Introducing Ed Keller: Assistant Professor Douglas Jackson: Douglas Jackson: Okay, architecture is perhaps unique among other disciplines in that it is also a cultural enterprise, a cultural practice if you will. So while as a discipline it maintains and even benefits from history, a tradition, a body of knowledge that is in some sense bounded and its resulting inertia resists change. This potentially entrenched and dogmatic institution is also contested, confused, challenged, enriched, enlivened, and ultimately liberated by the simultaneous need to keep abreast of and remain relevant to the culture that sponsors it. So in contrast to the preponderance of individuals and practices that safeguard the discipline’s interest in what it already knows, architecture also requires provocateurs, individuals and practices that research areas of knowledge beyond the presumed boundaries of the discipline, that produce work that challenges the status quo with new ideas, knowledge and visions, and in so doing, continually seek to engage in evershifting culture. For the last 15 or so years that is precisely what are next speaker, Ed Keller, has done. He is the founder of the Mediascapes Master’s degree program at SCI-Arc, a program he coordinated and taught between 2007 and 2009, and which explores significant emerging relationships within the technology, software, media, film and game spaces to produce new content and ideas in an R&D environment. Ed also teaches at the Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Preservation and Planning, where he was acting director of the advanced architectural design program in 2000 and 2001. He is the co-founder of AUM Studio, an architecture and new media firm whose work includes residential projects in Europe, award-winning competitions, expanded cinema and locative media projects, and media and technology research and consulting. AUM Studio’s work has been shown at the MAK Center, New Blood, TELIC Gallery, and at Beijing Biennale. In 1997 he founded a,Chrono, an R&D firm that has designed and produced digital media projects, film scripts and architectural competitions, has worked as a primary developer on computer games and continues to develop high-def digital projects and soundscapes. Keller’s work and the work of a,Chrono has been exhibited at the Pixel Gallery, The Kitchen, iMage Architettura in Movimento, and the ISEA. In 1994 he founded, an online journal covering architecture and new media theory, which he edited until 2003. He is currently working on Kino-Mind, a book exploring temporal models in cinema and architecture. His essays on culture, technology,


film and architecture have been published in books, including Four Lines, Beyond Form, The State of Architecture in the 21st Century, and Beyond Post-Modernism, and also such journals as PRAXIS, AD, Film Philosophy, Leonardo Online, Zapp, Ottagono, Space, Scroope, Architecture, ArchRecord2, Parpaings, Precis, ANY, Metropolis, and Wired. Additionally, AUM Studio’s work appears in journals including Metamorfosi, Construir, and Architectura e Vida. Please join me in welcoming Ed Keller. Ed Keller: Thank you for that very nice introduction, and thank you very much to Cal Poly and to Stephen for the invitation. The title of the talk today is “By the Bootstraps” – I have looked for an image of Baron von Münchhausen, but I couldn’t find a good one. So I’m using this still from Andromeda Strain, a great B sci-fi movie from the early ‘70s about an alien life form which a group of scientists have to attempt to communicate with. It is perhaps the best ‘camp’ vision of research that cinema can provide. And now I’ll jump straight into screening a movie that some of my SCI-Arc students made this past spring. Obviously these guys were shooting with a very very high-speed camera. In summary of my talk today: I want to deal with a few general questions about research, and then show you examples, three projects that I’ve been involved with, and two other projects by filmmakers and writers. I believe that the ambition of research is

to discover the unknown and to consider the process, nature, and consequences of this unknown, and to consider theoretical, technical, and methodological problems as oriented towards the production of knowledge; obviously research aims at the production of knowledge, but really more specifically the production of thought. In my opinion, if research is done with enthusiasm, it produces a kind of conundrum immediately. It depends upon mixing the known with the unknown, and ultimately generating a value out of that unknown, and that value always ends up with quite a bit of known and predictable in it again. So how do we maintain the balance between what we expect research to produce, what it does produce, and


how we preserve ultimately that unknowability in it, once we convert it into something that’s usable? There are epistemological consequences to what one can know. I’m going to show some somewhat humorous examples to start with, to illustrate the problem of the perturbation of value systems. Epistemological models have flaws, e.g., the kind of amusing chestnuts one will hear: “we know what we know, we know what we don’t know, the problem is we don’t know what we don’t know”. That’s related back to the question of how one actually operates within epistemological models when doing research, because they drive what one thinks one is looking for, and then ultimately when one finds something, what one thinks can be done when bringing it back into reality. This scene is from The City of Lost Children [Caro & Jeunet], a fairy tale in a lot of ways. Very intelligent in the way that it thinks about multiplicity and what it means to actually know something, and what the consequences of knowing that thing might actually be. Now obviously we’re dealing with the question of methodology, which is not just the way that you work with something (the way that the characters on screen augment themselves), but also the surrounding theory, and the way that theory feeds back into the construction of method. This is one of the key issues that I’m interested in talking about today. It ties back into anti-theory, or the end of models, potentially, not as philosophical positions, but as purely technical consequences of technology change, which

