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Fieldstation: Post-Digital Media Ecologies

Title Post-Digital Media Ecologies
Supervisor(s) Michiel Helbig, Corneel Cannaerts
Campus Ghent
Language EN
Studio or individual? Individual, max. 6 students


Description of the project:

Fieldstation Studio  (https://fieldstationstudio.org/) is a speculative architectural design studio run by Michiel Helbig and Corneel Cannaerts, it is a node in the international fieldstations network, exploring architecture in relation with contemporary fields, connected to the anthropocene and technosphere. We are organised as an academic design office, combining teaching, academic research and artistic practice.  The studio is based at KU Leuven Faculty of Artchitecture, but has taught studios and workshops internationally, at the bpro Master program of the Bartlett School of Architecture University College London and the Advanced Architectural Design program at GSAPP Columbia University New York. The studio focuses on the agency of emerging technologies and phenomena, and their impact on the culture and practice of architecture and the environment in which we operate as architects. We propose an explorative architectural design studio, aiming to investigate the potential of architecture as a medium to disrupt, explore and raise questions, rather than solving them. The academic design office combines explorative research with hands-on architectural design exercises, field trips and workshops.

The built reality is only one layer that makes up the environments we inhabit, it is influenced by other material and immaterial layers, and it contributes to larger economic, material, environmental, informational and infrastructural systems. Within the Field Station Studio we see this expanded field, this constantly changing, layered, hybrid and compressed environment as the context that architecture operates in and actively engages with. We are particularly interested in the proliferation of digital technologies within the environment and the media ecologies resulting from them.  We think that architects should proactively engage the complex reality of today rather than passively wait for design briefs and projects. Field Station Studio trains students in taking positions within contemporary fields and provides them with a platform for developing their future practice. Our weapons of choice are design fiction, spatial narratives, speculative media, imagineering, hacking and critical making.

Post-Digital Media Ecologies

Our collective understanding of the multitude of unfolding ecological crises is enabled through contemporary computational technologies and digital media.  The understanding of climate change cannot be untangled from the emergence of technologies such as earth observation, satellite imagery, cloud computing, computation modelling, as well as social media, video and images sharing platforms.  Simultaneously digital technologies contribute to the contemporary complexity and crises, not just in content and social interaction thy mediate,  but also through the vast hardware infrastructure and energy they consume.  The term media ecology reflects this active role of digital media and communication technologies in constituting environments. The discourse on media ecologies has emancipated from its human-centred origins, to include more-than-human agencies and materialist perspectives. Through recent developments in the fields of media theory, media archaeology, media ecologies can be described as material formations, in addition to technological and cultural constructions. In this extended understanding, media ecologies operate on time frames ranging from the instant to deep time, and span across scales from the microscopic to the planetary.

The proliferation of digital technologies has led to the post-digital condition,  Florian Cramer defines the post-digital not as the absence of the digital but a “contemporary disenchantment with digital information systems and media gadgets, or a period in which our fascination with these systems and gadgets has become historical.” The prefix post here should not be read as in post-modernism or post-history, but as in post-feminist, post-punk or even post-apocalyptic: “The state of affairs after the initial upheaval caused by the computerisation and global digital networking of communication, technical infrastructures, markets and geopolitics.” Questioning the colloquial meaning of the digital, he unpacks several, sometimes conflicting dimensions of the term. It is both a rejection of the sterile and seamless aesthetic associated with corporate high tech – like advertisement and slick interfaces – and the low-quality trash of compressed digital media – like clip art and mp3s. In artistic and design practices post-digital attitudes have resulted in several approaches: embracing and exaggerating the aspects of the digital, as in glitch art or post internet art; deliberately mixing and hybridising digital and analogue media; opening up the black box of technology through hacking, revealing their inner workings, or abusing digital technologies beyond their intended purposes.

