Social Cities of Tomorrow » International conference 17 February 2012, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Using digital media technologies for collective urban issues

Our everyday lives are increasingly shaped by digital media technologies, from smart cards and intelligent GPS systems to social media and smartphones. How can we use digital media technologies to make our cities more social, rather than just more hi-tech?

This international conference brings together key thinkers and doers working in the fields of new media and urbanism. Keynote speakers such as Usman Haque, Natalie Jeremijenko will speak about the promises and challenges in this newly emerging and highly interdisciplinary field of urban design. The keynotes will be accompanied by presentations of ‘best practices’ from various disciplines, such as architecture, art, design, and policy.

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MIT TechTV – Changing research

mit_changing_research

Some more pecha kucha presentations on “Changing research”
from the Forum on Future Cities.

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MIT TechTV – Changing life

forumfuturecities

“Changing Life” Panel Presentations from
Senseable City Lab | Forum on Future Cities, April 2011

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Conference Review: Media Architecture Biennale 2010

Meso: Siemens Stern des Südens. www.meso.net

Meso: Siemens Stern des Südens

Conferences in the field of architecture or design sometimes tend to be a bit pretentious. Often, they contain a series of more or less enthusiastic project presentations and rather civilized (if at all) Q&A sessions mixed with a fair bit of self-presentation.

Well, usually.
The Media Architecture Biennale 2010 taking place last week in Vienna was however different to this general notion. Starting with the line-up the organizers Gernot Tscherteu, Martin Tomitsch and Oliver Schürer of the Media Architecture Institute managed to put together, the series of speakers and workshops covered quite a broad range of topics related to the growing field of Media Architecture. The program was structured along diverse conference panels with lectures and follow-up discussions, as well as a series of parallel workshops allowing for focused presentation and conversation. The conference was casual/relaxed in the best sense – good networking opportunities in a friendly atmosphere.

Certainly one of the main and recurring aspects that continuously came into discussion was the question of “content” in a range of facettes and semantic meanings. Obviously, the problem of content creation and civic relevance of media in urban environments was already a centerpiece of earlier discussions in the field (see Media Facades Festival Berlin 2008 ). However, many presenters highlighted the lack of strategies for creating and designing mediated architectural space that is engaging and contextualizing.

During a panel named “P.U.S.H. – Public Urban Space Hub”, Gregory Beck from AIA for example made a point for what he called “experience architecture”. He highlighted that media architecture is communication, not just mere illumination. It is about storytelling, not hardware. And different to many urban screen and billboard applications, media architecture needs to be integrated into physical existence of architectural structures.
Thomas Grechenig from TU Vienna focused on infrastructural aspects of smart cities. “People not only inhabit physical buildings, but live in  connected resource spaces”.Think of smart grids, concepts of power sharing and energy awareness, as well as shared mobility networks etc. This opens up a range of opportunities for ambient interactive environments in urban space, in which the individual is McLuhan’s medium as both a producer and consumer. Of course, this interconnectedness triggers questions of privacy and surveillance. But any new space needs to redefine these privacy borders.

Alex Haw, AtmosStudio, in this sense likes to refer to the term “Ambiveillance”, which he has explored artistically in LightHive, an interactive installation mapping real-time activities across the AA and its potential for productive community building. In their projects, Atmos focus on an artistic staging of interactive experiences: “If spaces resist instant comprehension, they stay more interesting in a permanent context”. For him, many public installations stay too blunt and shallow. Atmos is involved in “The Cloud” project, the London 2012 Media Zone and “pixel accumulation”, mapping many aspects of the site of the olympic games, such as weather, traffic, demographic info etc.

Dietmar Offenhuber of MIT’s Senseable City Lab presented the Labs vision of how the digital networks and infrastructures of our cities have value that goes beyond their original purpose. In anticipatory research projects, the Lab uses cellular networks to reveal social and economic patterns ( CurrentCity ), miniaturized location tags to highlight global flows of trash ( TrashTrack ),autonomous self-organizing light objects to create freeform objects ( FlyFire ) and hybrid electric bicycles with environmental sensors to address a city’s pollution and traffic problems ( Copenhagen Wheel ). For Offenhuber, the city is a civic body – and institutions should adopt and invest in digital infrastructure and smart tech as means for community services and communication.