I’ll try to get to at the very end of the talk. One of the questions that comes to mind is how we can escape the labyrinth of false epistemologies, false statements of problems. In the early 1990s I came across a really funny publication released by RE/Search called Pranks. This edition came to mind when I was preparing for the talk today. I realized there’s a good connection, or a substance in the connection between the question of research, the value that’s produced in research, and the prank, because it gets one to the point where one starts to question what a value is and how one can maintain some sort of openness in what it produces. The original title of RE/Search publications was Search and Destroy. This was a term that was used by V. Vale, the founder, to brand his first fanzine, which he founded as part of the Punk Movement in 1977. And that subsequently became RE/Search in the 1980s. Of course he chose that title to evoke the Vietnam era military term “search and destroy” or “seek and destroy” or “S and D”, and I quote: The idea was to insert ground forces into hostile territory on special missions to target enemy forces and withdraw immediately afterwards, a strategy that was thought to be ideally suited for counter-guerrilla / jungle warfare. The complementary conventional strategy, which entailed attacking and conquering an enemy position, then fortifying and holding it indefinitely, was known as Clear and Hold or Clear and Secure. Obviously you can see the question of research as oriented towards search and destroy or towards clear and hold as a kind of sub-theme that’s percolating in the background here. The term search and destroy was permuted by John Brunner in his 1975 sci-fi classic Shockwave Rider into ‘sanded’, and this was slang for, in his world, teen-age riots. It was co-opted and recuperated then as a term of resistance by Iggy


Pop and the Stooges, and by Henry Rollins [whose tattoo we saw just a moment ago] during the Punk Movement. So there are cultural, political, and even military implications for the term “research”, which can connect on a more abstract level to the idea of it as a practice that not only discovers systems that integrate in a liminal way to pre-established knowledge, but that then radically re-invent systems. [Here we see the great cover for Pranks, the journal that had such an influence on me.] The examples that are given in Pranks were a kind of breath of air that filled one with energy and made it clear that a kind of radical optimism of the will along with a pessimism of the intellect could still engender things in the world in the face of what I’ll call an increasingly atemporal present. Some of the other people that I’m going to show examples from, like J.G. Ballard, are dealing with that question. There are others who were involved in Pranks: Joe Coleman, the Billboard Modification Front, San Francisco’s Situationist offshoot group Point Blank, Survival Research Labs; there was a kind of rebellious enthusiasm and a ferocious sense of humor and a different vocabulary of methods involved in each of these projects. And of course, I imagine each of them as a research project. So where is this leading, aside from a coincidental use of the title? The prank is connected to laughter, and through laughter Bakhtin’s writing about Rabelais [these drawings of uncertain authorship [slides] purport to illustrate Rabelais’ Pantagruel] illustrates the idea that certain kinds of method could produce unanticipated knowledge. As Bakhtin says:
The Renaissance conception of laughter can be roughly described as follows: laughter has a deep philosophical meaning. It’s one of the essential forms of the truth concerning the world as a whole, concerning history and man. It is a peculiar point of view relative to the world as seen anew, no less and perhaps more profoundly than what is seen from a serious standpoint. Therefore laughter is just as admissible in great literature, posing universal

problems as seriousness. Certain essential aspects of the world are accessible only to laughter. (from Rabelais and His World, Bakhtin)

