Sensing Like a (Multipli)City
Doctoral course 2023
Dario Negueruela, DVS, MPG UZH
Gordan Savicic, ZHDK
Lucía Jalón, EPFL
Felix Stalder, ZHDK, CH
Daniele Quercia, UK
Iacopo Neri, IAAC & DVS, ES/CH
Selena Savic, FHNW, CH
Mirko Winkel, UNIBE, CH
Diana Alvarez-Marin, SwissReCourse registered at the Doctoral Programme 'Architecture and Sciences of the City 'EDAR, École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne EPFL
Content and Themes
Theoretical and practical insights on urban sensing to reflect on the critical zones opened for urban research by the expansion of coded environments, providing the students with tools and skills for stating transdisciplinary goals and methods.
—The system itself must never becontent to remain a passive observer of incoming data;
it must participate in exploration.
Avery R. Johnson
In Soft Architecture Machines (1976), Nicholas Negroponte noted how “Big Brother is not only watching, he is measuring your pulse, metering your galvanic skin resistance, smelling your breath.” Rather than this precise and invasive sensing, poking and probing technologies, Negroponte advanced the use of vague visual mappings to understand the user and her actions through context (Busbea, 2020). However, from thereon the user would indeed soften and become more malleable through continuous probing while the high-resolution quality of this environmentality would exponentially increase. Today, this new form of governmentality as techno-aesthetic manipulation and optimization has produced a specific form of networked technosensibility. Bodies’ responses are defined by an entangled assemblage of interfaces between computing and biology and behaviors become an object of design through nudges and other algorithmic touches while machines make sense of our cities for us.We want to render the material agencies emerging from this form of networked technosensibility operative for architectural, urban and other spatial practices. In order to do this, we will start by considering the urban realm as coded environments, media-milieux where the biological and the technological become entangled through multi-layered informational flows. With inputs from biology and biosemiotics, information theory and cybernetics, philosophy, STS, and critical media studies, we will see how coded environments trace bodies and matter, modulating their affects/effects, agencies and practices. While nudges and new atmospheric enclosures operate by silencing non-quantifiable environmental information(s), they also open up new grounds for alternative techno-ecologies of signs, interfaces, codes and commons.Beyond modern paradigms of individual autonomy or subjectivity, this networked technosensibility operates through more-than-human arrangements working together in conflictual and productive ecologies. Can the city, as an inherent political multiplicity, give us parameters or models to think with this networked sensibility, as well as with its emerging aesthetics and politics? By analyzing how the city sees, feels, explains, shows, hides... all in all, by analyzing how the city senses and makes sense, we find ourselves better fitted to this ever-changing landscape—hence able to develop new more-than-disciplinary spatial operations.By feeling, groping and nudging bodies in multilayered ways, from your n-th notification from your smart device to the workings of digital twins where the mirror becomes sovereign ruler and reality mere malleable matter, our bodies are orchestrated in multilayered ways. The resulting coded environments are thus increasingly modulating and designing behaviours and in doing so the social-spatial production. Thus, we will focus first on an ethnography of sensing devices in urban environments to understand the ways coded environments see through algorithmic touches. While sensors are usually conceived as incorporeal technical devices valued just by their outgoing data, it is important to understand their material presence and the haptic dimension of their operations, by studying their direct and indirect effects on the city inhabitants’ spatial, political and affective agencies.Secondly, and precisely in connection with the role of sensing images, we will specifically focus on new forms of machine vision and the operational and networked images they produce, constituting a hidden yet increasingly crucial form of machinic urban cognition in the definition of coded environments. Not only this constitutes a new scale in scaffolded or extended cognition, by offloading crucial tasks and capacities, but it opens the door to autonomous and hyperlocal procedural machine cognition. Such forms of networked images trigger sets of chained operations in an automated or semi-automated way and bear an unsuspected lifecycle, shaping our past, present and future urban environments and representations beyond apparent human intervention. In this sense, we can consider that operational and networked images produced by forms of machine vision create a shared repository of affective images bearing a particular type of agency at spatial, infrastructural and social levels. This urges us to interpret them and tackle their relevance for contemporary and future urban design and governance, as well as to negotiate our own role in this hybrid mode of cognizing our environments.
