Subjective Prototypes: Subverting data-based design practices to reconstruct the public domain(s)

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


The proposed contribution is two-fold. Firstly, it will address a number of recent techno-informational practices gravitating around the notion of ‘sensing’ and focusing on the development of physical, real-time responses to ‘sensed’ data streams within the specific context of urban public space. The processes and outputs of these practices will be considered from both a representational and a socio-political perspective, paying special attention to the operative affordances and limitations emerging at the intersection of both domains –for example with regards to the scale of the resulting interventions, their target audience(s) and the restricted nature of the datasets they tend to respond to-. This intends to foreground the critical agency of these modes of collective representation in both the production and the transformation of urban public space, and also emphasise the non-neutral role of digital technologies in shaping these processes.
Secondly, this contribution will present a series of intertwined architectural interventions that articulate a methodological counter-project to the practices described above, attempting to subvert the prevalent discourses of the ‘urban sensing’ project -such as optimisation, efficiency, atomisation and ‘smartness’-. These interventions operate within the same technical domain as the practices mentioned above -actively engaging with available digital data sensing and processing techniques-. However they differ in their attempt to facilitate the emergence of both individual and shared human subjectivities through the critically informed development of a sequence of operations hybridising materiality and data: Sensing Instruments, Maps, Games and Responsive Prototypes. From a programmatic standpoint, this sequence focuses on hedonistic urban activities that exist in the fringes of the permissive in the conventional experience of the collective (such as pleasure and spectacle, leisure and exuberance). These subjectively ‘sensed’ materials and the resulting ‘responsive prototypes’ tackle issues concerning friction and collectiveness in dense, historic city centres, and formalise design narratives that explicitly re-situate the locus of operation in the domain of the commons.
By presenting together these two approaches to digital, data-based design, this contribution will endeavour to open a space for critical reflection on charged, pervasive terms such as ‘flow’ or ‘network’, acknowledging their non-neutral political nature but also their potential to inform creative strategies that actively resist the mainstream discourses of public space governance.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Jun 2017
EventPostcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation - Edinburgh College of Art, Edinburgh, United Kingdom
Duration: 22 Jun 201724 Jun 2017


ConferencePostcards from the Anthropocene: Unsettling the Geopolitics of Representation
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


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