• Authoradmin
  • Date 3 December 2016
  • CategoryThesis

220x220-1   Origins of Modern Boredom: The misuse of technology over time is amplifying sameness for negative results in user experience of the built environment The image of an office full of identical cubicles in shades of gray in a modern workspace evokes the type of boredom many face at work all day. “The temporality of modernity is the experience of an “empty, meaningless time” and boredom becomes an “index” of the decline of the traditional understanding of temporality. (Pezze and Salzani) The realization of the clock as a mechanical system superimposed on the fluidity of natural motions has created a sameness in our experience of time and space, manifesting itself as boredom and constantly reawakening us to an eternal monotony.

The reality is that we do not all experience time in the same way despite the rigidity of timepieces confronting us otherwise. Our regular physical understanding of time in the physical world is trapped within the constraints of mechanical time. “Boredom registers the costs of the enlightenment vision of infinite rational progress and the inhuman demands of technologization.” (Pezze and Salzani) The constant sameness of time in the modern era compounds with the effects of modern production pushing out the same products on the same shelves to the same houses to create an extreme level of visual boredom previously unknown.

“Under the push of speed and progress, the present becomes obscured in the face of historical acceleration into the unknown. Time rather than being a horizon for opportunities is something that has to be beguiled. Moreover urbanization, mechanization, modernization, innovation, subjected by the modern self to a literal bombardment of new stimuli, disarranging the traditional parameters of experience. These stimuli become the only possible filling for empty meaningless time, a desire which is always renewed and never fulfilled. “ (Pezze and Salzani)

The origins of the ‘interesting’, the ‘thrilling’ the ‘exciting’, in their modern sense, are to be sought in this unfulfilled desire: the emptiness and meaninglessness of time is fought through the recourse to external stimulation. Hence a continuous call for novelty and innovation. The eighteenth and especially the nineteenth century saw the proliferation of new forms of mass entertainment: boredom in fact arose at the same time of the new concept of ‘leisure’ and is intimately connected with it.

Division of labor and mechanization in the development of the capitalist mode of production subjected human activity to sameness and repetition. Moreover the high valuation of work in the industrial revolution also involved a split between work and non-working time , and the invention and democratization of leisure, a time to be filled with entertaining activities. The invention of the novel as literary genre can certainly be linked to this phenomenon and thus to boredom. (Pezze and Salzani)

Technology has amplified the ease of production in architecture. Mass production and policy are the leaders in dictating form. Values in our modern design process trend towards ease of use, low material and assembly cost, mass production, standardization. The rigidity of these standards in which something as simple as a commercial door is created leads to a door typology that is predictable, safe and functional. The assumptions that go into a door design are one user using a hand to open the rectilinear form that is slightly larger than the human user. Door knobs and push bars are prevalent, the material and transparency may deviate slightly but largely the idea of a hinged rectilinear extrusion operable by one user constitutes ‘door’. The benefits of the predictable quality of door are such that we may specify doors quickly and easily in projects without much thought. The detriment is that we limit the experiential significance of entry in our employment and numbing of the user with respect to a preconceived door.

A case for ambiguity in process Our current process had made sameness the norm. In looking at the progression of architectural drawings from simple chalk-line sketches to today’s parametrically driven digital model-drawings, we have progressed from a loose, iterative process that allowed conceptual alteration without serious consequences to a tight end-product-oriented technical process that does not give much room for altering from standards. Between user errors and the complexity of modeling spaces in programs such as Auto-desk Revit, the standards become the norm and we trend further towards and architecture of sameness, following the modern order of more and faster. There are benefits of course to such a process, such as preconstruction cost estimation and energy analysis. However these items come at the price of repetition, sameness and a highly mechanical disorienting architectural experiences.

