Theme

[Mi]NERVOUSystem
When a city experiences mass exodus; when rats and humans eat from the same dumpster and share the same inhabitable arenas, “The problem of urban growth and decay is greater than the individual building.” The scope of our project is manifold; it investigates the lifecycle of a community, an elementary school, and a city. Detroit is a collapsing city.
In a networked society, when an industry mutates or shifts, all nodes of that network transform regardless of scale. Detroit, the largest node of automobile production in 20th century America, is now seeing astronomical economic decline resulting in the symptomatic decay of its urban core. The emerging “nervous system” of Detroit’s population is in a state of shock. It is one of poverty, violence, illness, and hunger; evident in a 55% poverty rate among children. The solution is rooted in education and extraction of the multiple intelligences present in the community environment. We are proposing the notion of urban farming as part of the rehabilitation process for Detroit’s decaying urban fabric by interjecting agricultural areas into the inner city. Members of the neighborhood and surrounding community will learn to grow together and help one another, leading to a different condition of inspiration and involvement.
In order for improvement to take place, a real change must be made in the way Detroit’s inhabitants live, work, and grow together. Our site functions as both an elementary school and a community development center. The school grounds contain an “eco-blot” which is used to grow natural produce and indigenous plant life. As part of a school curriculum centered upon multiple intelligence learning, students are given the opportunity to witness and understand an ecosystem’s lifecycle from the planting stage through harvesting. Tactile outdoor learning and kinesthetic activity take place among the context of ecology. A child’s school lunch is supplemented by food grown on site. Local community members come to the site to understand how to grow vegetables and tend to a plot of land within the school’s eco-blot.
The building itself occupies two previously abandoned buildings and is constructed as a weaved steel structure utilizing the production capabilities of the auto industry. This engages the expertise of former auto workers to produce habitable building components in a retooled local manufacturing sector. The density of the weave is proportional to the load bearing on it in any given area much like the trabeculae of a bone densifies according to internal and external forces.
As the lifestyle catalyzed by our building begins to take hold of the greater community, our method of weaving intelligences and weaving structure through existing buildings in decay begins to spread across the city inhabiting old abandoned buildings in a mutualistic manor, whereby creating a symbiotic effect between existing structure and the realignment of urban networks. This will divert the destruction of many of Detroit’s abandoned buildings while at the same time stimulating the local economy and putting people back to work, thereby igniting the next phase in the lifecycle of Detroit.

The network culture we inhabit is marked by the individual entrenched in reading, conversing electronically, surfing the internet, and watching television, all deeply embedded in the virtual. Individuals now use space as a common meeting place, mainly to share information, often initiated through the various electronic mediums. Within these social gatherings information is being shared, processed, and packaged, with a true educational process taking place, with no instructor necessary; rapid on-the-fly, unfiltered, informational input. In this, it can be said that our subjective nervous systems are perpetually under the influence of the virtual, which leads one to the question, what is the substance of reality? Without our minds we are non-existent, not real; if our cerebrums are plugged into the virtual, does this not become the real? Our bodies remain within the architectonic space of the physical as our minds engage a virtual space existing nowhere and everywhere simultaneously.

Much of this virtual information enters our nervous system as prefiltered content. The mediums that maintain the broadest market share and thereby exert the most substantive impact are increasingly conglomerated into the control of the select few, with companies holding stock in a diverse array of information distribution systems including; publishing companies, newsprint, websites, television, mobile phones, advertising companies, theme parks, and film. These data systems accompany us throughout our lives, exerting influence over generations of a family tree, continually interweaving our thoughts and opinions with information and input. Our nervous systems have potentially become externally managed through the flowing stream of information which has been carefully tailored for us from childhood to adulthood. With major media conglomerates controlling the information that one is persistently exposed to, has data been reduced to cut and filtered shades of information chosen by a board of directors?

Our collective trepidation of a wired future wherein the modes of information collection and dispersal have been aggregated into the totalitarian grasp of some nefarious corporation or government has been reflected in the literature and film of the past century. This trend has grown in recent decades, along with the accelerated pace of digitization and network distribution, exampled in the growing popularity of movies such as Blade Runner, Renaissance, and Minority Report. In these films of a dystopian future, the individual submits to constant surveillance in exchange for safety and personal longevity.

