Forensic Architecture is a research practice founded by israeli architect Eyal Weisman. Their work uses architectural expertise and tools, not with the purpose of building, but to study and dissect destruction.

The very approach is already a very strong political act. The act of constructing, whatever it is that he would have built, is not a harmless act in the context of Weisman’s home country. Choosing not to practice what he was trained for is a statement, using the tools to investigate destruction, sometimes prove state lies, is activism.

Beirut’s port explosion.

If the video does not unveil new information about the explosion (the documents used were also available in other media, and the responsibility for neglecting the port was well established), 3D modeling allows to visualise a combination of testimonies, which visually and spatially validates them. It can appear that, as other works of the research studio, it is

What is particularly striking in the effectiveness of the medium used, and that’s inspiring for the works and research that we are undertaking, is the combination of different sources and research methods.

Here is an attempt at isolating some of the recurring tools used, in both videos of Beirut’s port and Liquid traces - The left to die boat:

  • The use of traditional research and investigation tools : for example by digging into documents, legal reports in the case of the port. Interviews with witnesses for the left to die boat.

  • 3D modeling to evaluate the impact at different scales: at the scale of the city, within its immediate context of the neighboring buildings, within the factory where the explosives were stored.

  • Analysis of pictures. Image analysis is a tool that is largely used in FA different projects. It is a good example of the importance of using cross media. Here they use a combination of pictures from different sources and angles combined to cartography and 3D modeling, which allows to verify angle, possible perception distortions, to verify their veracity. It also in the case of Beirut allowed to dissect the layers of smoke, but also to precisely time the events.

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What do you think of the statement that XR/ VR builds worlds through our experience of them

This statement seems to suggest that it is only by being experienced that XR/VR worlds come to exist, and possibly that we might have an ability to shape them through our behavior within them. They don’t exist in absolute, but come to life when they are used.

The works of VR and XR are very wide and it is difficult to answer this categorically, we might invoke some examples to open possible answers.

If we compare it to the physical world, would we say about an unused building that it is built through our experience of it? One way of seeing it would be to say that the physical world should be built through our experience. It might benefit from the use of VR, to place the human experience at the center of the design process. From another angle, the physical world is also shaped by our use, by the behaviors of its inhabitants, by the situations that it creates. Does physical existence mean an absolute reality? A constructed VR world could be fed without us ever using it, but it could be running somewhere, consume energy, have its own characteristics, even be fed by data and evolve, be generative. It can also influence what we consider as reality, as any fiction can shape us. Some works that remained on paper, also called paper architectures, have an existence and in some ways might have had a greater impact than the majority of those who were built.

We might question the fact that XR that is built as a layer on our physical environment and Virtual Reality that is experienced by abstracting ourselves from it.

Mixed Realities requires the use of glasses, overlaying graphical information on top of what we would see. This can be a way of enhancing our vision with information that we don’t usually have access to. The fact that we are not able to perceive it, within the limitations of our bodies, doesn’t mean that they don’t exist.

  • How do you create a sense of presence within a world? Is it necessitated by the fidelity of visual realism – or is it more about a feeling of “being there”

Seeking high realism would have its own limits, any kind of flaw will be breaking the experience, and realism is very consuming, making it difficult to achieve. It might be that the required realism is not visual but relates to the technology, a way of making the prolongation of our senses seamless (in terms of movements, tracking).

Even though some of the exemples presented in the lecture tackled other features than the visual one, such as exoskeletons to have the feeling of being a creature, VR and XR are generally focused mostly on the visual sense, due to the nature of the medium, that extends vision.

Could it be that what gives the feeling of being there, along with the prerequisite of a seamless technology, is for it to be the most total work. Even if it is not photorealistic, a high level of detail probably is required, and combining as much perception as possible.

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French philosopher Michel Serres, in his essay Les Cinq Sens (The Five Senses), explains how we open to the world through our five senses, to which he adds an additional, internal, intimate sense for a more introspective sense of our bodies.

He reflects on what happens when we are deprived from one of those senses. Two of those handicaps are seen as the most important ones : lack of vision - being blind and lack of hearing ability - being deaf. He explains how, culturally, image has been growingly seen as being very rich in information, compared to sound. However, it appears that when a person loses the sense of sight, they are capable of developing impressive intellectual performances. The loss of hearing abilities seems to be heavier, and reaching the same performances without this sense would require more effort. From this he concludes that it isn't certain that image is objectively rich if compared to sound, this could be cultural, and truth might even reside in the opposite.

The loss of taste or smell are now considered much more secondary for humans, which probably wasn’t historically the case. It differentiates humans from animals who have a more vital use of them. The sense of touch would probably come last in the hierarchy of importance.

The works of art have been more or less following this classification, and might have enhanced it. New technologies could be focusing even more on the visual aspect, experiences in virtual reality call the eyes to the highest levels, immersing the user in a complete graphical universe.

Michel Serres on another subject than the five senses talks about how technology has canceled distance and it is for him a mistake to say that it has “reduced” it. In a sense we can be reached anywhere, situated has become secondary.

Apple, instructions to send a touch message

Some tech companies are starting to popularise and spread ways of communicating through what can come close to sending touch.

Wearable watches can send a vibration, and even one that reproduces heart beats, taking the rhythm and frequency input from the sensors on the sender's body. In the current state this is probably a gadget that we would quickly be bored of using, nevertheless the fact that it has been tackled, even at a very primary stage by companies like Apple is significant.

In the art world what we might look most at could be all the works done with wearables. Such as wearable instruments, or physical computing art that responds to pressure.

We can still question the ability they could have to transfer touch, and to perceive it in return, at a distance.

This area appears as an incredibly exciting research field with possibilities open for inventions. Nevertheless, we can also question if it would be desirable that technology allows a distant touch, to what extent, and if it would also be considered touch, even if it reproduced its characteristics. Sight and vision, with smell (that also is difficult to transfer), are originally “distant” senses. Maybe not everything that could be done should be. Could it only make sense to touch through human presence?