The second panel on friday (M.U.S.E. – Media urbanism, smart & green city, environmental sustainability) Norbert Streitz shed some light on what he called “smart hybrid urban environments”. For him, many projects in the field of digital urban environments lack human representation or participation. He suggested a re-conceptualization of the idea of sustainability, that might shift from media as spectacle to media as collective system to control macro scale responsive environments. Small, bottom-up projects instead of top-down approaches will develop user-adoption of an urban digital environment that is moving from mobile devices to becoming the interface itself. The question stays however how much feedback we want.

Terreform One: Smart DOTS + Soft MOBS: NY 2028 Environmental Mobility

Terreform One: Smart DOTS + Soft MOBS: NY 2028 Environmental Mobility

Maria Aiolova of Terreform One showed scenarios of how the metropolis of the future could be built on symbiotic strategies and how design, computer science, structural engineering and biology can from new processes to define urban ecology and mobility of the future.
Zumtobel’s Bernd Clauß presented the company’s current solutions in integrative lighting technology, being able to be incorporated seamlessly into a complete building’s architectural facades while using less energy than a hairdryer.

StandardVision: City of Dreams, Macau

StandardVision: City of Dreams, Macau

The reactive architectural light installations of Adrian Veliescue of StandardVision, such as the City Of Dreams (Macau), the first installation using multiple buildings as a canvas, were impressive in scale and technology. However, they seemed a bit de-placed in a session on sustainability and smarter green cities.

Personally, I was quite curious on the CO.CO.ON session ( Construction, Content, Social Online Interaction). Hosted by Stefan Hofmann of Lichtwerke, which included engineering and artistic design methods and media usability / users as some of its main topics.

AEC Facade Terminal from Dan Wilcox on Vimeo.

Stefan Mittlböck-Jungwirth-Föhringer presented some of his work at the Ars Electronica Future Lab, specifically on external and internal signage and information systems ( Unit M for WIFISAP Source Code ) as well as simulation tooling and interfacing with media architecture, e.g. the new Ars Electronica Center Media Facade. Interfacing simplicity: people can manipulate the “pulse” of the facade with their own heartbeat, or simply use their ipod/iphone’s music / camera to interact with the architectural visualizations. “People find out how it works by themselves.”

Public interactive landscape ‘Dune 4.2′ from Daan Roosegaarde on Vimeo.

Daan Roosegaarde, interactive artist, creates interactive sculptures adressing the dynamic relations between architecture, people and e-culture. In his presentation, he eloquently stressed the term “techno poetry” as a concept to use (social) technology as a tool to engage with people. They need to be able to plug into the concept of an installation. For Roosegaarde, such engagement can only happen if installations are both mirror AND display, reactive AND communicative. An interesting side note on two reasons why for example his “dune 4.2” project in Rotterdam worked as a piece:
1. There was a maintenance contract. 2. It was built on the participation of civilians.

Adaptive fa[CA]de from marilena on Vimeo.

Marilena Skavara of Microhappy used her recent “Adaptive Fa[ca]de” to talk about how context awareness and concepts of mimicking can be applied to create sustainable aesthetics. Based on cellular automata and parametric processes, she suggested these concepts as a form of relational contextualization and abstraction of surfaces, being an ambient and responsive regulator between outside and inside.

In terms of social relevance, identification and adaption of mediated architectural structures, for me the Indemann project by Mark Maurer and ag4 represented an interesting focal point of the continuous discussion about media architecture, relevance and content. As an intentional landmark and object of identification for not only a community, but a whole multinational region, the Indemann shows that Media Architecture can be more than lighting technology, or ornament, or sensation. It is about communication, including the immediate environment, but also aspects of regional culture and identification.
During the closing panel discussion, Kas Oosterhuis questioned if media architecture could/should be regarded as a soundtrack. Personally, I doubt this, as “soundtrack” implies a somehow passive and consumerist attitude in perceiving urban media. I am convinced that media architecture needs to be inclusive, not sensational in the first place. We need to work on sets of tools, systems and techniques to understand and operate architecture and media as a compound entity. So Oosterhuis’ suggestion of staging diverse aspects of users, use and content as the subject of the next Media Architecture Biennale seems more than welcome to me.

Some more interesting links, topics, workshops:

Content Development Strategies for Media Facades
Sebastian Oschatz – Meso

Face to Face. The Rhetoric Functions of Media Architecture
Vera Bühlmann – ETH Zurich
Susanne Seitinger – MIT Fluid Interface Group
Michael Shamiyeh – DOM Researchlab Kunstuniversität Linz
Jens Geelhaar – Bauhaus University Weimar

The event’s official press review can be downloaded here

Networked City: At a Festival Where the World Gets Reprogrammed | Motherboard

“If the entire city is going to be addressable, and scriptable and query-able, then we should be thinking about what kinds of networked cities we want to be living in.”

