Diagram, Code, Algorithm, and Archive; Digital Literacy, Syntax, and Aesthetics of Hybrid Architectural Media
Is architecture capable of delivering new answers to problems of information anxiety raised a long time ago (Wurman, 1989, 2002), revealing patterns and maps of meaning against the data overload within the digital information chatter (Speaks, 2004, 2006), in the age when bigness of data-archives, the speed of their processing, and the logic of search instead of sort (Carpo, 2017) do not represent much of an obstacle, but rather a device for complete recalibration of spatial thinking and production? While AI affects all aspects of our world and yet remains one of the least understood mechanisms as we often lack those sophisticated instruments that can help us to immediately grasp all its complexity and algorithmic intricacy, can digital architectural knowledge and various diagrammatic skills make it become more accessible and easier to understand, or they enable it to evolve and produce even more intellectually remote, cryptic cyber-patterns?
Specific attention to digital conversion of thinking mechanisms and spatialisation through neural networks, algorithms, computational and Big Data systems, in relation to architectural and other design production and theory, is what shapes the core interest of this issue. Artistic and scientific encounters, convergence, and integration are transferred into the digital realm, investigating how the new knowledge can be created, constructed, and produced, discovered or inspired by means of digital diagrammatics, e.g. when supported by high-grade digital technologies.
Digital diagrammatical research developed distinctive design scriptures, processes and interactive practices, tools, programmes and algorithms, concepts (including those of architectural smartness and intelligence), interfaces, environments, and finally information configurations and architecture. Hence, digital diagrammatics has been regarded as the most notable medium which might reveal and explain invisible and inaudible spectral world of data and information, and as such it has been put to the forefront of this issue.
When transferring architectural principles and knowledge to disciplines such as information or data sciences and digital technologies, the ability to use and advance some of their features and to uncover and test their potential in architectural terms may be challenged. Besides their mere convergence in definition of cyberspace, creating data-architecture (MVRDV) or architecture of information (“Information Architecture”, Wurman), as well as passive use of digital technologies as instruments or certain mind extensions (Clarck and Chalmers, 1998), which define and direct ‘how we make and how we think’ (Carpo, 2017), architecture has become more involved in their active production and programming by shaping the ways they should ‘work’ and ‘think’. Architectural AI strategies and architectural design intelligence strategies have been proposed to cover those lines of reasoning and action emerging from these disciplinary engagements and collaborations.
Architectural thinking and practice have already incorporated new technologies, including cybernetics and artificial intelligence, in their experimental and conceptual phase. This became more evident in 1950s and 1960s (with the first publications and design proposals that directly merged disciplines of architecture, cybernetics, computational and information sciences, etc.), took more elaborate application in the late 1980s, and the final “digital” shape guided by the first generation of digitally intelligent architects in 1990s and the second one in 2000s (Carpo, 2017). Digital and postdigital theory that offered new perspectives, advanced digital tools, mediums, and disciplinary convergences in 2010s, continued to challenge architectural discipline in terms of its cyberisation and the predominance of discourse of virtuality, encouraging further theories, methods, and aesthetics of digitallity. Digital literacy as necessary precondition for this kind of research, experimentation, and knowledge production, relying on the first and the second waves of digital explorations in architecture and the whole cluster of design disciplines in creative industries that supported them in a broader sense, moved the field of architectural production and thinking towards another technological leap of ‘high definition’ (Sheill, 2014) brigging finally the long-standing gap between the architect as a visualiser and the architect as a builder. Along with the requirements for a new smart and intelligent (digital) self-improvement, definition, and construction, it triggered likewise the critical attitudes towards their ubiquity and a resulting technical alienation in some extreme cases, questioning the current role of the analogue modes of architectural thinking in relation to them. Within this context of technological perfection and refinement, and the hybridisation of the analogue tools and technics, the position of diagrammatological and diagrammatical investigations became relevant for the definition of the scope and specific mode of possible systemic transpositions, the analogue-digital ones respectively.
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