Media Theory for the 21st Century

February 5, 2008

programmers as architects

Filed under: Discussion — sergiomf @ 6:28 am
Tags: ,

Last week’s discussion regarding code was extremely interesting overall, however, I would just like to slightly expand the conversation on the some of the points discussed.

To do so, I started thinking on the analogy between some of the points in the texts we read and of the conversation in class and architectural practice and theory. As I do this, trying to grasp new situations by recurring to more familiar terms and framework, I realize how this innate process relates to last week’s conversation regarding the usage of familiar spatial experiences in the understanding of new connections in the digital medium (and other complex abstract concepts), but also to the other conversation (also expanded in the blog) regarding the new generation different potential to better understand the capabilities of the digital medium, as it will have another way of thinking than the linear, sequential and goal oriented way of thinking (derived from written text). In this regard, I found the words of Jameson to be relevant when he mentions (comparing post-modernist and high modernism thought) that “our perceptual habits were formed in that older space” (high modernism) which explains the incapacity of our minds to map the “great global multinational and decentered communication network in which we find ourselves”.

But back to the architectural analogies. The beginning of the Mackenzie piece, where the role of programmers is addressed, a direct parallel can be drawn with architectural practice on several points, which I would like to point out.

The migration of software developers seems to find a natural parallel in the work of globetrotter architects (and students), which take on design competitions and commissions across the world. One notorious example was the competition for Yokohama ‘s Cruise Terminal, which was won by Foreign Office Architects, at the time a small office based in London and lead by a Spaniard (Alejandro Zaera-Polo) and his Iranian Wife (Farshid Moussavi), which was then prompted to move the office (temporarily) to Japan.

Another overlapping point would be the commodification experienced by both software and architecture. In this regard I would like to draw attention to the current state of architectural consumption (a topic which interests me personally) in which cities and countries try to increase their visibility through the collection of architectural pieces. Recently the most blatant example would be Dubai, but several others could be mentioned.

A couple more parallels between these practices appear to me in Mackenzie’s text, specifically the parallel between styles (personal programming styles and architectural styles) and how inevitably, regardless of their (programming styles) disparity, they still have to conform to global standards, conventions and protocols, the same way any architectural design has to conform to building codes which assure a certain level of performance.

This leads me to the topic of code poetry and the lively conversation that followed regarding the importance of the code actually being able to perform and communicate with the computer as well as the programmer. I will not expand too much on this topic, since I am still trying to collect my thoughts on this issue, but it seems to be a conversation which doubles somehow the discussion surrounding architecture’s autonomy (defended vehemently by several influential architectural critics and theoreticians), as it is argues that the creation of the discipline of architecture only happened when architecture abstracted from its own materiality and constraints and moved to the drawing boards, much like code poetry tries to claim for code much more than just its initial primary function of communication between man and machine.  I will try to develop this idea in a future post.

See you all tomorrow,


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