Social Design using feedback loops: guides and manuals

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For Wired Magazine, Thomas Goetz looks at the idea of feedback loops and how they can be used as a powerful tool that can help change people’s behavior in Feedback Loops Are Changing What People Do.

The basic premise is that technology has advanced to a point that sensors have become cheap and powerful enough that data (ie: ubicomp) the key and necessary precursor to establishing a feedback loop, can be captured and transmitted about a wide range of factors. Which creates the possibility of increasing energy efficiency, medication administration compliance or calming traffic. The key however is for the design to be straight-forward. Goetz quotes David Rose

The best sort of delivery device “isn’t cognitively loading at all,” he says. “It uses colors, patterns, angles, speed—visual cues that don’t distract us but remind us.” This creates what Rose calls “enchantment.” Enchanted objects, he says, don’t register as gadgets or even as technology at all, but rather as friendly tools that beguile us into action. In short, they’re magical.

To me this implies a sort of pre-cognitive design. Reptilian or primordially evocative. Something that is almost instinctual affective. Early versions of this sort of interventional designed trigger ie: can be found in the example of  projects like Amphibious Architecture

which submerged ubiquitous computing into the water—the substance that makes up 90% of the Earth’s inhabitable volume and envelops New York City but remains under-explored and under-engaged. Two networks of floating interactive tubes, installed at sites in the East River and the Bronx River, house a range of sensors below water and an array of lights above water. The sensors monitor water quality, presence of fish, and human interest in the river ecosystem. The lights respond to the sensors and create feedback loops between humans, fish, and their shared environment. An SMS interface allows citizens to text-message the fish, to receive real-time information about the river, and to contribute to a display of collective interest in the environment.

How could such designs use feedbacks loops to highlight a psychology of ecologies. Creating social ecologies that are based on visible data, instruments for evolving environment ecologies. Wherein the idea of prosociality has been extended to include all species not just our own? This could result in an experimental altruism of ecological infrastructure(s). Soft infrastructures of resilience.

Next, think about the  idea of gamification. Of social gaming or networked social economies. Non-currency based earnings. Recently I read

A few hours of raking leaves might build up points that can be used in a gardening game. And the games induce people to earn more points, which means repeating good behaviors. The idea, Krejcarek says, is to “create a bridge between the real world and the virtual world. This has all got to be fun.”

Could this idea be applied to infrastructural, urban landscape design? I have wondered before about how one might create a less capital intensive form of maintenance. Could one solution be a form  based more on a knowledge building, community creating, recreational-volunteerism? It seems like one could take the growth of games like FarmVille to the next level.  Applying the concept of gamification to community development or urban ecologies. The result being a sort of social design (by designing social interactions and using social interactions to shape more traditional designed things/scapes) using feedback loops to develop recreational modes of doing and learning.

Finally, their would be in such a program a need for an owner/player, manual of sorts. Every game has one, right? Recently,  faslanyc in Surveying the Field: Guides and Manuals, wrote about the possibilities of the manual.

we are interested in the possibility that landscape and architectural practice might move away from the plan set and capital project as the sole primary document for design and towards a more open arrangement defined by the manual.  As Brett Milligan of F.A.D. and Rob Holmes of Mammoth recently noted, we had a chance to work this idea out a bit in the most recent issue of MonU.

He went on to contrast two genres: guides  and manuals. Whereas “the guide is a commercial endeavor” focused on identification the “emphasis of the manual is technique- the manner and ability of a person to employ the specialized skills to execute specific procedures.  The manual is instrumental and operational”  Then closing with “When the maintenance manual- already a part of traditional design projects, albeit a neglected and unglamorous part- is considered in conjunction with the theoretical and speculative efforts to construct landscapes that are more open, performative, and adaptive over time, the manual might be repositioned in design projects as the primary document, with plans becoming secondary.

 In conclusion what is the importance of manuals?  I would argue that particularly in the current economic times of austerity the importance of manuals is increased. For after all aren’t manuals more about manual (labor) rather than capital (flows). Many people also have more time than money now. Even in my case a manual could be a tool for strategizing. For the manual helps to sort the easily achievable from the more prophetically desired. In the end a manual can perhaps be thought of as a document focused more on the how to (including whens and wheres) than the final what. Yet, I would like to think that the manual can also be a form of critical speculative design as others have already articulated more clearly
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Recently in Places re; Community Plumbing

W. C. Heller & Company, The Shelving with Brains, 1922

Back in July, Shannon Mattern traced the genealogy of the American hardware store to the earlier, general store and explains How the hardware store orders things, neighborhoods, and material worlds.

This is a vision of the hardware store as episteme. It holds (and organizes) the tools, values, and knowledges that bind a community and define a worldview. There’s a material and social sensibility embodied in the store, its stuff, and its service, and reflected in the diverse clientele. That might sound a bit lofty for a commercial establishment that sells sharp objects and toxic chemicals…Here, amidst the nuts and bolts, we cultivate the potential to order things, places, communities, politics, and values — we might even say, to build and repair worlds.

Sugar Hill is a mixed-use housing development in New York City’s Harlem

Photo: Ed Reeve, courtesy of Adjaye Associates

I have previously seen less flattering angles and discussions regarding the concrete patterning and overall black, fortress-like, visage of this building.

However, this angle/view, makes me reconsider, that perhaps it is rather Excellent!

More decorative, faceted than I realized.

via Archinect

re: Gulf futurism

Yet Gulf futurism offers no new imagery to displace the hegemonic ones in power—instead setting up the scaffolding to reproduce the injustices, structural degradation and racial erasures of the present. As ethnifuturisms go, it feels like there’s something missing, too. Where’s the longing, the displacement, the impossibility of return? Where’s the Afghan, the Filipino, the Indian, the Iranian, the Somali, the Pakistani, the Bangladeshi, the Iraqi, and all the other non-Khaleeji Arabs all bound up into one pathologised brown body? [Experimental jazz musician] Sun Ra had to go all the way to Saturn; the Gulf futurist doesn’t need to go anywhere because they’re welcomed, and even reified, right at home.

via Scott Smith’s “chat” with Rahel Aima

re: Archaea, HGT, endosymbiosis, Ford Doolittle et al.,

Margulis argued that the cells constituting every creature in the more complex divisions of life—every human, every animal, every plant, every fungus—are chimerical things, assembled with captured bacteria inside nonbacterial receptacles. Those particular bacteria, over vast stretches of time, have become transmogrified into cellular organs. Imagine an oyster, transplanted into a cow, that becomes a functional bovine kidney. This seemed crazy when Margulis proposed it in 1967. But she was right about the matter, mostly.

An excerpt from David Quammen’s latest book, via Lit Hub

National Museum of Western Art, Tokyo, by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret

In 2016, Unesco named the National Museum of Western Art to its World Heritage List, joining the Acropolis of Athens and the Alhambra, as well as the monuments of Nara and Kyoto, among the lasting achievements of architecture.

The interior of Le Corbusier’s National Museum of Western Art | Credit; Anthony Cotsifas

More via Nikil Saval in NYT

On Buddhism, love of nature, wildlife and urgent concerns for the environment

The joyous and voluntary poverty of Buddhism becomes a positive force. The traditional harmlessness and refusal to take life in any form has nation-shaking implications…The belief in a serene and generous fulfillment of natural loving desires destroys ideologies which blind, maim and repress“.

Further, read Gary Snyder regarding “Engaged Buddhism” aka “Buddhist Anarchism” originally in the 1969 collection of essays Earth House Hold.