Social Media is changing how we practice Architecture

Guest editor - Eirini Christofidou

The first statement to be debated follows last night’s lecture by Prof. José Pérez de Lama Halcón from the University of Seville.
“Our territory, the space we occupy, has changed significantly, as there is an added dimension added to the physical one, digital space. Despite skepticism against such media and technologies, most of us now carry a hand-device which connects to the internet and uses social media applications. Our phones, homes, and cities are globally connected through an open source media, world wide web. There are potentials in us, as architects, acknowledging the strong presence of such media in our everyday lives.The question arising is, how do we, as professionals shape this new way of being in space, in the world? What part can these media play in our design process? What can such technologies reveal about a place and people? There is a new public domain, a public space available to people. Therefore, how do we help create an independent, free and accessible ecology that everyone can benefit from? We can have authority, create and appropriate tools to fit the specific context of a problem. We can be our own actors, by creating a space that speaks of its user.”

In the span of two decades, our everyday life practices have been transformed by technologies like the world wide web, mobile devices and personal computers. Social media have thrived in the recent past. One of the most powerful and timely examples of the user-appropriation of social media are the political activist movements that use these technologies to spread ideas, create networks and organize mobs of people. Public spaces are being “occupied” by the users they were intended for.

As Adam Park, a PhD architecture student at SSoA, proposes, we might discover a new form of cartography, If we embrace tools like social media in our design process, where the digital networks can be made visible in space.

Reflecting the doubt many approach this topic with, is Nick Hunter, a Part 2 Architecture student, where he argues that these media albeit useful, it is an intangible world beyond our bodily experience and understanding of space.

Should architects incorporate social media and technologies and explore new forms  of architectural practice and education? Can social media indeed gradually change the way we understand space and ultimately approach design? 

5 thoughts on “

  1. Though space and place may be altered or even enhanced by the existence of digital infrastructures and networks, we remain in a time when these facilities are essentially about fairly crude communication. These may have an effect on place; as José Pérez de Lama noted, a group of people organised through social media in a place change that place. But this would be the case using traditional communications as well. We simply have different means of talking. While it may be easy to jump to the conclusion that technology must be changing architecture, where is the physical evidence of this? How can architecture - physical, tactile and experiential - be affected by necessarily virtual communication channels. The two exist together, but I so far see no evidence that architecture is being changed by social media.

  2. The simple fact of the matter is that we are seeing an increased reconciliation between the impact of technology, particularly information technology in the social sphere increasingly infiltrating the physical world. Companies like Foursquare will be remembered for earliest experiments in consumer devices being linked with physical locations, and the process of real world infiltration is set to accelerate.

    Architects have two positions, they can either try to reject it and create an artificial schism between technology and the experience of space as a phenomenological concept, but I simply think this will fail, as it is the same argument that tries to separate architecture from the political realm - architecture for the sake of will not weather the course of time.

    Of course, architects are only a minor player in the production of space as a global construct, and technologists in other fields - from science to the humanities are more likely to be the ones to integrate these technologies in physical spaces. Architects may choose to be part of that process, or they can find themselves more marginalised than the profession already is.

  3. Eirini christofidou2 March 2012 at 04:32

    Taking a point from the first commentator, I would like to argue that an increasing amount of everyday objects we carry, are embedded with technologies that allow users to retrieve information in real time and space. Applications are being developed to map social networks according to location.

    Many researchers in the field,notably Chris Speed at Edinburgh College of Art, study the social dimension that digital social media offer in the architectural practice. Perhaps we need to see these social media as tools, that could alter our understanding of a place as architects. The same way we stream and download environmental and demographical data of a place, we could perhaps enhance it by introducing social networks.

    Like the second commentator suggests we are inevitably part of the system, so how can we embrace it?

  4. On facebook i see a famous architect (wannabe starchitect) uploading his projects adding as description "Producer of culture"..I pressed "like"
    One day we will vote with likes even for the pritzker

  5. Eirini Christofidou2 April 2012 at 07:10

    Very interesting point, indeed. Even in a simpler situation where the architect and the design team lead a public consultation, which is funded by the large development company, what stops participants from remaining anonymous?

    Is there a real power in the physical space, for anyone who is not a "producer" of culture (I cannot believe someone wrote that), to exercise their power and their voice to be heard? Who decides for the production of culture, of space?

    Your reply alone, sets a fundamental flaw in the virtual system, that we can remain anonymous or alter our identity. Can a million likes on any social media, alter the final design outcome or the winner of an architectural prize award? Who decided in the real world anyway?

    Who is the expert?