This idea of the production of unanticipated knowledge such that the reintegration of unanticipated knowledge can maintain its value, its unknownness, is one of the key concepts in research. And the etymology of research leads us to another term, recherche, the ‘reinvestigation’ – a deeper and temporalized study. The question of method versus methodology comes up and we can compare the deductive, the inductive, and the abductive forms of reasoning on these lines. We’re familiar with deduction, moving from the theory to the example, and with induction, moving from example to the theory and inferring probable antecedents, but in abductive reasoning, one chooses the hypothesis that would, if it were true, best explain the relevant evidence. Abduction, as Charles Peirce puts it, is knowledge of the relation that conditions cause and effect – and hence is the creation of new knowledge. I’ll read you a brief quote from Uwe Wirth on Peirce:
In Peirce’s lectures on pragmatism in 1903, abduction, deduction and induction become interacting aspects with different epistemological functions. Deduction determines the necessary consequences relying on logical provable coherence between premises and conclusion; induction is aiming at empirical, provable coherence between the premises and experience in order to derive a probable generalization, yet induction only classifies the data, while abduction furnishes the reasoned with a problematic theory explaining the causal relation among the facts – not just the theory but a problematic theory. For an abductive suggestion which synthesizes a multitude of predicates, deduction can draw a prediction which can be tested by induction. (from What is Abductive Inference? Uwe Wirth, Frankfurt University)

So arises the key problem for research in design, and


in philosophy: how to think outside of thought itself, or set thought against itself. ‘A thinking form’ is the term the filmmaker Jean Luc Godard uses apropos his own work. Architecture is just one of many thinking forms, according to a definition like Godard’s, and thought, in this case, is not what you or I think individually, but more generally, what is thought. Borges said that we should speak about thinking the way we speak about rain: we look outside and we say, “It’s raining today,” and Borges suggested we could say, “It’s thinking today.” This idea repositions subjectivity in relationship to thought, and it also repositions what thought itself can do and what the responsibility of thought is. Any practice then, whether social, economic, political, even purely material would be understood to have thought embedded within it. John Rajchman has approached this problem in another way in a text on Michel Foucault:
In his last conception of his work, Foucault connected his art of seeing to the “ethico-political choice” one makes of “determining which is the real danger.” The choice of trying to see just what it is that we have to struggle against in order to free ourselves (and free ourselves from ourselves). And this freedom is dangerous, since we can never have in advance a determinant or complete picture of it. For, as a thinker and seer, Foucault was concerned with a situation, prior to the possibility of deductive normative reasoning, where one sees something must be done without yet knowing what. A space not of deduction but of questioning and analysis is thus opened up between the choice one makes and what one does, in which one tries to conceive what the danger is which one does not yet fully see, but in relation to which one must take action. It is one’s responsibility to this thing that troubles, but which one can’t yet describe or name, that requires one to work to change oneself. One’s work is the attempt to change one’s way of seeing and living in relation to those specific dangers one does not yet know what to do about. [...] The central concept in Deleuze’s own analysis of the role of thought in film is the concept

of de’soeuvrement. In response to Godard’s prognostication of an end to film theory, he says “the concepts of film are not given in film.” There is a sort of “filmic unthought” from which film tries constantly to free itself and so open itself to other ways of thinking and showing.’

With this introduction to some of the intrigue that’s endemic to research in my mind, I want to show a couple of projects, five research projects. Each operates in a different manner: three of the projects are from work that I myself have been involved with, and two have been conducted by other authors: Jean Luc Godard and J. G. Ballard. The first project, Hypnagogue, is a project that I worked on between 1995 and 2000, in collaboration with Perry Hall, artist, painter and musician. This was a trailer that we put together for this project back in ‘96 or ‘97. This collaboration was realized in several forms. We assembled it as an interactive film, which was deployed on CD-ROM, we installed it as a gallery show, also as a live performance in places like The Kitchen, and we performed it as a kind of a video cine-roman in the vein of Chris Marker’s short film, La Jetée. There were over 30 paintings, there were eight digital spaces that I constructed in SoftImage and rendered out as the site of the project, over 80 sound environments, written text, and live actors. The project was an exploration of the experience of synesthesia [when one smells a sound or hears something that one can see.] We were looking for a set of rigorous ways to test that experience digitally. We brought all of the paintings and sound environments together, we had a skeleton narrative that allowed one, if interested in narrative, to follow right through the project, and we did allow non-linear navigation, so one could essentially explore any environment or could follow it as kind of a game, as a kind of a puzzle. I’m showing you just the trailer now, and outtake stills from the project here. Usually when I screen it, it takes about an hour to show the whole project, and if one were playing it as a game it’s about a ten-