This dissocializes negotiation between self and technology however, is not historically unique. The end of the nineteenth century has been viewed as “modernity as an achieved reality, where science and technology, including networks of mass communication and transportation, reshape human perceptions. There is no clear distinction, then, between the natural and the artificial in experience.” It can be said that the cyberspace phenomenon of an environment located neither in the physical nor in the digital, arose alongside the advent of rapid long-distance telecommunication, and mechanized transportation. As existential reality becomes further enhanced and augmented through virtual technology the individual and their relationship to the sensorial environment gets distributed over an artificial network of information. A result of this process “is what postmodernists might refer to as de-realization. De-realization affects both the subject and the objects of experience, such that their sense of identity, constancy, and substance is upset or dissolved.”

The crisis inherent in this evolution of perception becomes compounded with the addition of a fear that these networks have become systems of outside control. But this fear presupposes that the individual has acted as a free agent prior to an engagement with these virtual systems. Heidegger suggests that the substance of our being is not grounded in a fabric of our own development. “As this being, delivered over to which it can exist uniquely as the being which it is, it is, existing, the ground of its potentiality-of-being. Because it has not laid the ground itself, it rests in the weight of it, which mood reveals to it as a burden.” Concepts of masculinity and femininity, western and eastern, rural and urban, begin to shape our being prior to our ability to choose, they form the ground for our potential to be. Our concern over the inability to choose the fundamental characteristics of our own subjectivity is reflected in the fear of outside influence. We easily identify with Neo trapped in a matrix of external origin.

But what if we had the ability to reshape and exert influence over the matrix, over these systems of information distribution and collection? The conglomerate news and entertainment organizations which have made a phantom of the public are now being supplanted by the decentralized broadcast of information from individually controlled blogs which provide unfiltered news, deliver music from the artist directly to the public, and provide forums for the free exchange of art and ideas. Proprietary information is rapidly becoming an antiquated mode of product delivery that not only encompasses entertainment but also the tools that shape our environment. Software developers such as GNU/Linux have developed manifestos that ensure the users right to access to source code. In this sense “information is less the product of [externally controlled] discrete processing units than the outcome of the networked relations between them, links between people, between machines, and between machines and people”. The individual is reasserted as an individual in a network of individuals, no longer merely the receiver of a one-way flow of information.

With the advent of network culture we can now receive raw unfiltered information directly, replacing the directed flow of information from conglomerate to end user with the power of serendipitous information and intuitive knowledge. As network technology continues to advance, information will become virtually overlaid on top of reality. Immersive environments will intertwine with real objects, further blurring the line between the physical and the digital. The perception of tangible objects is simply the visually stimulation of nervous system. What we perceive to be space is an excitement to our sensory nervous system of sight, sound, and smell, all of which is intangible information. The architectonic spaces of formed masses can be augmented and mimicked through advanced technology and research in the areas of holographic visualization, where visual layers are superimposed on top of the physical world. Combined with sound overlay, environments can become fully explorative, interactive, and totally immersive. Virtual objects may be interacted with, become capable of “sensing” touch and respond according to your requested action. These objects may become so well enmeshed as to be undistinguishable from the real, driving augmented reality into an integrated reality

Upon further investigation of the historical “timeline” there develops a pattern, from the dissemination of information throughout a peoples, in the evolution of networking systems. It can be noted that, although it may be taught throughout educational history, that what we now see as our linear frame of time is in fact non-linear, repeating and looping back onto itself. Beginning with the dawn of spoken-word, information was disseminated through a distributed network, passed down through generations from person to person, although modified and remixed as it may have been. With the invention of the printing press we see the network evolving into a centralized network, with the information primarily in the hands of the church, with monks writing and rewriting histories from multi-cultural texts. People in these times were behind the filter receiving information only deemed necessary by one primary source. The revolution, some deemed as ground-breaking as the discovery of fire, radio and television have seemingly taken over the populace, most importantly their nervous systems. The scenario changed as the governments seized control over the filtering of the programs, only once again to be filtered by the conglomerates controlling the media. Today we find ourselves in the midst of a decentralized network, receiving informational input to our neural networks via controlled and carefully prepared packages of information.


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