This essay starts an exploration of how technologies impact the human way of thinking. In particular, it examines how the new computers technologies affect the architecture design. The first section highlights the relationship between human values and technology through reviewing some contradicted philosophical views and studying how the information technology inspired the way its work from the human brain. The second section goes in more specifically to review the connection between architecture design and technology, while the third section analysis some architecture
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Computer Technologies have significantly changed the human life in the twentieth century, and the premise is that information technology has arguably been the most important driver of change in our lives and will carry on to be so far at least the next several decades is completely true. Computer has altered every aspect of our life from a social standpoint to the most importantly a communication standpoint. As a result of this change there was a clash between computer technology and human values especially in the mid of the last century when the first generation of computers was produced. Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) was one of the most innovative, influential and controversial thinker of the twentieth century and there is no philosopher describes the conflict of human value and technology so precisely as Heidegger.
Unfortunately, Heidegger died before seeing the most powerful technological revolution and the wide spread of microcomputer, he just saw the first generation of computers, but the nature of his work allows him to cover the hole between the period before computers and after, and therefore his writings become the starting point for the other thinkers to identify with the new situation of the technology and the societies.
Heidegger when he coupled between being and time, he knew that reality changes and with it the task of thinking. He sensed the rapidity of change in the twentieth century, and he appeared to predict what librarians grasp today: “the image of humanist scholar in the book-crammed study, thinking deep thoughts, will continue to be less and less viable in the professional scholarship.”(Holibaugh, 1988). This recent notice by Holibaugh the director of Olin and Chalmers libraries at Kenyon College prove what Heidegger in his writings assumed: our rapid technological advance challenges the legacy of human thinking (Heim, 1993).
Heidegger in 1967 said in his own writings when he saw the rising crest of information: “Maybe history and tradition will fit smoothly into the information retrieval systems that will serve as a resource for the inevitable planning needs of a cybernetically organized mankind. The question is whether thinking, too, will end in the business of information processing” (Heidegger, 1967).
Not far from Heidegger Marshall McLuhan, 1911-80. Communication theorist, who did not live to see the proliferation of personal computers. He credited technology with breaking the linearity of human lives and thinking, McLuhan (1964) described the twentieth century, “… it is the speed of electric involvement that creates the integral whole of both private and public awareness. We live today in the age of information and of communication because electric media instantly and constantly create a total field of interacting events in which all men participate”.
By the mid-twentieth century there were some philosophical views have argued that the computer appears as a rival intelligence that challenges the human being to a contest (Heim, 1993). Hubert Dreyfus the professor of philosophy in University of California Has studied the danger of computers and he conclude that we must know exactly what computers can and what computers can’t do, Dreyfus said that the mid–twentieth century culture tended to read the human being as an information processing system and the researchers described the brain as a programmed digital computer. Dreyfus noted that the brain can be described as processing information because its physicality and this will leads us into unexamined dogma that the human thinking operates in formal patterns and that appropriately programmed computers possibly will repeat thought patterns. If computers could repeat thought patterns, might we not then reasonable say that computer think or have artificial intelligence (Heim, 1993). Dreyfus continued to argue that the human thinking and expertise depend primarily on unconscious instincts rather than conscious symbolic manipulation and these unconscious abilities could never be obtain in formal systems. Dreyfus critique was based on modern philosopher like Heidegger and Merleau-Ponty, Dreyfus applied Heidegger’s critique of technology to computers, but he understand the computer too narrowly as an artificial intelligence device and he saw the computer only as opponent. Dreyfus wrote in the introduction of his book What Computers Still Can’t Do (1992), “Artificial intelligence, our programs to a great degree are problems rather than solutions. If a researcher tries to write an “understanding” program, it isn’t because he has thought of a better way of implementing this well-understood task, but because he hopes he can come closer to writing the first implementation. If he calls the main loop of his program “UNDERSTANDING”, he is (until proven innocent) merely begging the question. He may mislead a lot of people, most prominently himself, and enrage a lot of others.”
Very different point of view from Dreyfus’s belief which instead of regarding the computer as a potential rival it is better to interface with computers. The computers play a fundamental role in human life and it have many purposes and it has used in various types of environments, such as educational, medical, entertainment, and so on. Computer has become an important thread in the texture of the human civilization and human daily reliance on computers influences the way the culture proceeds in everything. As a result, the research and the development today are moving away from the artificial intelligence to research in human computer interaction, including information environment “virtual reality” by augmented human bodily perception.