hour solve time. It has a number of puzzles built into it which nominally fulfill the function of a computer game. At the time we of course were inspired by proto games like Myst, which were extremely stilted, somewhat childlike, but nonetheless harbingers of a new kind of media experience. So we followed the interactive model that we saw in games like that. In these stills you also see the paintings that we were setting up as environments to navigate. The first filmic example that I want to show you is from Jean Luc Godard, I’d like to talk a little bit about his film Alphaville. In Alphaville there’s a juxtaposition of a kind of already given reality of computer technologies in the ‘60s, and infrastructures, control societies which are overlapped with a hyperfictional parallel world that he’s constructed, a kind of distance viewing, actually, in my opinion, of where we are today. Godard observed at one point that he didn’t see the need to distinguish between narrative and documentary, since we don’t do so when we listen to music, and obviously he’s pursued this hybrid work in most of his film output. Whether it’s in films like Sympathy for the Devil which is a documentary film in part about the Rolling Stones recording “Sympathy for the Devil”, intercut with a whole series of meditations on race relations in the ‘60s, or Pierrot Le fou, a road movie which uses a lot of crosscuttings and destabilizations of narrative, but also a meditation on the problem of the French-Algerian relationship and the problem of mad love and amor in generala precognitive instantiation of Wild at Heart or Natural Born Killers. So Godard has a kind of jaded humanism, and the question is: what’s he trying to intuit with his research project? I’ve used this next passage as an introduction to some of my design studios in the past few years, most of them dealing with the problem of post-empire design or post-empire urbanism and technology:
“Sometimes reality is too complex for oral communication... But legend embodies it in a form which enables it to spread all over the world...”

That voiceover from Godard’s film Alphaville, spoken as the camera pans across nondescript post-war middle class high-rise residential towers, identifies two kinds of global systems. The first is the wildly proliferating Hollywood myth-machine, which is able to colonize most of the world as America’s most visible export, and which Godard satirizes directly in his film, by creating Lemmy Caution [E. Constantine] as a doppelganger of Bogart; and second, the global space which began to coalesce as the world recovered from World War II, when urban centers were rebuilt and global networks of capital and materials intensified. The first problems of infrastructure, information science, highways, social housing on a mass scale, and systemic architectures in general emerged in macro-urban assemblies as the embodiment of such systems. Alphaville is tracking this. In the case of the contemporary global city, the intensification of this relationship has produced a more radical set of bifurcations, a monolithic temporal construct of parallel realities. Such a redefinition of the concept of ambience today is extending into a new realm - The ‘time’ of the institution, which organizes this monolithic memory structure on a political and cultural level - contrasts dramatically with the time of the individual subject, which is filled with myriad unpredictable details. Similarly, the ‘time’ of the built fabric of the city provides an archetypal and shared memory which spans all cultures, while the individual subject in their chance encounters creates an absolutely unique memory which then cascades into the urban form itself in many ways. (from Ed Keller, “Post-Empire” studio brief)

Godard was surveying these phenomena and trying to get a fix on what the consequences were for humans. The second example, which is partly filmic and partly literary is J.G. Ballard, who, as I imagine many of you know, passed away quite recently. Ballard’s project was similarly an attempt to index the hidden relationships between infrastructure, technology, the biopolitical and different models of time. His method is itself a meticulous rehearsal of the points


of intersection between bodies that are achieving a new inchoate awareness as they navigate a landscape - the boundaries of which they’ve only dimly sensed previously. As Vaughn, one of his characters, actually says in Crash,
It’s the future, Ballard, and you’re already part of it. For the first time, a benevolent psychopathology beckons towards us. For example, the car crash is a fertilizing rather than a destructive event... that mediates ...with an intensity impossible in any other form. To fully understand that, and to live it- that is my project.

And of course, that’s Ballard’s project, in general, whether he’s doing it in experimental films, [this clip is actually a short film that the BBC produced, directed by Harvey Cokliss] or when he’s doing it as a writer, in texts like The Drowned World, which predicts a post-cataclysm devolution of human intelligence as long dormant DNA awakens paleolithic memories in neuronal time, which humans gradually gain access to

due to changes in their environment, or in Memories of the Space Age, a collection of short stories which chronicles a future amnesia and erasure of sense that can be linked to his observation that the 20th century witnessed the death of affect. This amnesia in some of his novels and stories is a direct result of technologies that open human horizons and place them in contact with flows that even millions of years of evolution have not been able to trigger, or that have been lost to an atavistic past, and are only recuperable via catastrophes or the emergence of global industry, highways, and infrastructures. They yield a much deeper kind of cosmological anabatic movement as his characters are heading upstream, into jungles that index geological and macro-historical time. When discussing Ballard and Crash, one recalls images or clips from Cronenberg’s film adaptation of Crash, but the clips I’m showing you here are from the 1971 BBC short, made as a kind of research documentary in advance of the completion of the novel. This work, along with the 1970 Atrocity Exhibition show, was conducted as a rehearsal, a fact-


