MAS 963  ·  Designing Sociable Media  ·  Spring 2007

05.02 New Architectures

In the past, we communicated via speech and gesture. Most of our interactions were with people physically close to us. Today, we have expanded our range with cell phones and messaging, so that it is commonplace to walk down the street while engaged in conversation, via speech or text, with someone far away. The spatial boundaries of communication have dissolved. And language, whether spoken or written, dominates this distant communication. This is in constrast to the primarily visual interaction we have with others on the urban street - actual conversation is rare, while observation personal display, facial expression, etc. are ongoing. The focus of this weeks assignment is on visible displays, whether large scale projects or highly distributed imagery.

sites to look at and papers to read




Many of the public urban displays seem aa bit forced - or sinister - because our normal interaction with strangers on the street is so constrained, and our desire to protect our own self and privacy from the multitude of others is so strong. At the other extreme, some technological innovations designed for the home see a bit creepy or distancing - does a machine whose job is maintianing contact with your loved ones express most strongly the distance between you and them? In between the too-private space of the home and the too-publicc space of the street is the semi-public space of the work environment - the big building full of co-workers, some known personally, others simply tied to you by virtue of you similar employ.

For you assignment today, imagine you have been given a commission to design an installation for such a semi-public space (you can use the Media Lab, or CSAIL, or the GSD as you exmaple, or a corporate office building, etc.). The installation is meant to be about interactions among people in the building. It can use sensors, projectors, personal media (e.g. cellphones); you can create a plausible though not yet existing technology for it - e.g. jackets with constantly changing images in their fabric, worn as compnay uniforms.

Write your proposal for such a project. Sketch your installation in use. What is its point? How will people use it? What will they learn from it? Does it involve everyone in the building or just a subset? What dos it look like? Is it meant to be a useful innovation? a cultural critique?

Please link your work by Wednesday evening.