For their most recent conference, FutureEverything invited Motherboard to come play in Manchester, a city that is both an urban and digital sandpit. From found art in Google Street View to tracking anti-social behavior in your vicinity, to the simple act of “checking-in,” FutureEverything – and its founder Drew Hemment – shows that technology can be as sinister as it is enabling. But if the increasing presence of technologies in our everyday lives can lead to estrangement or control, they can also, as some of these technologists are demonstrating, create a whole new way of thinking about and remaking the city.

via Cognitive Cities

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Media Architecture Biennale 2010, Vienna

Transformation of urban, public space by media architecture.

“Media Architecture Biennale 2010 comprises an exhibition, a conference and workshops, which are closely coordinated. Some of the projects on exhibit are discussed in the context of the conference. Topics of the conference are illustrated by objects on exhibition. Events are planned so that they offer the best possible framework for the discussion of current topics, for getting to know each other and for the development of project ideas.
It is planed to hold the event bi-annually in Vienna in the future.”

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EXPO 2010 Shanghai – Innovative LED Facades

Nice video documentation on current LED-augmented architecture in Shanghai. By Frank Kaltenbach

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Feature Project – Vancouver 2010 – Thought-controlled computing – Interaxon

“Thoughts are turned into light patterns instantaneously as their brain’s digital signal is beamed over the Rocky Mountains, across vast prairies all the way to three major Ontario icons – a distance of 3000 km.” (via dasymetric )

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Digital Water Pavillon

DWP Day two-008998

© Digital Water Pavillon at http://www.dwp.qaop.net

The Digital Water Pavillon has been designed and built for the Expo in Zaragoza 2008 as a tourit office and information point for the Digital Mile project. Its facade is made of a digitally controlled water curtain, acting as a permeable division between outside and inside.

It contains over three thousand digitally-operated solenoid valves, twelve hydraulic pistons, several dozen oil and water pumps, a camera-operated control system, a good deal of controlling software, and many other components.

DWP day tre-009110

© Digital Water Pavillon

The building itself seems like a kinetic object, sensing and reacting to the nearby environment and able to transform not only its wet surface, but also its shape according to the current usage. It is becoming a central point for retrieving information, but even more importantly for playful interaction, where people are enjoying themselves.

The Pavilion is down, in closed operational mode. The roof is on the ground, covered by a thin layer of water. Only two volumes in glass, containing the Digital Mile info point and the tourist office, project upwards. It is a new medium, and a rather exceptional one. It is made of thousands of closely spaced solenoid valves put in a row along a pipe suspended in the air. The valves can be opened and closed, at high frequency, via computerized controls. This produces a curtain of falling water with gaps at specified points – a pattern of pixels created from air and water instead of illuminated points on a screen.
The entire surface becomes a one-bit-deep digital display continuously scrolling downwards. Something like an inkjet printer on a huge scale. So, how to make really fluid, reconfigurable architecture? Our building aims to stand as a possible answer to that endeavor. Fluid in the literal sense of the word. But also fluid as a reconfigurable, responsive building. The difference between wall and door can disappear. Facades can become a continuous medium that open and close interactively. The water itself is dynamic: it can display graphics, patterns and text. But, most importantly, it can almost become alive with patterns that are generated in real time, replicated from one point to another and which respond to the nearby environment. The presence of people can be sensed by the DWP and this plays an important role in the dynamic process, allowing waves and other distortions to be generated.

DWP day tre-009077

© Digital Water Pavillon

Carlo Ratti, director of the Senseable City Lab at MIT, describes the project in his talk at LIFT Conference (towards the end, around 17min 50 sec):

Carlo Ratti “The Sensable City” (Lift09 EN) from Lift Conference on Vimeo.

Project partners included:

this happened…

This happened... Some of the talks so far.

This happened... Some of the talks so far.

This happened is a series of events focusing on the stories behind interaction design. Having ideas is easier than making them happen. We delve into projects that exist today, how their concepts and production process can help inform future work.

Interaction design companies are often too closed off to the outside. We want to encourage people to be more open in their methods and ideas. We aim to have a mix of established practitioners, commercial companies and students. We want to encourage the perspectives from the other side of the fence, so will also be inviting curators and commissioners of work to give presentations.

http://www.thishappened.org/talks/