Perceptual Order in Natural and Built Environments

This concern is, in fact, a pressing one, because discussions of this issue have tended to emphasize the disparateness of the sorts of order manifested by the natural environment and the built environment. The latter is characterized often as possessing a functional order, given that it is composed of elements whose salient feature is their function in some aspect of human life. For example, the appreciation of the visual order in a streetscape, referred to earlier, is thought to take shape...

Towards a New Species

With current technological and scientific breakthroughs, artifacts are being aligned much closer to the human body and even being merged with it. The resultant cyborgs2 can take on any one of a number of forms, dependant on the balance between human and technological components. The case of cyborgs, part man part technology, shows very well the main values of our society, the direction it is heading in whilst acting according to these values, and the kind of new human or non human entity we are...

Design Paradigms in Personal Robotics

We can see two distinct design paradigms forming in the burgeoning personal robotics industry. For the sake of discussion I will call them the 'effective' and the 'affective' design paradigms. For example, American and European robotics companies have largely focused on very utilitarian, or effective, implementations of robotics technologies by building robotic vacuum cleaners, lawnmowers, and 1 Data acquired here 2 Robonexus is a consumer trade show (http www.robonexus.com index.html) and...

Architecture and Engineering

A brief comparison of architects and engineers may help to shed light on the processes that architects employ, and how they have changed. To a large extent, this discussion deals with normative practice, and not the practice of architects such as Frank Lloyd Wright or engineers such as John Augustus Roebling, who deliberately bucked normative rules. But even such heroic figures could not completely escape them. It is the difference in the nature of the product that is often seen to define the...

Affective Robotic Design in America and Europe 51 Sociable Robots at MIT

There is also a desire to build robotic companions on the other side of the Pacific. Some of the most interesting work on this subject has come out of the Robotic Life group headed by Cynthia Breazeal in the MIT Media Lab.4 Breazeal was a student of the revolutionary roboticist Rodney Brooks, and she has taken the maverick milieu Brooks brought to the AI lab at MIT and run with it in fascinating new directions. The robots created by this lab so far have garnered a great deal of media attention...

On Our Way to the Post Human

Human genetic enhancement is often defined as the manipulation of genes in order to improve what are seen as normal human characteristics - physical, psychological, intellectual, and moral - beyond what is necessary to restore or sustain good health. This enhancement can be attempted through either somatic modifications - thus affecting only the particular individual undergoing the intervention - or germ-line I. de Melo-Mart n, Weill Cornell Medical College or inheritable genetic modification -...

Systems and Design

In his 1893 essay, Evolution and Ethics, T. H. Huxley (2002 orig. 1896 ) considers the difference between a jungle and a garden in his exploration of the mechanisms of evolution. Today, with developments in evolutionary theories and the broad establishment of environmental studies, the difference between a jungle and a garden may seem obvious or even trivial. I think the distinction is well worth revisiting, however, because it holds implications that are vital to understanding how the world...

Case Study Charting Instumentalization of a House Construction System

Today, nearly 90 of North American houses are built using one method of wood construction (see figure 2). Now, it is probably the predominant practice in the world, displacing indigenous methods of wood construction in places with rich Fig. 1 The hybrid cycle applied to the development of the balloon frame construction system Fig. 2 Raising the framed walls of the balloon frame. 1941. (Alfred T. Palmer, photographer, 1941, Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA OWI...

Function and Functionality

In this chapter the concept of functionality is added to that of function, usability to that of use, and intentioned to that of intention. Engineers and most twentieth-century technologies have demonstrated that problematizing function is an effective way of operating. They do so by reducing the definition of function efficiently to solve the problem at hand. Broader consequences are unintentional and left unimagined. Rather than expanding the definition of function, this chapter argues for a...

List of Contributors

Philip Brey is associate professor of philosophy at the University of Twente and director of its Centre for Philosophy of Technology and Engineering Science. He is also a member of the board of the Society for Philosophy and Technology and the International Society for Ethics and Information Technology. His research focuses on philosophy of technology, and particularly on the philosophy and ethics of information technology. Ted Cavanagh is an architect with a doctorate in the history of...

Instrumentalization of the Wood Frame

Interestingly, Feenberg (1999) uses houses and construction as examples of richly signified technical artifacts - an area of fruitful philosophical analysis. And again The tree conceived as lumber, and eventually cut down, stripped of bark and chopped into boards, is encountered for its usefulness rather than for its manifold interconnections with its environment and the other species with which it normally coexists. The history of wood construction in North America can be approximated by three...