CYBERSPACE, and changing the way of life
Since the last decade in the twentieth century, computer networks have captured people attention. All types of media have been filled with news about the internet (information superhighway) and of the financial and political fortunes to be made on it. As a result, the sales of computers increase dramatically and more people are getting connected to the net. Computer networks are now have many purposes and widely used. There are many terms have been used to describe the “information superhighway” such as “the net”, “the web”, and “cyberspace”, while each one emphasize different feature of network technology and its role, meaning and impact. Whichever the term is used, it is clear that computer networks have a great impact on our life by creating many new social atmospheres in which people can meet and interact with one another (Kollock, P.,Smith, M., 1999).
Heim (1993) wrote describes the cyberspace “in the information age, a mystic glow surrounds the term cyberspace. Every type of interface forms a window or doorway into cyberspace. Cyberspace suggests a computerized dimension where we move information about and where we find our way around data. Cyberspace renders a represented or artificial world, a world made up of information that our systems produce and that we feed back into the system. Just as a chessboard set up the checkered game space of its own world of rooks and knights, pawns and bishops, so too the computer interface holds its field of moves, hierarchy of files, places to go, and relative distances between points of interest. We inhabit cyberspace when we feel ourselves moving through the interface into relatively independent world with its own dimensions and rules. The more we habituate ourselves to an interface, the more we live in cyberspace, in what William Gibson calls the consensual hallucination”.
Cyberspace changes the way human lives and communicates, moreover it can cast a spell of passivity on their live. People talk to the system, telling it what to do, but the system language and process come to direct people psychology. In cyberspace people look throughout the interface unconscious as they peer through an electronic framework where their symbols (data, words, simulation) come below precise control, where things appear with startling clarity. Heim (1993) in his essay from interface to cyberspace wrote “in cyberspace we forget ourselves as we evolve into our fabricated worlds. With our faces up against it, the interface is hard to see. Because information technology fits our minds, it is the hardest of all to think about. Nothing is closer to us. We can miss it as easily as we overlook a pair of eyeglasses on the bridge of the nose or a contact lens on the cornea”.
Cyberspace is an “infinite cage” as described by William Gibson (1988), in the cyberspace people can travel continuously without borders, and as cyberspace is electronic, people electronically can represent the actual world and moreover the possible and imagined worlds.
Cyberspace creates a new way of interaction, coordination and communication which are different than face to face communication. According to this shift thousands of spaces to house conversations and exchange have established between different groups of people from very different and far area in the world, this kind of shift made communication more practical and convenient. By using network interaction media like email, conference system, and chat people have formed thousand of groups to discuss a wide range of topics politically, culturally, socially, entertainment and even work on a range of complex collective projects. Actually cyberspace in not just a new way of communication, it creates more than that, it is sustaining and supporting many-to-many interactions (Harasim, 1993).
People in cyberspace create many kinds of social spaces, but there are two different visions regarding that. The first one touches the positive effects of networks and their benefits democracy and prosperity. The famous proponent is AI Gore (1993), said “Our new ways of communicating will entertain as well as inform. More importantly they will educate, promote democracy, and save lives. And in the process they will also create a lot of new jobs. In fact, they are already doing it”. The direct benefit is that networks will create new areas of assembly that will generate opportunities for employment, political participation, entertainment, and social contact. Moreover networks can renew community by strengthening the links that connect us to a wider social world while concurrently increasing our influence in that world (Kollock, P.,Smith, M., 1999).
The other view remarks that this glowing vision is to some extent driven by significant investment in advertising, public relation, and political rhetoric. Many critic s see the dim side in which individuals are trapped and ensnared in the net that predominantly offers new opportunities for surveillance and social control. Theodore Roszak (1986), “information technology has the obvious capacity to concentrate political power, to create new forms of social obfuscation and domination”. At the same time as these critics do not rule out the idea that computers and networks enhance the power of individuals, they suppose that networks will disproportionately increase the strength of existing concentrations of power (Kollock, P.,Smith, M., 1999).