finding expedition that ultimately yielded Crash the novel. Crash is an extrapolation of the themes that I’ve already mentioned from Ballard’s earlier work, but in this case the instrumentalities that create access points to these alternate regimes of time are not an environmental change, they’re human technology, industry, the flow of capital, and through the technology and the energy flow in highways, cars, fuel production, culture, they achieve a fusion with the machinic phylum. Ballard dealt with the erosion or imbrication of time, charting a path across the ‘entropic landscapes’ of suburban, infrastructuralized, car park landscapes of London and Heathrow – like Moorcock, Keiller, Smithson, stalkers in the zone. Next, there are two recent projects that I’d like to show from our office: SUTURE was an installation we did in Los Angeles in 2005-2006. While we were working on this project, a passage from Georgio Agamben’s writing captured our imagination. This project was an expanded cinema piece – I’m going to show you a clip in the background here for a few minutes. While we were reading Agamben, we were thinking about the transhistorical time that Ballard tries to index in his writing and films, and were thinking, “can we engage that through another way, through gesture and material, through technology, infrastructure and landscape – instead of narratives?” Here’s is the passage from Agamben that we were interested in. He says:
Every image, in fact, is animated by an antinomic polarity: on the one hand, images are the reification and obliteration of a gesture.... on the other hand, they preserve the dynamis intact [as in Muybridge’s snapshots or in any sports photograph.] The former corresponds to the recollection seized by voluntary memory, while the latter corresponds to the image flashing in the epiphany of involuntary memory. And while the former lives in magical isolation, the latter always refers beyond itself to a whole of which it is a part... The gesture... opens the sphere of ethos as the more proper sphere of

that which is human... [and] is communication of a communicability. (from Means Without End, Giorgio Agamben)

So we wanted to try to capture that idea of the gesture, and we wanted to extend the idea of the gesture outside of the domain of the human, beyond the physical gesture that we all make, to infrastructure considered as gesture, to materiality and different scales and textures of materiality. SUTURE proposed a way of working with collective intelligence [both the groups of viewers interacting with the project, but also the ‘arrays of media’ as autonomous, rule driven bodies in the network itself] by setting up an expanded cinema interface in which remixes of the material would take place, based in part on user interaction - pressure sensors in the floor of the gallery – and on rule sets for recombinative mixing, in moments where no viewers were interacting. We were interested in reconfiguring the concept of ‘suture’, a key term in film theory, in order to propose a new cinematic & architectural body created through the visitors’ ambient reediting. Instead of the narrative/ semiotic framework, the concept of ‘suture’ emerged from as developed by Kaja Silverman, we presented an interface to manifest it purely through gesture, material, and cinematic-haptic fields. We tracked gestures and materials at scales beyond the human, encompassing urban situations, infrastructure, and landscape. Desert spaces, transit spaces, and more distant abstract points of view - such as satellite orbits over the earth - established another scale in the footage. We wanted to say that it was possible to understand gesture in the landscape, gesture in material systems, in energetic systems, and to reapply the concept of suture devoid of narrative content, by witnessing this suturing that takes place in the landscape itself. We catalogued hundreds of shots, most of which we took ourselves, some of which were samples from other films. Here are a few shots of the installation,


here’s one outtake which actually, by chance, included a clip from Hitchcock’s Vertigo. The way this was working, there were two screens, each screen played back up to four tracks of video and audio simultaneously. They crossfaded, based on the ‘bangs’, when one hit pressure sensors on the floor. There was a third projector that projected down onto the floor, which was part of the sound environment, which also responded to people walking through the gallery space and indexed all of the changes that were taking place. We would cut from close up, to medium shot, to long shot. We would cut from materials to gestures, and we would cut so that we sped up and slowed down the footage and crossfaded it at different rates. There was an elaborate categorization of the footage to control crossfades, but beyond that initial sorting of the media, we had no idea of how it was going to be remixed. [This is what it looked like during the daytime in the space.] You can see the two screens on either side, the pressure sensors in the middle, and the third projection on the floor. Now the second project that I’ll show you is a competition that we did in 2006. This was an invited competition [that Jeffrey Inaba also participated in] for a vertical garden for the Schindler House in Los Angeles. While I present this, I’m going to briefly sidestep and touch on an older dispute vis a vis form and representation and technology. In this project, the quote from Godard: “film as a form of thought” came up for us. Another passage from Godard came up as well: “not a good image, just an image,” which Deleuze famously rephrased to say: “Don’t have a good idea – just have an idea.” Of course, you can interpret these kind of one-liners in a number of different ways, but the way that we were reading it, we were thinking: “Okay, don’t think in advance what a good image is, just make sure you produce an image, and similarly for Deleuze: “Don’t think in advance of what good is, whether it’s a good idea or a good concept, a good value, but produce ideas.” So we tried to drive at that. We were trying to

