functions adapted to the continuously changing personal frame. Constructing narratives as seen through the lens of everyday experience, the author develops a series of multi-scale, interconnected methodologies regarding space perception, description and dwelling. In this kind of conceptual territory, objects, habits, senses and memories of a given physical space constitute one infomational network, creating vigorous mental and functional links with situations depicted from related environments.
Paul Eluard’s Children’s song, cited by Perec in Species of Spaces and Other Pieces.
How feasible is the attainment of Perec’s interplay between the analytical and the imaginative by New Media applications -namely interfaces, digital places or networked spaces?
What is the importance of a posteriori data collection in encouraging the creation of user-adaptive environments?
Which tools would help us construct possible procedures for permutation, qualification and quantification of data within the structure of these two distinct though concurrent spaces?
Perec describing The apartment, before The apartment building, The street and The town and after The bed and The bedroom.
Descartes’s illustration of Dualism
This post starts with a thought provoking image, that illustrating Descartes’s Dualism, theory according to which the body and the mind function as two distinguishable entities. Dualism’s preeminent hypothesis is that multisensory experience is a one-way process where inputs obtained from the sensory organs are transferred in the human brain and subsequently in the human, immaterial spirit. Dualism is an idea widely debated during the last two centuries, encountering the surveys philosophy of mind and contemporary neuroscience that developed at this time.
Consciousness, according to cognitive models proposed by prominent scientists such as G. Edelman, F. Crick and C. Koch as well as S. Zeki, is strongly dependent on visual perception. Each model of consciousness assigns a different role to visual perception in the constitution of human consciousness, approaching embodiment of multisensory experience from a different point of view.
Crick and Koch‘s model is restricted, as F. Mallgrave puts it in The Architect’s Brain: Νeuroscience, Creativity and Architecture, to visual awareness or visual consciousness, while Edelman proposes a more embodied model where, again after Mallgrave, ” the body is embedded in a larger ecology from which it extracts most of its essential stimulation “, initiated by stimuli obtained from the human visual perception. Zeki‘s model examines consciousness as the result of multiple perceptional hierarchies referring to color, form and motion that bind with another leading to the experience of a perception.
Below I am sharing with you Mallgrave’s thoughts on models of consciousness:
Most of these associative, classificatory, or recategorical models for consciousness and memory support another pivotal insight of recent neurological research, which is that the brain in its nonlinear operation does not run by the force of human logic, as the overwrought computer analogy wrongly suggests. The ability to reason, or think logically, is a very late evolutionary phenomena, while the brain, like all biological organisms, has honed its neurological operations over a much longer time, specifically in the refinement with which it generates and categorizes its fields of neural patterns.
J. J. Gibson’s sketch on the concept of the Optical flow
In his seminal work The Perception of the Visual World written in the early 50s, psychologist J.J. Gibson introduces the concept of the Optical flow, describing it as “the visual stimulus provided to animals moving through the world”. One of Gibson’s most important observations refer to the flow of textures -or, as he names them, the flow of texture gradients– that develops in parallel with the move of the perceiver.
Today, the concept of the Optical flow is used in applications developed among various disciplines, supporting the estimation of relative depths of all visible and rigid objects, the movement detection of cars and pedestrians in the urban space as well as object tracking in robotics and augmented reality projects.
In their vast majority, applications such as the above are emerging outside the field of architecture, at the same time raising questions about the visual perception of the built space through the lenses of different types of motion.
I am Maroula Bacharidou, postgraduate researcher at the interdisciplinary program Design-Space-Culture at the NTUA and Athens-based architect.
Aim of this blog is to share and discuss tools, theories and thoughts on understanding and representing the built environment based on mapping and analyzing its various textures, as well as to look into ways urban textures are perceived by the human multisensory experience.