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How can we define the boundaries of interfaces?

It is striking to read Johan Redström’s article Design and Technology in Situated Computing 22 years after it was written. The way that situatedness is seen in relation to the ecosystem of objects surrounding us, and how they could be linked to spaces hosted online.

They also point at the evolution of common reactions in relation to line phones compared to personal mobile phones.

Both these examples would be tackled differently today, especially if we consider the research placed into Augmented Reality. One of the biggest challenges will be the ability of populating the space seamlessly. The group Meta foresees the evolution of Facebook within that perspective. Instead of placing comments on a virtual wall, you would place “post-its” that could be found by your friends when they visit that place. That could be for example in a restaurant, leaving a personal note, a rating, or a comment on the place.

This article is particularly interesting for me to put in perspective the research that I have been pursuing on a very similar subject. After looking at markerless AR to place events in the city of London in a first-year project, I would like to use the same concept indoors.

For that, I am looking at a technology that is rather new, at least in its accessible form. UltraWideBand technology would be significantly modifying our way of being within our ecosystem of objects. UWB technology uses a 3 points system of 2 anchors and 1 moving object worn by the subject that is going around the space. Practically, this would mean a shift from using any kind of sensor. When entering a space, lights could be turned on or off, the same for screens, or any other device. Within this new paradigm, where is the interface? Is it the UWB anchors? Or the person itself? Is it the physical environment or the virtual one that is directing it?

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“Small things overcome great ones. This will kill that. The book will kill the edifice”.

Victor Hugo, Notre Dame de Paris

With this sentence long excluded from his book Notre Dame de Paris, Victor Hugo announces the death of architecture in the favor of the development of printing. As Francoise Choay describes in L’urbanisme, Utopies et Realites, that declaration that aroused virulent critics at the time, could be interpreted as the disappearance of architecture as a primary mode of writing, of expression, and communication.

Now that something smaller than the book might be threatening it, what will happen to architecture?

This time of shift could be an appropriate one for reflecting on utopia, redefining the ideal, and its representation. One where technology is not a necessity, not the subject but what makes the system and interaction possible. It is a reflection on the place of the person building the utopia. Not a signed one, a total one, but an evolving, collaborative environment.

From the tower of Babel to Brasilia, the infinite models of Constant and the airships of Archigram, the library of Borges, the invisible cities of Calvino to the performative models of Le Corbusier… The history of cities has been closely linked to the construction of Utopias.

Utopia as coined by Sir Thomas More is a perfect imaginary world, a “Non-Place”/”Place of Nowhere” if we refer to its Greek root.

This opens the broad question of defining an ideal, and in the case of cities, implies that this perfect balance can be embodied, or even result from a certain organization of the built environment, often brought together with the notion of performance.

Who defines that ideal? Who have been the authors of utopias? Who has been building the representation of those visions? How have those representations been built?

Who has had the power on our imaginaries?

How did they evolve?

Through models that applied would generate an ideal system. Could we establish a link between this process of thought and computational systems that seek to generate optimized environments? Is there an inheritance, a continuity that would demonstrate that this way of thinking wasn't created by the implementation of new capable technologies but was inherited from a history of thought that shaped a method then shifted to a new medium, doesn’t mean it doesn't bring changes, only possibly could be rooted before the rise of parametrized models?

When did those arise: At times of redefinition of societies, to represent a changeover sufficiently important.

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In the short video, Speculative Fabulation Donna Haraway explains her choice of using “fable” rather than “narration” in English. Here “fiction” is used in the sense of a tale, including magical creatures and anthropomorphic animals.

  • She doesn’t point at if it’s meant, as in fables to have a moral conclusion.

Instead, she focuses on the fact that even Science Fiction can be used as a material, whilst acknowledging how peculiar it might sound for a scholar to be doing so.

In this video she doesn’t develop much on her method nor on what she is stating by doing so, what steps out instead is the importance of choosing the correct word to define a concept/a practice and above all, to place those words in their cultural context.

When choosing a word to define a concept one should be aware of what it holds, be able to defend it, and justify these choices.

This might be why language appears of strong importance, as it frames where you are talking from, your context, how you situate your speech, and maybe more importantly the context of the people who will receive it.

She stresses the difference between French and English when using the word “narration” and why she chose not to use it in English, even though they might sound homonymous. To translate Narrative Speculation in French, and convey her interpretation of it, she would use Speculative Fabulation instead of Speculative Narration.

The main reason for that is that Narration in English is not as open as it is in French.

In English, according to her, the word is occupied by a branch of literary critical theory that she doesn’t relate to.

It was very striking to see how in her analysis words are presented as territories, ones you could fight for. It also shows how definitions are not objective nor rigid, they evolve and embody different connotations and associations.

She understands narration speculative (in French) as covering an area that relates to an oral tradition of communication:

“Everyday storytelling practices of storytellers, not all professionals nor writers. It could be parents telling their children stories, stories of life…”

Fabulation is the making of wild facts, ones that won’t hold still when Narrative has been domesticated.

This came as very interesting for the research and practice that I am trying to build. Firstly because of the right choice of words when it comes to fiction and narration which are a central points in my work. But also when it comes to what is considered as scientific, objective confronted to what is difficult to grasp and collect because as she says it is part of everyday life.

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