Material ReCalibrartion - Responsive Cities Symposium

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Critical Matter: Materials, Computation + Craft
Project Team

This research is supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and developed by DataLAB at the School of Architecture at the University of Waterloo.

Principle Investigator: Maya Przybylski; Research Associate: J. Cameron Parkin; Research Assistants: Alice Huang and Vincent Min.

Project Date

Paper Presentation at Responsive Cities Symposim - at Institut d’Arquitectura Avançada de Catalunya (IAAC) in November 2019.

Exposing the complex interplay between physical materials, computationalelements and real-world outcomes in Software-Embedded Design

This paper presents work aimed at expanding the lenses through which designers engage software-embedded projects in order to foreground the complex interplay between materials, computational elements and real-world outcomes. The first part of the paper introduces software-embedded design as a form of praxis where designers embed computational components as project elements. It argues for new forms of literacy, to better situate embedded computational components as directly impacting social project outcomes and proposes a reconceptualization of computational elements as soft materials –bringing them into the designer’s domain of responsibility. The second part of the paper responds to the above call and proposes the Project Anatomy framework through which to dissect SED projects in order to better grasp the complex entanglements between participants, actions and material components. The framework draws out new understandings of the relationship between a project’s material composition and its realworld outcomes. The paper concludes with a reflection, supported by sample framework output, around issues such as user agency, technological determinism, and impact (mis)alignments between projects’ physical and virtual materials. By engaging a project’s technically-oriented material make-up alongside its socially-oriented aspects simultaneously we are better equipped to maintain connection to the complex conditions in which SED projects operate.