William Mitchell in his book City of Bits (1995) has described the Cyberspace as a spatial city, he saw a lot of similarity between spatial places and places in the cyberspace, and physical bath and the logical links. In the cyberspace the structures of the access and exclusion are reconstructed in entirely non-architectural term (architecture as materially constructed form) entering and exiting place not physically but traveling through logical linkages.
In the cyberspace many of the places are public, similar to squares, public building, and streets; they have uncontrolled access. On the other side there are also private, like mailboxes and houses; it can be access only for the one who has the key or demonstrate that his belong (getting into private electronic mailbox, for instance, required to identify the user and present the correct password). And sometimes, as with football stadium and Movie Theater, you have to pay to enter. The software walls once built can be breached, privacy can be violated, and the locks can be broken, the cyberspace has also its outlaw hackers and posses of lawmen chasing them, its viruses and Trojan horses, and its burgeoning mythology of transgression and retribution (Mitchell, 1995).
Within the cyberspace moving from place to another following logical links instead of physical paths.”Macintosh operating system has a graphical user interface; in this system the places are nested to form a strict hierarchy: going down a level by clicking on a folder icon to open a window into a place, and returning back a level by clicking on a corner of window to close it, just like Dorothy clicked her heels to get back to Kansas”( Mitchell, 1995).
PERVASIVE COMPUTING (THE INTERACTIVE FUTURE)
“Pervasive computing represents a paradigm shift from building virtual worlds toward embedding information technology into the ambient social complexities of the virtual word”
Malcolm McCollough, 2004
“Pervasive or Ubiquitous computing can be defined as computation thoroughly integrated into everyday objects and activities, and it is often regarded as the intersection of computer science, behavioral science, and design”
Michael Fox and Miles Kemp, 2009
Pervasive computing or Ubiquitous computing is a new model of human computer interaction, in pervasive computing aims to integrate information processing into everyday objects and activities, actually this model is the advancement of desktop paradigm. The use of the term pervasive computing concerning primarily when the objects involved, while ubiquitous computing in relation to human activities.
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Today information technology allows people to interact indirectly, remotely, and asynchronously, and digital systems that are carried, worn, and embedded into physical situation can fundamentally change how people interact. Architects, ethnographers, psychologists, and cultural geographers hardly understand the consequences of all this mediation from their disciplines views, much less the implications for any new synthesis in design (Smith, 2007).
The field of interaction design explores how interactive technology mediates everyday experience, the more it becomes subject matter for design. The best example for that is the electric light that may used to read a book, the most significant technology tend to disappear into daily life. A number of these technologies work without people knowing about them, and other demand people occasional monitoring. Some technologies require tedious operation, and others invite more rewarding participation, like games or sports. In fact these distinctions are degrees of interactivity (McCullough, 2004).
The computer is first truly inactive technology and it has increased the need and the demand for the interaction design. Computer is not just document production tool, network computing has long since become a social medium. Brenda Laurel declared in the early 1990s, “The real significance of computing has become its capacity to let us take part in shared representation of action”. These representations can be of organization, activities, work practices or communities of interest.
The word pervasive has become more common to give emphasis to the invisibility of chips in everyday things. According to a characterization from the year 2000 by from the national institute for standards and technology pervasive computing is “(1) numerous, casually accessible, often invisible computing devices, (2) frequently mobile or embedded in the environment, (3) connected to an increasingly ubiquitous network structure”.
Intel the largest microprocessor manufacturer announced the technological future at the turn of millennium: “Computing, not computer will characterize the next era of the computer age. The critical focus in the very near future will be on ubiquitous access to pervasive and largely invisible computing resources. A continuum of information processing devices ranging from microscopic embedded devices to giant server farms will be woven together with a communication fabric that integrates all the today’s networks with the networks of future. Adaptive software will be self-organizing, self-configuring, robust and renewable. At every level and in every conceivable environment, computing will be fully integrated with our daily lives”.
Business week, in its “21 Ideas for the 21st Century”, said: “In the next century, planet earth will don an electronic skin. It will use the internet as a scaffold to support and transmit sensations. This skin is already being stitched together. It consists of millions of embedded electronic measuring devices: thermostats pressure gauges, pollution detectors, cameras, microphones, glucose sensors, EKGs, electroencephalographs. These will probe and monitor cities and endanger species, the atmosphere, our ships, highways and fleets of trucks, our conversations, our bodies even our dreams”.
