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Designing in the age of network society: the role of technology in design processes and knowledge generation

2017-6-15
Bruna, Marco
Architectural design in recent decades has measured itself with an unprecedented speed imposed by technological innovation, from which the Internet has emerged at a greater pace. To interpret correctly the changes that have ensued, it is essential to rule out any technological impetus by which these new conditions can now dictate related assessments in design processes. The ability to achieve new knowledge and produce endless combinations seems to lead to a path based on a shared work; it is no coincidence that this era is called the Learning Society and/or Network Society, due to recent endeavours showing utterly new and unexplored paths. In a situation like this, the architect must seek new ways that would allow his/her communicative tools to be explicit in what the architecture wants to express professionally under the empowering conditions of the Learning/Network Society. That seems to be the only way to relocate the architect in a more interactive sphere that in the end would lead to a more communicative architecture in tune with the expectations of society. The main characteristics of a global culture, built via the Internet are participation, dissemination and interaction. Within the given scenario, architecture can help transform those features into a path accessible to all mankind; this could be regarded as a new contemplation of collective thought. The urgent task is therefore to draw a new responsibility for the architect by which a particular architectural idea crosses the expectations of the self, becoming more accessible to all. Architecture is all about experience, which in turn reflects an almost sacred world; yet this said world is now recovered and translated into a constant exchange among electronic flows, whose spatial properties are based on current conditions. As such the most desired urban life is also expected to take part in an interdependent and yet complementary milieu of urbanity in flux. There, the architect should play a major role: a challenging design process that would interplay completely with endless images in order to constantly reinvent their roles, acquire new knowledge and skills, to be able to distinguish what must be done selectively. To be able to reveal how and to what extent the architect could now pose a new professional reflection, this study is designed to receive such responses from an array of renowned architectural firms in Europe to fully understand how the internet as an instrument of knowledge generation, and thus dissemination, visibly affects the orthodoxies of design processes. It is proven that the vast scale of information flux available provide rather sketchy frameworks; therefore, it is almost impossible to find a solid base of departure that offers an opportunity to design at distance, replacing the old-fashion face-to-face generative procedures which in the end restrain some of the faculties of design processes such as collective thought. Crafting an ill-defined base and an unbalanced interaction between the role-players in different cultural contexts, the research shows that digital technology is certainly an opportunity to master some of the shortcomings of design processes; however, it is not a totalizing phenomenon as such issues as doubts, uncertainties, and ambiguities still largely remain on the drafting table.