Finally, we will address these aggregated and shared repertoires of affective images (or networked imaginaries), to better delineate their political (and consequently spatial) operational power. Moving beyond the modern autonomous subject and its corresponding authorial figure as individual owners of transcendent forms of imagination, we are faced with the need to theoretically and practically ground new forms of collective speculation and imaging to trigger and feed new forms of commons. Departing from the idea that images are not individual entities, but already constitute a shared and plural form of commons, we will explore networked imaginaries and how they can also open up the possibilities. We will study the haptic quality of these images and visions, the aesthetic polyphonies they bring forth, stewardship and other working-with dispositions they demand from us, or the importance of considering not the future, but futurities, parallel and simultaneous temporalities burying linear timelines to unleash a present disquiet moving us towards caring action.
Instructors and Lecturers
Experts from diverse disciplinary backgrounds
Felix Stalder is a professor for Digital Culture at the Zurich University of the Arts. His work focuses on the intersection of cultural, political and technological dynamics, in particular on new modes of commons-based production, control society, copyright and transformation of subjectivity. He not only works as an academic, but also a cultural producer, being a moderator of the mailing list , and member of World Information Institute in Vienna, as well the "Technopolitics Working Group (both in Vienna). Among his recent publications are “Digital Solidarity” (PML & Mute 2014) and “The Digital Condition” Polity Press, 2018).fs.zhdk.ch
Daniele Quercia is a computer scientist and Professor of Urban Informatics at King's College London, as well as Department Head at Bell Labs Cambridge.In addition, he is the founder of UrbanBeers and co-founder of GoodCityLife.org
(more information coming soon)
Iacopo Neri’s research lies at the intersection of architecture, computer science, and urban planning.Iacopo has been involved in academia since 2015, researching computational design and geospatial analysis. He has been involved in teaching activities at the University of Florence, The Polytechnic University of Milan, and at IAAC - Institute for Advanced Architecture of Catalonia, where he is currently faculty of computational design and part of the Advanced Architectural Group’s Computational Design Research Team.
Additionally, Iacopo has been guest faculty for workshops, lecture and invited critic in several international universities among which the AA - Architectural Association, the New York Institute of Technology, the Universidad Torcuato Di Tella in Buenos Aires, and the Ecole des Ponts - ParisTech.In parallel, Iacopo has been practicing as a computational designer in Italy, Kosovo, and Spain as a co-founder of Studio Spatial Entities and as a collaborator within External Reference Architects studio, Barcelona.https://neriiacopo.com/
Selena Savić is a researcher and trained architect. She joined the FHNW Academy of Art and Design in Basel in 2018, where she is currently head of the Make/Sense PhD programme and lecturer at the Institute of Experimental Design and Media Cultures.She holds a joint PhD from École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) and Instituto Superior Técnico (IST), Lisbon, having previously completed her studies of media design in Rotterdam and architecture in Belgrade. She was a guest lecturer and an SNSF-funded postdoc fellow at the Department for Architecture Theory and Philosophy of Technics (ATTP) at the TU Vienna in 2017 and 2018. She co-founded Contour, a journal for interdisciplinary research in architecture, in 2013 and is on the board of Technics Journal since 2020. She edited two books (Ghosts of Transparency, 2019 and Unpleasant Design, 2013).Selena Savić established a hybrid design practice and a research agenda that address materiality of data, code and communication. She researches and writes about computational modeling, feminist hacking, and posthuman networks in the context of design and architecture.https://www.fhnw.ch/de/personen/selena-savic
Darío Negueruela del Castillo
Darío negueruela del Castillo is scientific coordinator of the Center for Digital Visual Studies (Max Planck Society – University of Zurich) since January 2020. Between 2017 and 2019, he was Head of Research at ALICE lab in EPFL, where he completed his PhD entitled “The City of Extended Emotions” in 2017. Previously, he was founding partner of Ná architectural office in Madrid after he had received an MSc in Architecture from TU Delft (The Netherlands) and a BA from the University of Westminster (UK). He recently organized 'ArchML Visions' and 'Digital Double' symposia at BHMPI and DVS , as well as the ‘2021 Deep City International Symposium’ at EPFL. His research spans architecture, urbanism, affective science, and spatial and visual perception, with an emphasis on imagination and spatial agency. The latest among his current projects are ‘On the Urbanity of Images’ and 'Seeing like a Carnival'.
