457 Madison Avenue
New York, New York 10022

An exhibition critically exploring the evolving relationship between ubiquitous/pervasive computing and urban architecture

In September 2009, the Architectural League will present Situated Technologies: Toward the Sentient City, a major exhibition that will imagine alternative trajectories for how various mobile, embedded, networked, and distributed forms of media, information and communication systems might inform the architecture of urban space and/or influence our behavior within it.

As computing leaves the desktop and spills out onto the sidewalks, streets and public spaces of the city, we are increasingly finding information processing capacity embedded within and distributed throughout the material fabric of everyday urban space. Artifacts and systems we interact with daily collect, store and process information about us, or are activated by our movements and transactions. Pervasive/ubiquitous computing evangelists herald a coming age of urban infrastructure capable of sensing and responding to the events and activities transpiring around them. Imbued with the capacity to remember, correlate and anticipate, this near-future “sentient” city is envisioned as being capable of reflexively monitoring its environment and our behavior within it, becoming an active agent in the organization of everyday life in urban public space.

Few may quibble about “smart” traffic light control systems that more efficiently manage the ebbs and flows of cars, trucks, and busses on our city streets. But some may be irritated when discount coupons for their favorite espresso drink are beamed to their mobile phone as they pass by a Starbucks. And many are likely to protest when they are denied passage through a subway turnstile because it “senses” that their purchasing habits, patterns of movement and current galvanic skin response (GSR) reading happens to match the profile of a terrorist.

Despite the obvious implications for the built environment, architects have been largely absent from the discussions about how these technologies are conceptualized and deployed. To the extent that business interests and government agencies drive these technological developments, we can expect to see new forms of consumption, surveillance and control emerge. Within architecture, the recent fascination with building envelopes wrapped with large-scale programmable “urban screens” or corporate lobbies outfitted with so-called “interactive architecture” highlights the dilemma. In an age of urban computing and ambient informatics, what opportunities for the design of urban artifacts and spaces lie beyond the architectural surface as confectionery spectacle or the interior vestibule as glorified automatic door opener?

Situated Technologies: Toward the Sentient City will combine a survey of recent work that explores a wide range of context-aware, location-based and otherwise “situated” technologies with a series of commissioned projects by multi-disciplinary teams of architects and artists. The exhibition will examine the broader social, cultural, environmental and political issues within which the development of urban ubiquitous/pervasive computing is itself situated.

Official Website: http://www.situatedtechnologies.net/?q=node/89

Added by informationlab on December 18, 2008