INDESEM 2011 – Losing Ground
Have you already used the ‘Like’ button today? Do you still send letters by post? Where do you interact more with your friends – on Skype or at a café? In recent years our means of interacting with one another have changed dramatically thanks to emerging virtual realities, globalization and mass customization. Historically, built space has been a platform for social interaction; how can architecture ensure a relevant public role in this emerging media driven society, which seems to operate entirely separate from traditional collective spaces?
In the face of this phenomenon, it could be said that architecture as we know it is losing ground to new cultural forms. The possibilities of instantly expressing and sharing our myriad individual thoughts and beliefs, increasingly at anytime and anyplace, are creating fundamental changes in society and consequently our spatiotemporal practices.
Where, as designers, do we now take our cues: The liquid phenomenology of the screen? The emergent qualities of advanced algorithms? Endless iterations of ‘related links’? The grassroots democracy of the ‘Like’ button? Architecture sees itself in a moment in which existing paradigms have to be redefined and new values have to be critically evaluated and tested so as to be able to properly form an active approach to the challenges posed by an increasing divide between old and new social realities.
Designers must find ways to operate in this new context. Is architecture able to provide new models for the intersection between the media-driven society and physical environment, and can this be balanced with traditional social interaction and engagement? In recent years we have seen various suggestions; liquid, interactive architecture, ever mutating according to the needs of the user, ‘blurring’ architecture, based on spatial qualities
suggested the computer screen; open-source urbanism, employing the participatory dynamics of games; light, nomadic urban forms made possible by infrastructural and communications networks, and so on. Conversely, is it still possible to argue that there is no pressing need for change, that we should instead reinforce historical types and stable, tried-and-tested notions of social space?