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    Distributed design: media technologies and the architecture of participation

    McKim, Joel (2010) Distributed design: media technologies and the architecture of participation. In: DIY Citizenship Conference, 2010, University of Toronto. (Unpublished)

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    The processes of contemporary architecture – a domain generally reserved for expert knowledge, capital investment and government decision-making – are often far from democratic. A tradition of participatory architecture does however exist, linking the post-war innovations in public space by Dutch architect Aldo van Eyck, to Belgian architect Lucien Kroll’s experiments in collective design of the 1970s, to more recent attempts at democratizing urban planning by such designers as London’s muf Architects. This paper will discuss how media and communication technologies have entered the field of architecture in several important ways, introducing a new chapter to this existing genealogy of participation. Three separate aspects of the current interaction between communication technologies and architectural design will be explored: the adaptive urban structures and spaces created by contemporary designers, such as Lars Spuybroek and Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, that incorporate real-time feedback from city inhabitants; the proliferation of architectural blogs and online publications, such as BLDGBLOG and spacing, that have greatly expanded public interest in the built environment; and examples of online forums and social media technologies being instrumental in mobilizing effective public response to large scale urban development projects, such as the post-9/11 redevelopment of Lower Manhattan and the Quartier des Spectacles redevelopment in Montreal. These emerging practices and case studies will be discussed through the lens of contemporary theorists exploring the changing grounds of democratic political organization, including Paolo Virno’s conception of the general intellect and Jacques Rancière’s writings on the politics of appearance and radical equality.


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