Digital cultures: architectural design and innovation in practice
Kåre Poulsgaard (University of Oxford)
Paper short abstract:
Innovation entails a change of perspective, a departure from existing ways of doing things. Digital tools in architecture upend visions of scale and tectonics and change the nature and practice of design, providing a privileged site to re-visit key notions in STS and the study of innovation.
Paper long abstract:
With the rise of scripting in architecture, programming and customisation becomes integral to design research and the creation of form. A new generation of user-friendly design tools and low-level programming languages empower architects to become tools makers rather than users, raising a series of questions about the feedback loops pertaining between tools, practice and knowledge in the digital design studio. Scripting and digital tools provide a venue for reconsidering conceptual mainstays in STS: What happens when the default becomes users configuring tools rather than tools and manufacturers configuring users? How is the relationship between tools and users changing, and how do changes at the micro level of practice relate to the macro level of professional community and the built environment? The notion of "configuring the user" in STS arguably puts too much stress on the legibility of advanced technical tools to the detriment of localised practices and adaptation. Innovation entails a systemic re-organisation, highlighting affinities between local practice and a gathering sense of something emerging across cultures, fields and technologies. I forward digital architecture as a venue for considering innovation in practice, exploring the relationship between technical and social mores in design. STS can inform architecture by breaking with simplified notions of divine inspiration or lone genius, by restoring the socio-technical context to the design studio. This opens new venues for the study of digital technology and practice within STS, and for thinking about the relationship between practice, innovation and change within the architectural professional community.
Doing theory by other means: how does architectural production challenge STS and ANT