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October 07, 2005

A Crystalpunk Workshop for Soft Architecture


Paskian Environments

A Crystalpunk Workshop for Soft Architecture: Paskian Environments, with Usman Haque and Adam Somlai-Fischer; Tuesday, 18 October 2005; 20.00-23.00

Gordon Pask (1928-1996) was a cyberneticist and a crystalpunk long before the latter movement existed. Cybernetics, its founder Norbert Wiener defined it as "the science of control and communication, in the animal and the machine", fascinates us for its broad general view on things. The willingness to take up almost any subject and to study it in earnest for what it is, bears witness to a curiosity that is hard to find in most of today's science and art.

Cybernetics was a theory of machines, but working from a notion of machines which constitutes every system which produces determinate behaviour: thermostats, humans, mathematical functions. Each machine was treated as W. Ross Alby puts it: "by asking not 'what individual act will it produce here and now?' but 'what are ALL the possible behaviours it can produce'".

Within such a science of possibilities, each machine is a generative system producing behaviour guided by a finite set of rules: a machine as a form of language, its syntax made up perhaps from transistors and wires or neurons and synapses. Cybernetics was asking "what if" questions to test the limits of the machine's eloquence very much like a poet searches for the outer boundary of what a natural language can express.

The ideas of Pask crossed various domains, finding links and patterns between them no one had seen before. He is most famous for his "conversation theory" that describes the act of communication as a dynamic system of agreements between interacting agents. He also built machines, a lot of them, to test some hypothesis or theory. Dual computers connected to each other developing a language between them, electro-chemical devices that could grow a sensor responding to some environmental input (his most crystalpunk of projects). Perhaps you remember the lines where the crystalpunk famously states that software is an aid for reflection? Pask had known this all along.

In architecture, soft or other, Pask has proven to be very influential. His work informs a lot of thinking about evolutionary development of form and the self-assembly of structures. When 2 physical objects meet in a room they have to find a way to communicate to find out what they must do. There you see how, for instance, a theory of communication enters responsive architecture.

Under the header of "Paskian Environments", Usman Haque and Adam Somlai-Fischer will discuss interactive architecture and responsive, communicative environments in the Paskian sense. Explaining why they think it hasn't been employed in the past but why it should be now, and also why it has become a lot easier since it's now easier to work with interactive systems (cue low tech sensors and actuators). The next step, dear to the Crystalpunk Workshop for Soft Architecture, would be the development of conceptual frameworks for constructing these spaces.

Usman Haque and Adam Somlai-Fischer are both trained as architects. But as the long list of impressive work on their websites show, they have done extensive work on the softer part of the trade. Together they are currently working on DIY sensor technology.

LowTech Propositions
An Introduction to Cybernetics by W. Ross Ashby
Paper on Electro-Chemical computing
Evolutionary Architecture by John Fraser, foreword by Gordon Pask

The Crystalpunk Workshop for Soft Architecture: September - December 2005

The "Crystalpunk Workshop for Soft Architecture" will evolve an empty room from nothingness into unknown states of technological enhancement. The workshop is located in a room which is also its subject: it creates a space where those wanting to become active at the cutting-edge where art, new media, architecture, design and programming intersect, can meet and collaborate. Unlike the alphabet that always knows where it is going this workshop does not.

You can be a crystalpunk too!

We are open every Tuesday (19.00-23.00) and Saturday (14.00-18.00) at Oudenoord 275, Utrecht.

Visit www.impakt.nl/softarchitecture to find out more.

The CPWfSA is generated by socialfiction.org and produced by impakt.nl

Posted by jo at October 7, 2005 11:19 AM