Hot STEAM research topic: The Re Invention of Public Spaces and the
Commons: Science ,Technology, Architecture, Design and Urban
Studies...and Neurosciences !
Anastasia Karandinou brings to our attention another hot topic
emerging area of STEAM research. She points to the conference:
International Conference 'Between Data and Senses; Architecture,
Neuroscience and the Digital Worlds':
23-24 March 2017, London. Venue: Arup, 8 Fitzroy Str, W1T by the
University of East London (UEL), supported by RIBA, ARUP and the
Museum of Architecture
In particular: " The cross-over between the digital and the physical
is being increasingly addressed in design disciplines, architecture,
arts and urban studies" .
There is indeed a hot topic area tied to this which is the
redefinition of public spaces that is going on.
Ten years ago , through a collaboration with Bronac Ferran, we
published as a Leonardo Book
CODE: Collaborative Ownership and the Digital Economy. Edited by
Rishab Ghosh; https://mitpress.mit.edu/books/code
At the time the focus was on the open source movement and looked at
the collaborative model of creativity—with examples ranging from
collective ownership in indigenous societies to free software,
academic science, and the human genome project—and finding
alternatives to proprietary frameworks for creativity based on strong
intellectual property rights.
The topic of the public digital 'commons' was a strong discussion at
then that has now evolved into a much broader discussion of the
redefinition of the 'public spaces' and how these are impacted by new
technologies as well as the evolving idea of privacy, both in physical
space but also the internal spaces of our bodies.
For instance Anne Balsamo, now Dean of the School of Art, Technology
and Emerging Communication at UTDallas, in her book Designing
Culture: The Technological Imagination at Work . She has been for many
years been developing research on "Public Interactives" as
"The term Public Interactives names the broad category of mediated
experiences that are now on offer in communal and public spaces.
Balasamo argues that
Public Interactives are technological devices that serve as the stage
for digitally mediated conversations with audiences members in
communal spaces such as museums, theme parks, outdoor entertainment
plazas, and urban streets.
Public Interactives include works of public art that evoke new
experiences and perceptions through experiments with scale, mobility,
built space, and modes of human engagement in public spaces;
Public Interactives are a mode of public communication designed to
engage people through the use of digital media in conversations for
the purposes of information exchange, education, entertainment, and
See for instance
The Cultural Work of Public Interactive ( Christiane Paul, Anne
Balsamo) Published Online: 5 MAR 2016 DOI: 10.1002/9781118475249.ch14
The conference Anastasia points us to is titled: Between Data and
Senses: Architecture, Neuroscience and the Digital Worlds
So what does neuroscience have to do with public spaces ? The first
area , much discussed in this conference that Anastasia points us to,
is how the contemporary neuro and cognitive sciences enriches our
understand how humans navigate and perceive the world, and this how
architects and designers should take this into account.
This connects of course to the arts and health sciences that I brought
up in the previous post, But beyond this is the impact of availability
of data on the internal and external functioning of our bodies. This
was not really a big issue 10 or 20 years ago. But companies now have
access to data on our movements, habits, purchasing and are able to
either predict, or encourage, future behaviour; valuable data and
methodologies for designers of public spaces and architects.
See for instance the work of Physicist Bruno Georgini and Artist
Mariateresa during an art science residency at IMERA:
In this cases addressing public spaces of Marseille, but they have
also done this in Venice and other cities (including sonification of
foot traffice on Venetian Bridges by Scot Gresham-Lancaster)
The mhealth movement however has also brought internal biological data
into the commons and public spaces. For instance see
Sharing mHealth Data via Named Data Networking by Zhang et al (2016)
Recently a friend of mine made available data he was collecting on
himself during exercise ( heart rate etc, but also the specific
exercising he was doing, how long he exercised in each activity, such
as bike riding, but also self administered blood tests.) There are now
very organised communities of individuals who opt to share data about
their bodies that would not normally be considered public data. As I
was exercising myself at a gym recently, I was made aware of my
friends exercising on the same exercises as I was doing. The idea of
the inside of ones body being part of a public space, that can be part
of what designers and architects draw on, brings up of course many
issues and that humanities scholars and sociologists are hard at work
on for instance see the work of Olivia Banner , Communicative
Biocapitalism: The Voice of the Patient in Digital Health and the
Health Humanities (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming 2017),
So here I want to argue that these emerging hot topics fit
intrinsically into the STEM to STEAM argumentation bringing together
unlikely collaborators from Design and Architecture, Urban Studies,
Humanities to Technology/ Emerging Media, Health Sciences and
Neurosciences needed to understand the designing of a culture we will
be living in, and the re-invention of public spaces and the concept of
a 'commons' in a world we actually want to live in.
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