Expected output:

We invite students to develop an in individual master dissertation project, situated with post-digital media ecologies as defined above, we provide a platform for students to develop their own interests, skills and projects. The topic pf the dissertation is open within the proposed context, as is the  choice of media, and nature of the dissertation is are consistent with the chosen topic. The first semester is used to define a framework for the projects, develop the necessary skills, and define the project brief, and runs in parallel with the studio in the first master.  The second semester focuses on the dissertation project itself, we regularly invite guests and former students to critique and guide the work. Students need to have excellent design skills and have an interest in the critical and practical application of digital technologies in architectural design. Students get access to several tools and tutorials developed with the Academic Design Office.

We are looking for students from Mediating Tactics, that preferably have been part of Fieldstation ADO studios or research electives. Students should be combine strong academic and design skills, with a particular focus on using speculative design media!

An overview of past master dissertations can be found here:




http://www.fieldstationstudio.org/STUDIO/POST /


References/Further reading:

Bollmer, G. (2019). Materialist media theory: An introduction. Bloomsbury Academic.

Bridle, J. (2018). New dark age: Technology, knowledge and the end of the future. Verso.

Carpo, M. (2011). The alphabet and the algorithm. MIT Press.

Carpo, M. (2018). Post-Digital “Quitters”: Why the Shift Toward Collage Is Worrying. Metropolis Mag March 26, 2018, https://metropolismag.com/viewpoints/post-digital-collage/.

Cramer, F. (2015). What Is ‘Post-digital’? In D. M. Berry & M. Dieter (Eds.), Postdigital Aesthetics (pp. 12–26). Palgrave Macmillan UK. https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137437204_2

Fuller, M., & Malina, R. F. (2005). Media ecologies: Materialist energies in art and technoculture. MIT Press.

Jacob, S. (2017). Architecture Enters the Age of Post-Digital Drawing. Metropolis Mag March 21, 2017 https://metropolismag.com/projects/architecture-enters-age-post-digital-drawing/

Marble, S. (2018). Everything That Can Be Measured Will Be Measured. Technology|Architecture + Design, 2(2), 127–129. https://doi.org/10.1080/24751448.2018.1497355

Manovich, L. (2013). Software takes command: Extending the language of new media. Bloomsbury.

Mattern, S. (2016) Cloud and Field, On the resurgence of “field guides” in a networked age. Places journal, August 2016

Mattern, S. (2017). Code and Clay, Data and Dirt: Five Thousand Years of Urban Media. University of Minnesota Press. https://doi.org/10.5749/j.ctt1pwt6rn

May, J. (2019). Signal. image. architecture: Everything is already an image. Columbia Books on Architecture and the City.

McCullough, M. (2004). Digital ground: Architecture, pervasive computing, and environmental knowing. MIT Press.

McCullough, M. (2013). Ambient commons: Attention in the age of embodied information. The MIT Press.

McLuhan, M. (1964). Understanding media: The extensions of man. Routledge.

Mitchell, W. J. (1992). The reconfigured eye: Visual truth in the post-photographic era. MIT Press.

Offenhuber, D., & Ratti, C. (Eds.). (2014). Decoding the city: Urbanism in the age of big data. Birkhauser Verlag.

Parikka, J. (2016). A slow, contemporary violence: Damaged environments of technological culture. Sternberg press.

Runting, H., Torrison, F. & Siege, E. (eds). Lo-Res: Architectural Theory, Politics, and Criticism, ISSN 2002-0260, Vol. 1: High-Rise, 2015.

Taffel, S. (2016). Perspectives on the postdigital: Beyond rhetorics of progress and novelty. Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, 22(3), 324–338. https://doi.org/10.1177/1354856514567827

Taffel, S. (2019). Digital media ecologies: Entanglements of content, code and hardware. Bloomsbury Academic.

Young, L. (Ed.). (2019). Machine landscapes: Architectures of the Post-Anthropocene. John Wiley & Sons.

Young, L. & Unknown Fields, (Eds.). (2016). Tales from the Dark Side of the City. AA Publications.

Weizman, E. (2017). Forensic architecture: Violence at the threshold of detectability. Zone Books.


Image: Animated .gif of previous master dissertations, Fieldstation Studio 2023