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Architecture communication in the 2.0 web generation
A guest post by Ethel Baraona Pohl
(After the Beyond Media report, here's another guest post by architect and DPR-Barcelona co-founder Ethel Baraona Pohl. This time Ethel has analyzed the communication of architecture and design in the Web 2.0 era, providing some interesting examples on various related issues. Enjoy.)
“What defines the Internet is its social architecture. It’s the living environment that counts, the live interaction, not just the storage and retrieval procedure.” -Geert Lovink, 2005
Architecture and communication have always been related. In the early 20th Century, architects realized the great potential that communication and even advertising had. As Beatriz Colomina comments about architecture and mass media: “Architecture only becomes modern in its engagement with the mass media, and that in so doing it radically displaces the traditional sense of space and subjectivity.” By the 1920s with the Modernism movement well established and architects recognised, conventional criticism portrays modern architecture as a high artistic practice in opposition to mass culture, but Colomina sees the emerging systems of communication have come to define twentieth-century culture—the mass media—as the true site within which modern architecture was produced.
But now, almost 90 years after that [in the early 21th Century], which are the new communication tools for architects? And most important, how are architecture practices using these communication tools? How the creation of new digital spaces deals with our old public spaces? It’s time to think about what social networks and web 2.0 are doing in the field of architectural production.
In the 1920s architects used photographs, films, publications, and exhibitions with communicative purposes but now we’re surrounded with a completely new vocabulary that goes from mapping through data visualization, passing between renders, movies and 3D parametrical designs. Projects can be geo-referenced with Google Earth tools, façades can move and you can visit the inner spaces of architectural projects even if they’re unbuilt. Now communication is more dynamic and also it may be a little bit confusing because of that. With blogs actualized every single day and using social networks as facebook and twitter, architects may have a personal contact in between them, with the users of their buildings and also with researchers that are working on new materials and constructive solutions. Sharing information via Facebook or Twitter is now more popular than using e-mail, but also this way of communication may be so ephemeral that we need to discover which are the best ways to use it.
Bestiario in their yskira interview, talked about this: “Architecture is ancient as human being, since interactive information visualization exists until some decades: there is a lot of knowledge to be transferred from one to another: both are disciplines about human, its interactive possibilities, and its behaviour in space.”
In that sense, networking is revealed as the new way to explore the world. The ties in between users from different places help to create a new cartography, where new portions of terra incognita can be used to create new fields for data and information that can help to reduce the gap between developed and undeveloped countries. In this scenario, it is mandatory to invent new methods, fitting with the singular nature of this undiscovered new world. Internet is the new territory where people can innovate and be visionary and endlessly experimental. Andrew Maynard in one of their projects talks about “Architecture as an art form where people are forced to interact”. And one of the new forms of interaction is Web 2.0.
“Has a blog actually had a significant impact on a building in the process of being designed or built? What was the outcome?" - Javier Arbona These new communication tools, the so-called web 2.0, make the concept of co-working and on-line creative process in this new territory (Internet) much easier. It’s easy to share a project via GoogleDocs, talk with a colleague in a far away country via Skype and create a participative wiki to share contents. In that sense it’s possible to create the new cartographies mentioned above, based on networking and universal learning in a way of visualizing architecture through the most effective uses of digital technologies. Can we talk about “architects 2.0”? This topic is the best way to speculate about the future generation of architects, which are growing and learning the practice in between the digital media from their first steps around architecture; now they share ideas in a different way that old generations and the new thinking process represents some innovative chronologies where space and time are constantly reinvented. As an example we could mention works by the Clemson University School of Architecture and the RMIT Spatial Information Architecture Laboratory (SIAL).
Markus Miessen and Shumon Basar pointed out in their book Did Someone Say Participate?: “Since the end of the “End of History” -in the wake of 9/11- the relationships between space, politics and power have come to the fore in almost all zones of cultural activity. Today, the need to identify and instrumentalise “spatial practices” becomes relevant due to the unprecedented visibility of what one might call “globalization at work”: from Iraq to Nepal, Dubai to Mumbai, a new atlas is being re-drawn for the 21st century […] this book attempts to dismantle the idea of “the architect” being the one in charge of space.”
According to that, we can also point out that one of the most important roles new social networks play as communication tools is that they help architects to get involved, take care and try to give responses to cultural, social and political issues worldwide. It’s important to realise there are some other disciplines creating architecture and public space and it’s important to interact with these disciplines like sociology, anthropology, economics and politics. There are new kinds of spaces related to the digital world where people interact, create discussion platforms and take decisions about public issues and architects should learn how to communicate with these new tools.
Architecture -as practice- has always been related to socio-political uses, as the spaces we create have always a social use and so often represent political or cultural situations (i.e. Brutalism in UK after World War II, when communities sought inexpensive construction and design methods for low-cost housing, or Constructivism, which combined advanced technology and engineering with an avowedly Communist social purpose at the Soviet Union).
In fact, beneath Web 2.0 a real social relationships coexists in between “contacts”, “friends” or “followers” and they’re common and fertile ground for the expansion of social movements and political protests (just remember the Iranian case on Twitter or Obama’s campaign on Facebook and Twitter). Social networking is the perfect way to follow events that are happening in the other side of the globe in real time and talk about our own ideologies. At the same time, social networks are constantly producing new virtual spaces. Architecture, as a spatial discipline, is the perfect tool to try and understand them and their implications as a democratic way to communicate the use of space and share knowledge. At his lecture at the Beyond Media Festival, Derrick De Kerckhove wondered which are the conditions that make social networks on the internet a tool for a real social communication, and not only a fashion amusement. We leave you with that question [as at the moment, we still don’t have the answer] and invite all of you to share your answers and thoughts.