Resisting an Elective Affinity for Positivism in Technological Development

Starting with technical and techno-social balance and a dual nature of artifacts as both physical and intentional, this chapter has parsed design into production, appropriation, and consumption and has distinguished function from functionality, use from usability and commented on the discourse about intention. This is based in experience teaching design in architecture, a field with a holistic design approach that includes technical and social parameters. Though architectural design is...

Reconsidering Design in the Built Environment

Having made the claim that there is continuity between the aesthetic characters of the natural and built environments, I want to consider why it might be important to recognize this continuity, and its implications for our conception of urban design. One motivation for recognizing this continuity involves the fact, outlined in section 1, that, following the classic line of environmental thought, we often view the aesthetic appeal of nature as distinct from, and superior to, that of the built...

Robert Aungers Theory

Anthropologist Robert Aunger has developed an account of technological change within the context of memetics (Aunger, 2002). Memetics is an evolutionary approach to culture that was initially proposed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins (1976). Dawkins claimed that culture might have its own evolutionary mechanism, separate from that of biological evolution, and that it is dependent on basic units of propagation similar to genes, which he called memes. A meme is the basic meaningful unit...

Joel Mokyrs Theory

Economic historian Joel Mokyr has presented an evolutionary theory of technology that does not focus on the evolution of artifacts, as in Basalla's theory, but on the evolution of technological knowledge (Mokyr, 1996 1998 1999 2000a b). More precisely, he has presented an evolutionary theory of techniques, or technological know-how, mirroring Gilbert Ryle's famous distinction between knowledge how and knowledge that. Mokyr is critical of evolutionary approaches that take artifacts as the unit...

Evolutionary Theories of Technology and Evolutionary Biology

In this section, I will briefly introduce contemporary evolutionary approaches to technology, after which I will analyze the conditions that must be met for a theory of technology to be genuinely evolutionary and the extent to which this requires adoption of central principles of evolutionary biology. Evolutionary theories of technology have gained in prominence since the 1980s. Such theories use concepts and analogies from evolutionary biology to explain technological change and innovation....

Consequences of Explanation

In contrast to the conventional and critical renderings, the explanatory rendering pictured something more akin to an open-ended process than an artifact. Where Pelli and Hadid idealized the site context through stylized rendering techniques, Behnisch placed his building proposal in the messy context of a photograph. Where Pelli and Hadid sought to mobilize populist or elite tastes, Behnisch appealed to intelligence. And rather than seeking to close down conversation by satisfying aesthetic...

Three Objections

I would like to conclude by considering three objections to my claim that the aesthetics of cities and natural environments should not be thought of as diametrically opposed, but rather as bearing an important similarity. The first objection is that it is simply implausible to hold that nature and city are aesthetically alike. This thought could be reinforced by noting that, any functional analogy between the natural and the urban notwithstanding, these environments remain quite different at...

Process and the Work of Christopher Alexander

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, the challenges faced by those who are responsible for making the built environment - architects and engineers included, among many others - are considerable. Buildings and cities are responsible, one way or the other, for the bulk of fossil-fuel consumption, as production levels off and begins to decline. Cities in developing countries continue to experience enormous population growth through births and in-migrations, most of it in slums and...

Shifting Boundaries

Let us return to engineering design, and to an analysis of its gradual development towards a model more like architectural design, as we identified it in the opening section of this introduction. In the 20th century the institutionalization of a rich variety of engineering design traditions and practices emerged. During the second half of the last century design practices gradually developed that focus on the material product of design and on the broader social system in which these products...

Design Spaces and Technical Codes

In all cases certain aspects of a device's design will vary depending on various sorts of demands while others will remain invariant. Those aspects that do not change include many that are invisible to the user, e.g., the type of components used, and others that have been standardized. What remains is a set of design possibilities -ways in which technical elements can be combined to create a workable device. We shall call this set of technically feasible possibilities the design space. It is...

George Basallas Theory

In his book The Evolution of Technology, historian of technology George Basalla presents an evolutionary theory of technological change that aims to explain technological innovation, including the emergence of novel artifacts, and the process by which society makes a selection between available artifacts (Basalla, 1988). Basalla considers his notion of technological evolution to be an analogy or metaphor. He claims Metaphors and analogies are at the heart of all extended analytical or critical...