Project Oxygen at Massachusetts Institute of Technology said about the pervasive computing: “in the future, computation will be human centered. It will be freely available everywhere, like batteries and power sockets, or oxygen in the air breathe. It will be enter the human world, handling or goals and needs and helping us to do more while doing less. We will not need to carry our own devices around with us. Instead configurable generic devices, either handheld or embedded in the environment, will bring computation to us, whenever we might be. As we interact with these “anonymous” devices, they will adopt our personalities. They will respect our desires for privacy and security. We won,t have to type, click, or learn new computer jargon. Instead, we will communicate naturally, using speech and gestures that describe our intent (“send to Hari” or “print that picture on the nearest color printer”), and leave the computer to carry out our will”.
In the other side, there are many people get nervous by the so much advanced technology. McCullough (2004) said, “Recently we have witnessed a paradigm shift from cyberspace to pervasive computing. Instead of pulling us through the looking glass into some sterile, luminous world, digital technology now pours out beyond the screen, into our messy places, under our laws of physics; it is built into our rooms, embedded in our props and devices-everywhere”. He also continued criticizing the advanced technologies by saying, “The cutting edge dulls on everyday life. Often the technologies on which new expectation are based blend into the fabric of everyday existence. Like the telephone before it, for instance, the internet has begun to fade into banal, unlovely normalcy. Other technologies are rejected for errors in principle. Much as bloodletting turned out to be in accurate in medicine, so virtual reality left out some important details- such as the fact that we oriented spatially not just with our eyes, but also with our body. Then too, other technologies obsolete by unforeseen alternatives, as a freight trains were by interstate trucking”.
Ubiquitous computing has neglected the significance of context in its universal version. Humanity has spent a long period to build conventions, languages, and the architecture of physical places. Technology has altered those elements of culture, but seldom done away with them. Context appears to have unintended consequences for information technology.
Surveillance also one of the bad effects of pervasive computing and it has become an unfortunate fact of life, especially since the events of 9/11, people fear that the new roles of computer technology and pervasive computing are mostly about surveillance. The loss of privacy has become a central theme in cultural studies of pervasive computing and information technology (McCullough, 2004).
“in the future, computer will become intrinsically integrated into our lives to the extent that we will design objects, systems, and our architectural environments around the capabilities of embedded computation, and not the other way around”
“Interactive (smart) architecture is not about technology, but about revealing new possibilities of global relationships between architecture and people in forming a symbiotic noosphere. A building is a network for living in”
Mahesh B. Senagala, 2009
“It is time to stop asking what architecture is and start asking what it can do”
Michael Fox and Miles Kemp, 2009
Smart environments is a new kind of architecture aims to create spaces and objects that can meet the changing needs with respect to evolving individual, social, and environmental demands. .Mark Weiser (1988) has defined the smart environment as “a physical world that is richly and invisibly interwoven with sensors, actuators, displays, and computation elements, embedded seamlessly in the everyday objects of our lives, and connected through a continuous network”. The smart environments are envisioned as the byproduct of pervasive computing and the availability of cheap computing power which enhance the human interaction with the system and make it a pleasant experience. Today, there are many terminology have been used to give the meaning such as “Intelligent Environment”, “Interactive Architecture”, “Soft Space”, and “Responsive Environment”.
Michael Mozer said when he was describing the “intelligence” of the Adaptive House in the late 1990s as “that which arises from home’s ability to predict the behavior and needs of the inhabitants by having observed them over a period of time”. The developers of the adaptive house instead of programming the house to achieve certain actions, the house have the ability to program itself by monitoring the environment the environment and sensing actions performed by the occupants, and learning to predict the future status of the house.
MIT’s Intelligent Room project is another example of the smart environment which it has applied different approach from the previous. The intend of the project was to experiment with different forms of natural, multimodal human interaction by embedding computational smarts into everything with which the user come into contact. This project has succeed to allow computers to participate in activities that have never previously involved computation and has allowed people to interact with computational system the way as they would interact with other people (Coen, 1998).
From the previous two examples, the main characteristic of the smart environment is the two ways of interaction between the space and the occupants of the space, this interaction mediated by embedded computation into everyday objects and activities. Fox and kemp (2009) argued “the current landscape of interactive space is built upon the convergence of embedded computation (intelligence) and physical counterpart (kinetics) that satisfies adaptation within contextual framework of human and environmental interaction”.
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