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

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

School Pedagogy and organizational structure

Schools have traditionally organized around authoritarian, top down principles of direction and learning, placing emphasis on the processes of ordering and forbidding to insure adequate performance. The social crises in the 1960’s catalyzed development towards new participatory theories that suggested everyone should participate in the establishment of goals and objectives to develop a sense of purpose. One of the social shifts at this time was the development of a new kind of student who matures earlier and demands a stronger voice in his own destiny, paralleling the development of new materials, equipment, and systems that provide means for greater independence in learning. The new students were ‘information territorialists’ who engaged the street and modern media, which offered more rich information than the outdated, antiquated school building [Robert Probst, High School] These participatory theories did not endure, however, and the authoritarian model prevails in our nation’s public schools even though advances in technology continue to promote new self-directed modes of learning.

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