Technology and Order: Collective Disorientation: We are contributing to the zeitgeist, an overall sense of loss, individually, collectively and nationally. We are in the threshold of removal from what we naturally understand and this disruption keeps us from being able to orient and align ourselves with the natural world. Cosmically speaking, the vast sense of psychological disorientation stems from industrial and technological revolution, flooding humanity with truths that lead us to “confront godlike choices with impoverished human vision, and without ultimate guideposts.” (Engelhardt)

We are in an uncanny valley between a migration from physical reality to virtual reality as realized in the newly coined term augmented reality. The ‘uncanny’ is not an attribute of constructs on its own, nor can it be aroused by any particular structural affirmation; it is a representation of our collective mindset, eluding the boundaries of the natural and the unnatural ‘in order to provoke a disturbing ambiguity, a slippage between waking and dreaming’ (Rice)

The origins of the ‘interesting’, the ‘thrilling’ the ‘exciting’, in their modern sense, are to be sought in this unfulfilled desire: the emptiness and meaninglessness of time is fought through the recourse to external stimulation. Hence a continuous call for novelty and innovation. The eighteenth and especially the nineteenth century saw the proliferation of new forms of mass entertainment: boredom in fact arose at the same time of the new concept of ‘leisure’ and is intimately connected with it.

The origins of the ‘interesting’, the ‘thrilling’ the ‘exciting’, in their modern sense, are to be sought in this unfulfilled desire: the emptiness and meaninglessness of time is fought through the recourse to external stimulation. Hence a continuous call for novelty and innovation. The eighteenth and especially the nineteenth century saw the proliferation of new forms of mass entertainment: boredom in fact arose at the same time of the new concept of ‘leisure’ and is intimately connected with it.

The idea that virtuality is spreading virally is an understatement. Kurzweil states that due to an exponential rate of growth in the technology sector, especially in the fields of artificial intelligence and augmented reality, “ we will witness on the order of twenty thousand years of progress (measured by today’s rate of progress, or about one thousand times greater than what was achieved in the twentieth century. (Kurzweil) The ramifications of this kind of technological infusion into existence will make tsunamis where telephones and electricity made small wakes in the past.

Technology and Order: The final convergence of this kind of technological advancement is a ‘singularity’ as defined by the final merger of ourselves and technology, the physical and the artificial, all intelligences becoming one, diminishing, practically dissolving distinction of the individual. “If you wonder what will remain unequivocally human in such a world, it’s simply this quality: ours is the species that seeks to extend its physical and mental reach beyond current limitations.” (Kurzweil)

The concepts are in place for virtual reality but the speed and acuteness of technology is not there yet. What we have in place, currently creeping into everyday life, is augmented reality – most popularly realized in the form of the iphone or Android smart phones. These devices have to ability to take everyday objects and spatial parameters and add layers of information. In the very near future we will be able to experience an augmented physical reality in three dimensions via an individual, visually all-encompassing hardware and user-interface.

More and Faster, Cultural Homelessness of the Modern Collective We are reaching “A sort of “spiraling law” of behavior, in which yesterday’s excess becomes today’s moderation and today’s excess becomes tomorrow’s moderation and so on and so on, creating new compulsions and an ever-rising threshold for hedonistic satiation.” (Blascovich and Bailenson) We have become a nation of instant gratification without any pre-conceptualization of the result. The smart phone feeds our collective compulsions for on-demand social, voyeuristic, informational and haptic delectation, giving instant positive reinforcement in ease of use. (Tidwell)

Karsten Harries speaks to the dual nature of the global village of modern man – promising both a divine power and a never before known homelessness. Harries touches upon the revelations of the disorientation study in her statement “When all things count the same we can not place ourselves and become displaced persons. The ease with which we can relocate ourselves and replace our buildings is witness to this displacement. (Nesbitt) Pascal, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Turgenev, and Rilke give voice to the dread of post-Copernican man lost in the silence of infinite space.

Harries argues “like language, architecture is on the one hand a product of human activity while on the other it helps to create the environment which gives shape to man’s activities. To build is to help decide how man is to dwell on the earth or indeed whether he is to dwell on it at all, rather than drift aimlessly across it. And yet, since the enlightenment we have found it difficult to take seriously the ethical function of architecture.” Thus we derive the purpose of building in a physical reality.

