In its broadest sense, this research investigates how one should design the physical environment for the contemporary subject of the Digital Era. The ease and immediacy with which one can access the preponderance of information available through digital and electronic media has complicated the development and understanding of self-identity in popular culture, and by correlation how one engages with society. The significance of the public institution as a center for information exchange and civic engagement has diminished in favor of new media , which has become a staple at home and is trending increasingly mobile.

While architectural investigations of the past two decades contemplate the formal possibilities of digital technology and the affects of new media on physical objects, few architectural proposals consider how the proliferation of these media and technologies directly affect the subject in society. This project rethinks the design of the contemporary upper school as a model for considering the affects of new media on individual and community interaction, the dissemination of information and the evolution (dissolution?) of public institutions.

This thesis challenges contemporary formulations of identity and societal engagement in an age increasingly dominated by the proliferation of digital and electronic information and interaction through the proposition of an architecture which fosters critical awareness of the (re)presentations of actuality in new media and directs critical engagement between the new subject of the digital era and the public sphere.

My complete thesis preparation document can be viewed here: Rethinking the Contemporary School

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

The formation of identity in the context of online media

Workshop 2: method

The evidence from this analysis suggests that the preponderance of information available through digital media has complicated the development and understanding of self identity in popular culture. Georg Simmel describes the concept of self as something unique and independent, but based on the desire for inclusion in society (1) . In the contemporary digital age, the internet has fostered the creation of a new virtual society; we must evaluate how identity is formed and manipulated in this arena and consider the corresponding effects this might have on our physical engagement with society.

The internet is a limitless reservoir of information which also provides a platform for users to publicly and privately communicate. It is used both as resource for news and research and also as a ‘space’ for social networking and interaction. However, the abundance of information and the ability of anyone to contribute this information makes different scenarios of ‘truth’ plausible; “details can be reconfigured, reinstalled in settings to produce any number of virtual realities. Statistics can be offered to support most anything we like” (2).

Compounding this issue is the ability of social networking applications to leverage user profiles and established patterns to provide them with similar types of information. While this creates an ease and immediacy to acquiring information that most online users enjoy, it perpetuates a reflexive process of information gathering which effectively narrows the construction of our identities. While the internet promises a wealth of information, the manner in which we access that information might be leading us down a more homogenous road.

This consideration is relevant to architecture because the virtual world of cyberspace is increasingly shaping our identity and how we engage with society at large. What effect does virtual space have on how we negotiate physical space? If the virtual society is one of ease and immediacy and self-reinforcing, how can the physical environment slow down our movement and allow for diversity? How can the built environment challenge us to critically examine the mediated world from which we gather information?

1. Georg Simmel, “How is Society Possible.” American Journal of Sociology 16 (1910-1911).
2. Jodi Dean, “Uncertainty, Conspiracy, Abduction” in Reality Squared: Televisual Discourses on the Real, ed. James Friedman. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press (2002), 304.

1 comment:

Dk said...

What is identity?

The internet is not limitless; it has physical and sociopolitical constraints.

Isn't the opposite of the 'homogeneous road,' groups of distinct sets of people and information (e.g. red states and blue states). It seems like homogeneity can also involve a higher degree of information-sharing or being well-informed.