Dissertations produced in this studio will be informed by critical research into how data is collected and then used as raw material with which to make or mediate architecture, design and artwork. We will work with a definition of data that includes information collected or used also in analogue or low-tech forms, and which is not limited to the digital sphere only. Individual dissertation projects will examine how crude facts are shaped by design into material, visual or spatial artefacts, and probe the unique and ephemeral circumstances from which such artefacts emerged. Assumptions and bias are always embedded in the ways crude facts are gathered and then narrated into habitable stories. How long do these narrations remain functional before they require to be patched with new data? Are machines also being taught bias when they are instructed to collect and process information?
We will discuss the implications of relying on datasets in interpreting the world; the archives and other repositories where data is stored; and the constructs into which it is shaped, e.g. truth, fiction, backstory, or provenance. Everything turns into data-conveying media when a reader manages to extract content. The story of social change is archived in human-made artefacts buried under layers of soil and water; or in the descriptions and plot twists of old novels and poems. Floppy disks or VHS tapes stored in the attic are silent until they are run through vintage technology. Mobile or wearable devices track human movement across space and the patterns they identify inform architecture, infrastructure and urban planning. Faces in the crowd can stay anonymous until they are run through face recognition software and matched to personal profiles. Deeper layers of the Earth crust recount the natural history of the planet if they are run through geological analysis. The chemical legacy of human activity is recorded in the rings of ancient trees; in samples of past atmospheres trapped in amber and Antarctic ice; or in the flesh of living ocean organisms. Preparation work will include seminars, group critiques, visits, screenings, reading groups, and other activities aimed at supporting students’ individual projects.
Suggested readings, resources and preparatory activities
- Giorgio Agamben, What is an Apparatus? And Other Essays (Stanford University Press, 2009).
- Mario Carpo, The Second Digital Turn: Design Beyond Intelligence (MIT Press, 2017).
- Wendy Hui Kyong Chun, Updating to Remain the Same: Habitual New Media (MIT Press, 2016).
- Jennifer Gabrys, Program Earth: Environmental Sensing Technology and the Making of a Computational Planet (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).
- Adam Greenfield, Radical Technologies: The Design of Everyday Life (Verso Books, 2017).
- Yuval Noah Harari, Homo Deus: A Brief History of Tomorrow (Harvill Secker, 2016).
- Manuel Lima, Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Information (Princeton Architectural Press, 2011).
- Shannon Mattern, Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media (University of Minnesota Press, 2017).
- Dietmar Offenhuber and Carlo Ratti, Decoding the City: Urbanism in the Age of Big Data (Birkhäuser, 2014).
- Eyal and Ines Weizman, Before and After: Documenting the Architecture of Disaster (Strelka Press, 2014).
Podcasts to listen to:
Studio 01: Imperfect Theories
Things can lead to theories. They can point to a way of seeing artefacts or objects that is more significant than the thing itself.
Studio 02: Narrative, Storytelling and Time
This studio focus on modes of storytelling and narrative conventions. We particularly focus on time in narrative, and the studio undertakes a brief aesthetics of time and thinks about how art and culture has imagined time.
Studio 03: Memento
The Memento research studio employs a critical, layered and multi-disciplinary approach to the problems around memory and society.
Studio 04: Knowing Audiences
In this studio we will be thinking about audiences, how they can be understood, theorised and researched.
Studio 05: Small Encounters
Emma Davenport and Gina Pierce
Textiles present exciting material and theoretical opportunities for us to think through our practice, to make sense of the world around us in the past, present and future.
Studio 06: Performative Acts: Art, Architecture and Writing
Nico de Oliveira
In the last decade or so we have moved from objects to subjects or audiences. In parallel, the word performative has been adapted from a theoretical term to a key rubric within the discourse of contemporary art, architecture and beyond.
Studio 07: Meaningful Work
"The aim of art is to destroy the curse of labour by making work the pleasurable satisfaction of our impulse towards energy, and giving to that energy the hope of producing something worth the exercise." William Morris
Studio 08: The Liminal
This Dissertation Studio examines instances of the liminal as they occur in critical theory and culture, and is open to any topic and students from all disciplines.
Studio 09: The Form of the Text
Studio 9 encourages you to approach the dissertation as a crafted textual project. Through workshops and seminars we will consider some of the elements and activities of which the dissertation is comprised, and look at innovative and exciting ways to work with the form of the text, and the act of building it.
Studio 10: Science Fiction Futurity
The utopia of technology never quite arrived. In the 1960s, you often hear, we were promised flying cars, space settlements, robot butlers and the end of work. But then, curiously, the horizon of futurity diminished.
Studio 11: Commonism
Commonism – with an o in the middle – explores how political activism, participatory design processes, interventionism, collective action and shared authorship are transforming the world of art, architecture and design.
Studio 12: Globalism
For good or ill, we live in a global world. Whilst this may appear to be obvious, globalism is only a relatively recent term as is the phenomenon itself. What do we mean by this? How did we arrive in this place?
Studio 13: Data Stories
Dissertations produced in this studio will be informed by critical research into how data is collected and then used as raw material with which to make or mediate architecture, design and art work.
Studio 14: Music is the Weapon: Performance, Culture, and Liberation through Music and Performance
This interdisciplinary studio reflects the widening of music and film studies in the last thirty years to include popular music, and popular culture linking art, music, film, advertising, social issues and minority struggles for liberation.
Studio 15: London Walking
Walking as a mode of art practice has its roots in the Dada and Situationist movements of the early twentieth century, with significant developments during the conceptual ‘turn’ of the 1960s.
Studio 16: Souvenir
This studio is concerned with those objects that are lent a particular enchantment because of their relationship with the past. It considers the role of memory and how it is embodied in cultural artefacts.