“We began to realize that the mind can’t easily be in two places at once.” (Blascovich and Bailenson)The reduction of architecture in the physical world to a set of spatial constraints supporting the ever-changing overlays of virtual schemes speaks to modern man’s existential anxiety – the basis of a humans’ penchant for psychological travel away. ‘Humans are gregarious social beings who like to be with other people. Loneliness leads to all sorts of problems, psychological and otherwise, as Kipling William’s work on ostracism has demonstrated.’ (Blascovich and Bailenson)

In creating our modern structure of compartmentalized family, work, social life and otherwise, we have stripped ourselves of a tangible community including rituals and rites that allows us as humans to connect on a haptic, physical level. We have become numb to this disconnect in modernity, and instead of confronting the void we turn towards the latest “app” as a distraction from our own anxiety, less we are forced to stare into the abyss that is our present physical and psychological construct. As Nietzsche warns, “When you stare into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you.”

There is an exhaustive list of general reasons why our collective society is choosing to allow a slow transition away from physical reality and intimate connections with one another. Between collective social anxiety and the thrill of the new we move away from human connections into the unknown digital frontier. Examining the list above, it would seem probable that we are capable of solving most of these issues in our present state of existence without technology yet we choose to focus on more gadgets and applications.

“New technologies and the progress they bring can make it impossible to distinguish truth from illusion and can lead to a confusion between reality and virtual reality…and risk indifference toward real life.” – Pope Benedict XVI (Blascovich and Bailenson) Much in the same way that the slow food movement has sought to reconnect humans to the process of food architecture must seek to reorient humans to the process of creation in the built environment for the common end result of regrounding of self in the physical world.

Architecture as the Lighthouse for Reform: In speaking of architecture as the sixth lamp, Ruskin elevates the architectural experience into the sacred, planting a seed for the relevance of physicality in construction into modernity, as a memorial or monument animated by a metaphorical and historical meaning for society beyond pure functionality. “Therefore, when we build, let us think that we build for ever. Let it not be for present delight, nor for present use alone; let it be such work our descendants will thank us for, and let us think, as we lay stone on stone, that a time is to come when those stones will be held sacred because our hand have touched them.” (Ruskin)

There are basic ways in which the physical environment supports physical development – personal identity, sense of competence, intellectual, social and motor skills, security and trust, a balance of social interaction and privacy. Sociopetal (arranged such that members may see self and others) spaces encourage social interaction. Weisman refers to this social interaction aspect of the physical environment as sociality. (Hutchinson) Blurring the line between a physical and psychological orientation, place attachment helps us to connect with ourselves in our physical space.“When a strong place attachment develops, it has been suggested that the place has become an important parts of the self, that we can’t think of who we are without some reference to the place. (Gifford, 2002) When a particular place becomes an important part of our selfidentity, this merger of place and self is known as place identity. (Hutchinson) “

“Researchers have been particularly interested in what happens to people when a place of identity is lost. Certainly, we should pay attention to issues of place identity when we have encountered people who have relocated, particularly when working with immigrant and refugee families. We should consider the long-term consequences of early experiences, such as homelessness or frequent movement between foster homes, in which no stable place attachment forms, or that result in a negative place attachment.” (Hutchinson)

Methods of Reorienting Society and Igniting Connection to Physical Reality. Architects have the means and the responsibility to create structures that reorient people. The following are some tactics that may not be the norm today, but would go a long way to create engaging spaces. 21 Methods to Reground in a Physical Reality:  Seek the sociopetal and deny the sociofugal  Integrate ritual and tradition into forms newly understood as sacred  Integrate technology as a supplement but not a replacement  Allow forms that flex with sensitivity to user  Reintegrate systems, nature in, architecture out, people together  Communal spaces with sense of ownership by public  Public functions that instill care for surroundings  Increased transparency in facade  Lessoned boundaries and territoriality  Form following sociopetal function over efficiency or finance  Forms that slowly reveal, encourage limitless discovery