Gordan Savičić is a creative technologist, artist and designer whose work investigates the relationship between people, networks and interfaces. He has a background in media art and visual communication, and he has been active within the fields of academic research, teaching and design industry. His preferred location is the Internet spending his weekends at localhost.https://www.yugo.at
Lucía Jalón Oyarzun
Lucía Jalón Oyarzun is an architect and researcher. She graduated from the ETSAM School of Architecture of Madrid where she also obtained a Master in Advanced Architectural Projects and defended her PhD “Exception and the rebel body: the political as generator of a minor architecture” in 2017. Since 2010 she was a researcher at the Cultural Landscape Research Group at Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, and since 2019 she is a post-doc and Head of Research at ALICE (Atelier de la Conception de l'Espace)/EPFL. where she continues her interdisciplinary research on the conflict between the spatial forms used by politics and the exception, and the commons created by the rebel body, through a historical, political and philosophical reading of secrecy and clandestinity as spatial compositions under capitalism, the anaesthetic effects of the new attentional regimes on the body’s spatial capabilities, landscape as affective image and its media and infrastructural definition and architectural ethnography and the map as an instrument of (dis)orientation. She has taught for several years at the ETSAM School of Architecture of Madrid, and has been invited to several international universities. From 2017 to 2020 she was Director of Academic Affairs at Escuela SUR, a postgraduate interdisciplinary art program in Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid. In 2018 she curated the exhibition "4R Resistencia, Rebeldía, Revuelta, Revolución", a genealogy of revolt through art and culture, and her work, ranging from scientific production to cultural critique, has been published in several journals and publications.
Mirko Winkel works as an artist and curator and as a mediator in the field of science. He studied visual arts with Mariana Abramović and Christoph Schlingensief and holds a master's degree in artistic research in the performative arts from the University of the Arts Berlin. He has been a research associate and coordinator of the mLAB at the Institute of Geography at the University of Bern since 2019.https://mlab.unibe.ch
Themes and Programme
Thematical approaches and course schedule
The course is structured as a block course in physical presence, taking place over 4 consecutive days (Jan 31- Feb 3, 2023) and 2 sessions online ( April-May 2023).Each morning for the first three days, the course instructors will open up the sessions and set the thematic and methodological tone for the day with a theoretical and technical framing of the day’s main topic. Then, each afternoon we will welcome a keynote lecturer who will focus on a specific question to address the day’s main topic in detail. A local scholar specialized in the topic will act as respondent following the keynote to frame the ensuing Q&A. The lecturers will then take part in a seminar session with the course participants oriented toward the students' topics of research.
Day 1 — Coded and Coding Environments
Day 2 — Urban Machine Vision and Operational Images
Day 3 — Networked Imaginaries and New Urban Commons
Day 4 — Sensing like a (multipli)city
Day 5 — Publishing Transdisciplinary Research (online April 2023)
Requirements and Application
Applications are open to young researchers currently enrolled in a PhD program at either a Swiss or a foreign university. Exceptions may be made for highly motivated MSc students from Switzerland with a very strong application portfolio. There is no strict requirement regarding home discipline or field of study, but candidates whose research bridges between or across disciplines, and with focus on spatial and human-related matters (cultural, material, technical or ontological) will be favored.To apply, candidates should submit a brief CV with a summary of their research, and a 300-word research statement related to the themes of the course to dario.neguerueladelcastillo(AT)uzh.ch.
The course is listed in the EDAR Doctoral Program at the EPFL. For more information, please visit the link below: