EXCURSIONS ON MEDIA ECOLOGY.
The following segments are written by Corneel Cannaerts & Michiel Helbig.
The videos and their descriptions are produced by the students of RC19
The reseaerch cluster operates as a non-hierarchical platform for sharing and developing ideas and collaborates with external partners, next to developing individual projects there will be collective and collaborative tasks, discussions, events, publications.
The fieldguides, individual projects, the events and parallel assignment will all be published as a collective work.
We will explore automated ways of publishing and mapping the produced data in a comprehensive publication and trough videos and animation.
Bartlett B-Pro 2021 UD RC19
Reclaiming Data Infrastructures
The hardware infrastructure needed to support the contemporary media ecologies has a vast material impact on our environment. These material manifestations can be seen in various stages in the lifecycle of digital technology: from extraction of raw materials, transportation and production, to energy needed to operate networks and data centres, to disposal and e-waste. Data centres are essential infrastructures enabling media ecologies, often owned by tech companies, they are used platform economies that use data to extract value form local markets. They are often housed in anonymous
architectural structures isolated from their direct surroundings and the communities that live there. Through reclaiming data centres project proposes a more beneficial relationship data centres and local urban environments and communities. We looked at three platform economy services – uber drivers, food production and delivery, online dating and sex workers - and envisioned how these communities would reclaim three data centres within Los Angeles. The project was designed through web scraping, ripping models of exiting data centres and their environments and remixing them through kitbashing.
Bartlett B-Pro 2021 UD RC19
Beyond the Grid: Territories of Resolution
The project looks at the territorial impact of emerging digital technologies across several scales through the lens of resolution. The media ecology enabled through these digital technologies does not manifest itself globally with the same density, both in terms of accessibility of infrastructure and degree of mediation. Resolution is an important measure of understanding our contemporary environment as it manifests itself in the interface between the physical and the digital, the material and the mediated. Digital information is fundamentally stored as discrete data, it represents information at a certain resolution. Resolution, in addition to a technical notion, can be understood as a spatial and
temporal measure of density of information, with substantial political, economic, social and environmental implications. Resolution can be seen in horizontal territories, delineating borders between hires and lowres zones, as a technical limit of imaging and mapping and technologies. Resolution can be understood vertically in overlays of heterogeneous data sources, in the zoom-levels of digital mapping services. The project explores not only the extremes of connected and unconnected, mediated and unmediated, but is interested in the in-between, the territories where friction, confrontation manifest themselves, and we introduce resolution as means to describe the continuum territories in-between.
Bartlett B-Pro 2021 UD RC19
Hyper-Learning and Unlearning
The pervasive impact of digital technologies requires us to rethink notions of knowledge and learning. The current pandemic and the forced shift to online teaching are just the latest example of an ongoing trend of digitizing learning, through online classrooms, MOOCs, video, and interactive tutorials… Digital technologies are not only affecting how we learn, but also what we need to learn, and what is doing the learning. With constant and instant access to information, traditional ways of learning focused on reproducing information are no longer valid. The project reflects on the impact of media ecologies on the blurring of digital and material learning environments,
questioning the role of educational institutions and infrastructures. By including machine learning, the project speculates on the role of platforms, mixed reality applications, gamification, and questions what skills we must (un)learn as humans navigating Compressed City: hyper-learning & unlearning. Using architectural education as a case study, it proposes an augmented reality learning system distributed within the city. This system questions the role of the institutions and formalized architectural education as gatekeepers of knowledge on urban design and architecture and proposes to use media technology and data to enable a more open relationship with city and public.
Bartlett B-Pro 2021 UD RC19
Archiving Artificial Landscapes
The emergence of the Technosphere, the accidental global megastructure consisting of networked digital technologies, requires us to rethink the dichotomy between the natural and the artificial, and how architecture and urban design operate in the continuum in-between. The media ecosystem created by contemporary digital technologies is redefining and reshaping our environment. The project is a reflection on the condition of artificial landscapes within Compressed City. It proposes an archive that scans, collects, preserves and simulates lost,
existing and new artificial landscapes, as dynamic digital environments. The archive makes these artificial landscapes accessible through several interfaces, a material architectural archive and a mixed reality application layer within Compressed City, and a digital overlay on actual material landscapes. Archiving artificial landscapes not only creates a system for users to archive the past and present, imagine and speculate about the future, but also helps us think about how to reshape our position in the natural environment.
As we live our lives increasingly mediated through digital
interfaces, compression has become an ubiquitous part of our
technology saturated environments. Compression is defined in
data science as the reduction of file size or bandwidth needed
to store or transfer information. Rather than reducing the
amount of information we consume, compression allows for the
densification of data, images, video, social media updates, 24 h
news alerts... Compression can be understood as densification
of information within the digital, but also as information spilling
from the mediated spaces of digital technology into lived spaces,
rewiring the territories we inhabit. As technology becomes
embedded within our societies, through sensing, mapping and
tracking technologies, the digital is informed by the material
world. Compression operates on the interface, the intersection, or
the blurring between the mediated and lived spaces.
Digital technologies are not neutral, access to data and
computational power depends on economic and political power
in addition to technological infrastructure. Tech companies and
digital platforms are emergent economic and political powers
approaching or even surpassing the wealth and power of
sovereign nation states. As such, compression can be broader
understood as having societal, political, economic, experiential,
aesthetic and spatial dimensions. Vertically compression is
interconnecting or delaminating different layers of the stacks that
make up the Technosphere, horizontally compression is ubiquitous
but unevenly distributed, resulting in hotspots, contested
territories, in-between zones and shifting borders.
The topic of compression is framed within a larger interest in current media ecologies, more specifically how digital media and
communication technologies affect environments. The term Media Ecology was originally devised by Marshal Mc Luhan in the 1960,
leading to the emergence of media studies as field of research. He understood media as extensions of human capacities and
argued that media, more than their content, impact how societies and cultures develop. The notion of media ecology was further
developed by Neil Postman & Walter Ong, who stated that instead of studying media objects themselves, media ecology emphasises
the relationships between media objects and how they constitute environments.
Contemporary media ecologies enabled through digital
technologies, rely on extensive computational power and
processing and storage of vast amounts of data. There is nothing
inherently visual about computation, although data is rendered
visual through screens for our comprehension. Visualising data
plays an important role in diverse activities such as science,
commerce, governance, logistics, warfare... While these activities
rely on extensive computational power to crunch large sets of
data, it is in particular cultural production that relies on visual data
and is computationally expensive. Through sensing technologies
and digital cameras, vision has increasingly become algorithmic:
computational visual technologies are not just capturing images of
the world, but are putting them through computational processes
of filtering, segmentation, classification, adding metadata and
tags. Instead of singular static objects, they become part of a
dynamic ecology of images.