use geometry as a way of pursuing this, perversely enough. Now geometry is a mode of thinking, not simply control of spatial definition. In logic and mathematics, a formal system consists of two components: a formal language plus a set of inference rules or transformation rules. This should sound a little bit like the induction/deduction/abduction thematic that I was bringing up earlier. Before I talk about our project, though, I want to mention an historical example that’s related to the problem of geometry of process, of formalism and representation. Specifically, the iconoclastic controversy during the Byzantine Empire in the 8th and 9th centuries. I would suggest that something similar to this controversy is taking place right now in architecture in the current debates over the value of diagramming, scripting, code: contemporary research modalities which we are all familiar with, to one degree or another. One of the hallmarks of the iconoclastic movement was to deny the holiness of religious images. During the 8th and 9th centuries, the use of such images was prohibited. But icons were restored to worship by 843. The reason for this is that “the icon shares a likeness” – I’m reading you a quote from one of the Dumbarton papers on the Byzantine: “the icon shares the likeness and therefore the sanctity of the sacred person portrayed. It is believed that through veneration, an icon image becomes a window through which the worshiper gains access to the sacred figure portrayed.” We can apply that concept not only to icons but to diagrams, to all of the different, abstract ways of thinking that we work with when we’re actually using generative processes to make form. This is one of the ideas that we wanted to test in the competition: we wanted to think through the process of generative design on a number of different levels, constantly testing to what degree it was functioning, to actually transport a real value system, or an identified essence, if you will, from one stage of the analysis, to the next stage of the analysis, to the next. We recognized this as a particularly recondite way of thinking and conducting the process, but so be it. Now this also


is a question, and a problem that’s been reiterated throughout history – obviously in the iconographic controversy, also in the concept of ‘life of forms in art’ [Focillon], and in different ideologies, cultures and religious contexts – of what an appropriate representation would be, and what would be communicated through that appropriate representation. So we did a very basic site analysis, we generated a series of fields and lines of sight and intensity, and we developed a set of scripts in Maya and GenerativeComponents (GC) that deployed geometry across that initial envelope on the site. Then we added a set of scripts in GC which morphed between triangular, pentagonal, hexagonal geometry, and iterated the panels in different densities. This is what it would look like with video projected onto it. We used Surface Evolver, Rhino and GC to develop a kind of an integument, a continuous surface that would connect the tiling system as a thin concrete wall – that would function as structure and as a substrate for the vertical garden. We developed this as a continuous minimal surface, so the topology of this surface was adjusted according to things like proximity to the new building, plant types, light conditions, and so forth. We thought of the plants as a kind of neural network on the site, a kind of flexible intelligence. To deploy the garden across this surface, we ran a script once again to analyze the geometry to determine which plants would fit according to angle of the surface, the light conditions, the humidity and so forth. And we worked with a landscape consultant to again deploy those materials across the project. So every system – living or non-organic – would generate a kind of spatio-temporal field which would include both the thresholds of engagement with the landscape, the wall itself and the husk of the Schindler House, if you

will, reaching out into Los Angeles and setting up a kind of autonomous trans-temporality where the organic life and media systems we proposed for the project would connect back out into the city and work as a set of formal axioms at the molecular scale, at the living scale, and at the macro scale in the city. So to conclude, what’s at stake in these projects? The process or even the very possibility of thought itself. We wanted to create something logically and formally rigorous,


