filling the void

Extensive quotes in this baby. Some new, some old; go put the kettle on first. Emphasis in bold by me…

Geert Lovink on Blogging and Nihilism:

Instead of merely looking into the emancipatory potential of blogs, or emphasize its counter-cultural folklore, I see blogs as part of a unfolding process of ‘massification’ of this, still, new medium. What the Internet after 2000 lost is the “illusion of change”. The created void made way for large-scale, interlinked conversations through automated software, named weblogs, or blogs.

Kazys Varnelis (who provided the link to the above) on Geert Lovink:

I’d like to suggest that this isn’t merely a conflation of unlike terms but rather that there is a steady evolution here. There is a desire in each of the subsequent movements to affirm the individual (through subject position, through productive agency, and through an active DIY voice), but instead each one actually does a more thorough job of wiping out individual subjectivity than the previous iteration (please slot the blob under Deleuzeanism… a million 20-40 year old students, all being original, all making nearly identical shapes).

But, like Geert, what I am observing is not only the massification of the Internet but a more generalized cultural move toward nothingness that expresses itself through the medium of the blog. Through the blog, we attain a complete and fatal condition, making our comments into the void, thereby affirming our existence while we also emphatically assert our distance from any situation we might act in.

Me in December 2000 (opening paragraph quoting Jencks):

“It would be interesting enough if adaptive complex systems inescapably were located at the edge of chaos, the place of maximum capacity for information computation. The world could then be seen to be exploiting the creative dynamics of complex systems, but with no choice in the matter. But what if such systems actually got themselves to the edge of chaos, moved in parameter space to the place of maximum information processing? That would be really interesting: the ghost in the machine would seem to be almost purposeful, piloting the system to maximum creativity.”

Jencks introduces this discussion to architecture. Firstly describing the importance that science has within our changing understanding of modern culture and secondly by drawing comparisons between nonlinear theory and the process of making architecture, demonstrating which practices are already developing new theories for ‘maximum creativity’. Outlining the manifesto for what he calls ‘cosmogenic’ architecture, Jencks attempts to predict the new movement of complex, emergent design. Simultaneously an assault on the reductivist modernist movement, the exposure of early post-modernism as an applied typology and an escape from the fragmentation of post-structuralist theory, ‘The Architecture of the Jumping Universe‘ is a key text in our investigation.

Following the post-structuralist flattening of hierarchies, the erasure of the architects ability to prioritise his subjective will creates a vacuum. The defining of the undecideable/in-between space allows theorists to reflect upon the moment that represents the act of making architecture, and the rigorous examination of process rushes in to fill the vacuum. Alongside this, the growing culture of scientific uncertainty (quantum science) creates new questions regarding Western society’s ideas about the Universe’s dynamics. If the processes of nature demonstrate a self-organizing ability to find the most powerful creative/evolutionary moment, why shouldn’t architectural creativity demonstrate the same? Complexity science exposes the source of that creativity and finds that it too exists as an undecideable.

The created void, the cultural move toward nothingness and the erasure of the architect creating a vacuum – all an expression of the same thing.

The quote taken from my own post-graduate work six years ago (I’ve added some emphasis for this outing) is part of a dissertation that tried to propose the computer was filling this vacuum or void. One of my mistakes (sadly there were many, don’t expect me to link to the rest of it) was that I didn’t sufficiently drill down far enough, beyond the beige box. I didn’t look at the medium that Varnelis highlights.

There was a feeble attempt in the conclusion:

Let us return for the moment to the theory of the Universal Turing Machine. The concept is that the Universal Machine itself has no predefined purpose. For the machine to function it must be able to deform to the requirements of each new task it is given (the radical nature of Turing’s vision is clearer when you remember it was originally perceived as something mechanical) as well as provide the result. Each problem the Universal Machine is set must also contain the instructions for how to solve it. Now, it is of course easy to see how this is precisely the way in which a modern computer performs, with it’s dumb hardware supplied a purpose by the software; but it also reminds us that this Universal Machine is the perfect embodiment of objectivity. To use Eisenman’s terminology, until the task in hand is commenced, it has no ‘interiority’1. It is formless.

It is widely accepted that the benefits of using a computer are found among such things as its ability to perform complex tasks quickly, sort and store large amounts of data and, in an abstract fashion, shrink or expand linear restrictions of time and space. However, what I would like to focus on here is what the computer represents in the design process, rather than what it actually does.

What it represents is the answer to the question of how to ‘open up process’ 1. The continued search for objectivity or releasing of authorial control is over, since it is resolved by the presence of the Universal Machine. Since we are incapable of achieving true objectivity, we have introduced a stand-in that can.

Now we can begin to see the importance of Van Berkel’s statement, ‘But it has to sound right’2. Providing the source of objectivity is not the end to our quest; somebody must feed the Universal Machine. The one factor that all the architects we examined have in common, regardless of which side of the discourse they reside, is that they must all deal with their relationship to their machine. The most difficult task becomes how to move the process into and out of the machine, performing the eversion from the virtual to the real. We must find new ways to interact with the results of our emergent processes and position ourselves within our work.

Am I ‘dealing with my relationship to my machine’ via my blog? ‘Moving the process into and out of the machine’ feels like filtering through the move from txt to html to rss to tags. Perhaps if my tutor were here now I could excuse the dead end of my dissertation4 by the fact that I didn’t know what a blog was in the year 2000.

Related entries: Contextual Slippage and the Info Pimp Force Diagram and I would have missed a few things if he hadn’t pointed with his trunk occasionally and Parc de la Villette.

1. I’ll come back to this in an upcoming entry about Thom Mayne
2. Winy Maas, RIBA conference, Oct 31 2000 responding to a question from the audience about authorial control
3. ‘Move’ by UN Studio
4. Note to students: never write an academic paper on the assumption that a conclusion will appear through the very act of writing it. It won’t. Ask a scientist to tell you what a hypothesis is and why they’re important.

Leave a Reply