Site-specific computing: For a data-based place
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This thesis will investigate the use of site-specific data collection as an instrument of place-making. It will address what anthropologist Marc Augé terms "Non-place", shared spaces lacking history, identity, and accrued cultural significance. These are the physical nodes of a globally networked architecture detached from the sensitivities of site and context. While inhabiting these spaces we are separated from our role as a public individual, and compelled to assume a new identity under the tense of the consumer, the passenger, the tourist, etc. Here identity becomes the product of generic protocols of data collection that are used primarily as tools for profiling and tracking. The absence of personal attribution to the 'non-place' creates realms of impartiality resulting in places acceptable to everyone yet meaningful to no one. Since they physically retain little or no trace of our engagement, we create only a landscape of memories without proclivity. Paradoxically, the same distributed informatics responsible for creating these alienated enclaves pose an opportunity to create highly participatory and critical places. Mobile computing and communication devices are able to dematerialize and alter our perceptions of architecture thus creating dynamic spatial coalitions bridging network infrastructures and physical space. Networked places modulate between spaces of transit to spaces for cultural production. To this end, rich site-specific data becomes a new medium for the architect. Expressive surfaces within space will require discursive modes of data collection to account for the subtleties of context and site beyond the simple metrics of space. Location-based data must engage the sublime as a blend of informational, physical, and conceptual resources specific to site. A humane convolution of computation and environment requires looking past computing as design tool, and toward the spatial practices of everyday life in which computing may play a critical role.