and also savagely beautiful, and in some manner encapsulate and encode the boundaries of process itself – and of course, make an argument for certain techniques and modes of thought that would connect our practice as designers to a realm outside the given, outside the already thought, and assist architecture in its role as a conduit for a trans-historical time and consciousness. All these examples and conceptual armatures orbit around the main theme of this paper: not only what constitutes research, but what kind of thought can emerge through research. I would like to conclude by pointing out some paradigm shifts that are taking place in the world, to question what might be urgent to research today, and ask what contemporary technology advances might be doing to our idea of how research can be conducted. Chris Anderson, editor at Wired magazine, recently wrote a piece called ‘The End of Theory: The Data Deluge Makes the Scientific Method Obsolete’, in which he argued that exponentially increasing datasets, combined with exponentially increasing computational and search powers, would obsolete any model within decades or even only years. I quote here at length:
The models we were taught in school about “dominant” and “recessive” genes steering a strictly Mendelian process have turned out to be an even greater simplification of reality than Newton’s laws. The discovery of gene-protein interactions and other aspects of epigenetics has challenged the view of DNA as destiny and even introduced evidence that environment can influence inheritable traits, something once considered a genetic impossibility. In short, the more we learn about biology, the further we find ourselves from a model that can explain it. There is now a better way. Petabytes allow us to say: “Correlation is enough. The best practical example of this is the shotgun gene sequencing by J. Craig Venter. Enabled by high-speed sequencers and supercomputers that statistically analyze the data they produce, Venter went from sequencing individual organisms to sequencing entire

ecosystems. In 2003, he started sequencing much of the ocean, retracing the voyage of Captain Cook. And in 2005 he started sequencing the air. In the process, he discovered thousands of previously unknown species of bacteria and other life-forms. If the words “discover a new species” call to mind Darwin and drawings of finches, you may be stuck in the old way of doing science. Venter can tell you almost nothing about the species he found. He doesn’t know what they look like, how they live, or much of anything else about their morphology. He doesn’t even have their entire genome. All he has is a statistical blip — a unique sequence that, being unlike any other sequence in the database, must represent a new species. This sequence may correlate with other sequences that resemble those of species we do know more about. In that case, Venter can make some guesses about the animals — that they convert sunlight into energy in a particular way, or that they descended from a common ancestor. But besides that, he has no better model of this species than Google has of your MySpace page.

One of the profound implications of this observation is, of course, the obsoleting of models in general, something that many commentators on Anderson’s article pointed out. However, that said, the implications cannot be ignored. Research takes place in an utterly different landscape of information exchange today, with increasingly unpredictable consequences. I would argue that we don’t lose the concepts of theory and of models entirely; we need NEW conceptual models; and I ask: could they be arrays, fields, agents, swarms, the ‘multitude’? Designers have been sporadically aware of the advances that were made in the middle part of the twentieth century in applied mathematics, and information and systems theory. These models were available from the 1940s onward, and indeed had an impact on corporate architecture, military organization, on the Metabolists, and many others – but only in the past decade has it been possible to easily simulate the behavior of complex systems on a desktop computer.


Of course using these tools to represent what actually happens when we live in and use space is not a new paradigm; these concepts have been well rehearsed. However the computational tools we have today are very cheap, powerful, and ubiquitous, functioning as real game changers for us as designers. But what is at stake? Not just technical control; not just representational models of systems; but models of historical time, and of our ability as agents to participate in potentially new ways in the reworking of time itself. This would be the project for research, perhaps: to literally rework the fabric of time. So I’m going to leave you with one concluding image here, the mapping of all of the flights around the world, which is data that’s accessible to you, and which artists like Aaron Koblin, using ‘Processing’ harvested to create extraordinarily beautiful maps. There are two issues invoked here: one of them is the question of maintaining the possibility of thought itself through a process. And the second would be to look forward to paradigmatic disintermediations and disruptions in technology, which are changing the way that we will be able to maintain and sift through data. Right now data is available to you and to me that historically has never been available. The way that we can represent it in this case is being handled with a tool that’s an open source free tool – Processing []; which doesn’t just generate a pretty image, but it creates a visualization of a certain pattern in that data, using a connection that’s open source – a kind of a pipe, to use the term that Yahoo has used, a kind of an open API if you will, to use another nomenclature of our time – which will give us access to data which we never really have had access to before. There are a whole series of fundamental paradigm shifts here regarding how we do research and how we recognize the production of value through research. And indeed, how we understand the value of any model that we might bring into a research practice in advance, which I think is actually critical to the discussion today, whether we’re doing research in architecture, in media design, in

technology or in mapping systems across the face of the planet. Thank you. (applause).


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