Breaking Typologies in Nature and Poetry – Sameness in Nature: How much deviation is enough? When thinking of instances of sameness in nature the mind wanders to iterative systems. The apple tree is an example of naturally occurring sameness with each apple conforming to the same shape, size and color. The thrill of experiencing the apple tree is the seasonality of the tree – there is a process of growth, ripening, collection and consumption that is potentially experienced by an engaged user and this process that slowly reveals the fruits is integral to the wonder of experiencing an apple tree at harvest. The built environment should take cue from the seasonality of the natural world to a built form that opens and closes like a flower reminiscent of the poem by E.E. Cummings:

“your slightest look easily will unclose me though i have closed myself as fingers, you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens (touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose or if your wish be to close me, i and my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly, as when the heart of this flower imagines the snow carefully everywhere descending;”

The separation of poetry from written line as described by children’s author and laureate Michael Rosen, is that there is no need of explanation or resolution of experience – a personal socio-expression. Whereas prose is concerned with outcome and character presentation and process, poetry is not – it is a tentative and suggestive medium, ambivalence, contradiction, irony, never a full resolution. Poetry defines and breaks rules, it is a collection of words and phrases that gets you thinking, invites you to ask questions, get involved and be curious. Poems make the familiar unfamiliar and the unfamiliar familiar. “If you are in some way or another surprised by a poem I’d say that poem is doing it’s job for you – whether it is an objectively good poem I dare not say” Architecture should take the form of poetry sometimes, by breaking with expected forms and policies, being art as much as science.

On a social level, the modern urban American has the greatest opportunity for social interaction across a variety of levels of society due to the high density nature of the city and the diversity of its occupants. Yet in urban public spaces, we do not make new connections in nearly the same proportion as we would in a more controlled environment such as the office or at school – because we do not know the intent of the other in public spaces and public spaces are so predictable that we have no need to interact with others in order to understand our surroundings. Architecture must challenge and break from the socio-spatial norm in order to bring people with diverse backgrounds and intentions together for a common understanding and mutual respect.

The Washington DC metro system on a formal level is a clone-stamp across the city, treating each stop from the articulation of the coffered ceilings to the floor patterns in the exact same manner. The only real distinguishing factor in a rider knowing when they have reached their stop is the variation in the name of the stop, articulated in the same font style, size and color in the metro sign. Without the view of the sign a passenger may know from the length of time they have been on the train, as the trains themselves maintain a constant tempo always stopping at the same stops.

Even within the industrial design of the train there is very little hierarchy, regardless of being at the front, middle or back of the train there are always windows from one car to the next with high reflectivity always offering the same ghosted views and ambiguity of space beyond the frame. The interior layout of the car is symmetrical and repetitive from one car to the next, the seat colors all the same, the grab bars, signage and even the advertising repeat from train to train. The Metro is an architectural one-liner – it is experienced once and the entire system is revealed in an instance. This makes for clear and efficient travel however it does not make for an engaging public space. The word public in public transit exists and needs to be addressed.

This special method of spatial navigation – ‘public’ transit implies a social, collective means of way-finding in space. There is a special opportunity here, within the high density diverse urban context of the city and within the framework of a public transportation system to redefine the idea of social navigation. Transportation can be more than a vessel in which one travels from one perceived destination to another; it can embody a spatial social narrative and allow for journey alongside destination – through transportation – to move to strong emotion; carry away; enrapture the soul and connect for a true conveyance of goods as realized in the cross-pollination of ideas among riders.

In conclusion, this thesis seeks to reground the individual within community, within the physical, psychological and temporal built and unbuilt analog ‘natural’ environment – that which we collectively perceive as the world and home – through a new disorienting architecture. To create a ground for communal sharing, design must include architectural deviations from standard typologies that trend towards creating sensation of disorientation in space and codependency in function, balancing out the current state of hyper-orientation and singular independence. The test case of this theoretical exploration is a community center in the most unconventional sense of the word – defined through carefully choreographed experiences rather than predicable programs that allows visitors to connect with one another and reground themselves in space for a refreshed sense of belonging and perspective on the forms they might otherwise pass without notice a daily basis.

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